The FBI has launched a hate crime investigation in the case of a suspect who drove his car into eight pedestrians in Sunnyvale last week, leaving a 13-year-old girl with life-threatening injuries.
The FBI was called to assist in the investigation to support the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety shortly after the crash last Tuesday. Chief Phan Ngo reported Friday that 34-year-old Isaiah Peoples, a war veteran, may have intentionally targeted some of the victims because he thought they appeared to be Muslims.
“The FBI San Francisco Field Office has opened a federal hate crime investigation into the incident that occurred in Sunnyvale on April 23, 2019,” FBI spokeswoman Cameron Polan said in a statement Monday.
“As this is an ongoing investigation, we are not able to comment further at this time.”
Peoples has been charged with eight counts of attempted murder and appeared in Santa Clara County Superior Court for his arraignment on Friday. He had picked up food and was on his way to a bible study group when he drove into the group of pedestrians at the corner of El Camino Real and Saratoga Sunnyvale Road at about 6:40 p.m., according to public safety officials.
Witnesses said he was coherent after the arrest, saying “Thank you Jesus, praise Jesus.”
Six of the victims were hospitalized and the 13-year-old girl was most seriously injured. Public safety officials said Friday that she remains in critical condition.
Investigators are also trying to determine whether Peoples suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and if he was taking medications to cope with a mental illness.
“There’s no explanation for this other than his (Army) service, what happened to him while serving our country,” Chuck Smith, Peoples’ defense attorney, said after his arraignment Friday.
“This act was clearly a product of some mental disorder or mental defect.”