An Army veteran who served in Iraq ran his car into a crowd of pedestrians in California because he believed two of the people looked like they were Muslim, authorities said Thursday.
The disclosure came as prosecutors filed two hate crime allegations against 34-year-old Isaiah Peoples.
He is also facing eight counts of attempted murder after police said he deliberately plowed his car into people on April 24 at the Sunnyvale crosswalk and showed no remorse afterward. The hate crime allegations carry up to six additional years in prison each.
A 13-year-old girl of Indian descent, Dhriti Narayan, remains in a coma with brain trauma.
“Someone’s child is in critical condition today because of someone’s ignorance and hatred,” Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said. “So today, we stand with her and her family, and all of our Muslim and Indian neighbors.”
Outside court later Thursday, Rosen said he was confident that the perceived religion of several of the victims was the “substantial motivating factor” in the April attack.
Peoples’ mother says her son has struggled with PTSD since returning from Iraq.
Peoples did not enter a plea at Thursday’s hearing in San Jose. His attorney, Chuck Smith, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Family and friends described Peoples as quiet and polite and expressed shock at his alleged involvement in the crash.
Peoples had no criminal record. He was honorably discharged from the Army, and police were investigating the report of post-traumatic stress disorder.
His mother, Leevell Peoples of Sacramento, has said her son had “a bad episode” with PTSD in 2015, for which he was hospitalized.
She said the Army forced him to retire because of PTSD.
He had been deployed to Iraq from June 2005 to May 2006, according to Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Emanuel Ortiz. He did not answer questions about whether Isaiah Peoples’ departure from the Army was due to PTSD.
Leevell Peoples said her son graduated from Sacramento State University after returning from Iraq and was working as an auditor for the Defense Department in the Silicon Valley suburb of Mountain View.