SUNNYVALE (KPIX 5) – Authorities on Wednesday said a 34-year-old Sunnyvale man faces eight counts of attempted murder after he is alleged to have intentionally slammed his vehicle into eight people on a Sunnyvale street Tuesday evening, severely injuring several of them.
The Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety identified the driver as 34-year-old Isaiah J. Peoples of Sunnyvale.
Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety Capt. Jim Choi said Peoples has told investigators he intentionally ran into the pedestrians on Tuesday night. He added that there was no indication Peoples was “involved with or associated to a terrorist organization.”
“There is no indication that this act in itself was related to an act of terrorism. We do know that Peoples did intentionally try to run over the people,” Choi told reporters.
Choi also said police are continuing to investigate the motive Peoples had for his actions.
Choi said of the eight victims, six remained hospitalized.
A 13-year-old Sunnyvale girl suffered the most serious injuries and is currently in critical condition.
Four other victims are hospitalized, but in stable condition, and two victims were treated and released at the scene. One of them is a 9-year-old boy, who may not have been directly hit, but suffered minor bruising after being pulled away by a parent, Choi said.
People’s brother, Joshua, told KPIX 5 in an interview that Isaiah was a military vet, who served in Iraq and suffers from post traumatic stress disorder.
He said when Isaiah is not taking his medication, he can often be seen rocking back-and-forth in a corner or lapses into a hyper religious state where he sings Christian songs out loud.
At least one witness has told investigators when Peoples emerged from his damaged vehicle he was muttering “I love you Jesus.”
Peoples’ mother told the Associated Press Wednesday her son is a “model citizen” and would not deliberately drive his car into pedestrians.
Leevell Peoples told the AP the only situation she can imagine could have influenced her son is a bout of PTSD, and that her son was discharged from the Army because of the disorder.
In an email to KPIX 5 early Wednesday, the FBI said it was “assessing the situation to determine federal involvement. Should it be determined that a federal crime was committed, we will become more involved.”
Choi told reporters Wednesday that the driver — later identified as Peoples — may have accelerated as he veered toward the pedestrians.
“The driver did not slow down, did not try to avoid the victims and also may have accelerated at the last moment,” he said.
The key to unraveling the why behind the crash may be Isaiah Peoples himself.
“It’s a win. It’s a win for law enforcement to have somebody in custody that didn’t get killed in the accident or get killed in a shooting after the accident. So you have a warm body to talk to and the FBI and law enforcement will get to the bottom of this to figure out what was the root cause of the person doing this; whether this was a deliberate act of violence,” said KPIX 5 security analyst Jeff Harp.
Harp, a former assistant special agent in charge of the San Francisco FBI office says Peoples’ mental state will also be closely examined in this investigation.
“There’s also mental health issues they’re going to be looking at. Was this person stable? Were they under the influence of anything? All these factors that will come into play,” explained Harp.
The Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety said officers responded to a call of a crash around 6:40 p.m. at the intersection of El Camino Real and Saratoga Sunnyvale Rd.
Police said the male driver sped through the intersection and drove directly into eight people, the youngest of whom was 13 years old. He then slammed into a tree and was taken into custody.
“He came out of his vehicle and basically gave up,” Choi said. “It looks like he was waiting for the police to arrive on scene.”
San Jose resident Don Draper told the San Jose Mercury News he was on the way to a friend’s house to watch the San Jose Sharks hockey game when he stopped at the intersection.
“I didn’t really notice him until about he was directly in front of me, going at least 60 miles an hour,” Draper told the paper. “Several people got hit. One person, a woman, was launched in the right in front of me.”
Other witnesses told police the driver never hit his brakes.
“Some of the (witness) statements are that the vehicle didn’t try to brake or slow down,” Choi said. “That the vehicle was speeding and went directly into the crowd.”
Choi said the victims were spread across the intersection.
“Some were in the crosswalk, some were at the corner of El Camino Real and Sunnyvale,” he said. “And there’s no indication that the vehicle tried to avoid them.”