8 Injured as Car Deliberately Hits Pedestrians in Sunnyvale

California Connection
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Update: Isaiah Peoples now faces eight counts of attempted murder. The Santa Clara County district attorney's office filed the charges Thursday. He is set to be arraigned Friday in San Jose.

SUNNYVALE (AP) — A California motorist told investigators Wednesday that he deliberately drove into a crosswalk in a quiet Silicon Valley suburb, hitting seven people and injuring eight, but did not say why.

Isaiah Joel Peoples, 34, was being held on eight counts of attempted murder as four of the victims remained hospitalized with major injuries. A 13-year-old Sunnyvale girl was in critical condition.

Peoples did not resist arrest after the incident Tuesday night and was talking to investigators, Sunnyvale police Capt. Jim Choi said.

"He did not say why he did it," Choi said. "He did indicate that it was an intentional act. He did not express any remorse as far as we can tell."

The FBI has been called in to help investigate the case. FOX40 caught them two hours away from the crash scene at the suspect’s mother’s Sacramento-area home leaving her apartment Wednesday afternoon.

Isaiah Joel Peoples (Credit: Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety)

The woman who knows Peoples best, his mother, told FOX40 her son is not a killer.

"He would never ever, ever, ever do what happened deliberately yesterday," said Leevell Peoples. "I do know that. That is not the son that I raised."

Leevell Peoples says she knows her son as a driven Sacramento State graduate and a good man who cares for others. So much so that he enlisted in the Army and served as a sharpshooter in Iraq until he was discharged for post-traumatic stress disorder.

"He was afraid of everyone. When I say everyone I mean the veterans," Leevell Peoples said. "He said they were after him. They were watching my house, they were watching his house. And they were following him around and they were trying to get him."

Isaiah Peoples, an auditor for the Department of Defense in Mountain View, received inpatient treatment for PTSD in 2015, his mother told the Associated Press.

Leevell Peoples says her son's symptoms were so severe that he took medication for years. She thinks if her son really did do the crime, his illness was to blame.

"Either something happened to his car or his PTSD is failing again," she told FOX40.

Choi said police were investigating the PTSD report.

He said Peoples kept going after hitting the pedestrians until he struck a tree at high speed.

Six people were taken to hospitals, including the youngest victim, a 9-year-old boy who was treated and released with minor injuries. A 15-year-old boy was treated and released by paramedics.

The crash happened at a major intersection in an area with commercial strip malls that residents described as a quiet California suburb.

Businesses and roads were reopened Wednesday and police tape that had been used to cordon off the area after the crash had been removed.

The only remaining signs of the incident were skid marks on the sidewalk where the car swerved, and a dented tree where it crashed.

Don Draper, 72, said he was waiting in his convertible for the light to turn green when the Toyota zoomed by. Draper said he was enraged and marched over to the car.

"He wasn't hurt apparently, and he was mumbling over and over again, 'thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus' again and again," Draper said. "At this point I realized I had to call 911."

Other witness statements matched Draper's recollection that the driver was speeding and drove directly toward the pedestrians without trying to veer away or stop in the city about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of San Francisco.

Former housemate Chuck Herrera described Isaiah Peoples as quiet, someone who had to be coaxed into going out for drinks or dinner. He said Peoples was polite and kind and sweet to Herrera's toddler son.

He recalls Peoples "always had a lot of pills" and a cough.

"The guy I met was not someone who you think will hurt someone," he said. "My guess is something happened."

Leevell Peoples said the Army forced her son to retire because of PTSD. Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Carla Gleason confirmed that he retired from the U.S. Army but provided no other details.

Draper said a victim had landed in front of his car, with what appeared to be a bloody head wound.

"I saw a body flying through the air, and one of them was right in front of me," Draper said. "This woman was about 10 feet off the ground; I can see her feet pointing upward."

Leevell Peoples said her heart goes out to the families of the victims but maintains that her son is not a villain.

"I’m so grateful that nobody was injured worse than they were, like leading to death or anything. I’m so grateful about that. I’m sorry that it happened but I know that he didn’t do it on purpose," she said.

The suspect’s mother also told FOX40 she spoke with her son by phone just hours before the crime. She says his voice sounded calm and they were talking about making arrangements to have their dog groomed. She suspected nothing out of the ordinary.


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