SUNNYVALE (KPIX) – The case against an Iraq war veteran accused of mowing down pedestrians in Sunnyvale may be prosecuted as a hate crime.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation says it has opened a federal hate crime investigation against Isaiah Peoples.

The 34-year-old Sunnyvale man was accused of running down 8 pedestrians Tuesday night.

Police believe Peoples targeted the victims because he believed they were Muslim.

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“As this is an ongoing investigation, we are not able to comment further at this time,” said FBI spokesman Prentice Danner.

The FBI announcement comes on the same day a 19-year-old man walked into a Jewish synagogue near San Diego during Passover observances and opened fire, killing one person and wounding three others.

The Council of American Islamic Relaitions, or CAIR, applauded the decision.

“If the FBI chooses to step in, that is of course a welcome sign that law enforcement from all agencies understand the severity of this incredibly violent attack,” Zahra Billoo, a CAIR spokeswoman told the San Francisco Chronicle.

At Bay Area mosques, imams said they were increasing security immediately. They were also meeting with various police departments around the Bay Area to discuss long-term safety plans.

Bay Area police departments said they were stepping up patrols at synagogues in San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland.

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