SUNNYVALE (CBS SF) — Members of the Bay Area Muslim community were questioning their safety late Friday night after the Sunnyvale police said troubled Army vet Isaiah Peoples targeted members of their faith in a vehicular rampage that left seven people injured.
During a press conference Friday afternoon, Police Chief Phan Ngo said Peoples was motivated by race and religion when he ran down pedestrians on a street corner and in a cross walk on Tuesday night.
“Based on our investigation, new evidence shows that the defendant intentionally targeted victims based on their race and his belief that they were of the Muslim faith,” Ngo said. “We understand that you will have many questions based on this announcement. However, we will not be releasing further information for now.”
Chief Phan S. Ngo and Prosecutor Jay Boyarski say victims targeted because of race and religion
Friday night members of the Muslim Community Association, one of the biggest mosques in the Bay Area, were supposed to be about finalizing plans to celebrate the holy month of Ramadan, which starts next weekend. Instead, much of the conversation was about safety.
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“The most frightening thing about it though is that people are thinking twice about coming to their places of worship because they don’t know if they’re safe here,” said Zahra Billoo, the Executive Director of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
While Ngo would not reveal the specific evidence that lead investigators to believe the suspect targeted Muslims specifically, the district attorney’s office says it is investigating this as a possible hate crime.
“We have zero tolerance for any sort of hate crime and we are standing with the victims together that were on that street corner on El Camino Real,” said Jay Boyarsky the Chief Assistant Deputy Attorney.
Many members of the Muslim Community Association say they’re relying on faith to get them through this unnerving time.
“There’s a lot of people out there who have very negative feelings about Muslims. It’s just become a part of life actually, and there’s not much you can do,” said member Zainab Habib.
“It is very disturbing. It doesn’t matter whether they were a Muslim family or non-Muslim family. There are innocent people being hurt. Pray for peace,” member Fouad Khatib added.
In light of Friday’s developments, mosque leaders said they will be increasing security immediately. They are also meeting with various police departments around the Bay Area to discuss long-term safety plans.