The man suspected of deliberately mowing down a group crossing a Sunnyvale intersection Tuesday attended Sacramento State University after a stint in the Army.
Isaiah Joel Peoples, 34, of Sunnyvale faces eight charges of attempted murder in the collision, Sunnyvale police announced Wednesday. Peoples was behind the wheel when the car rammed into the group at El Camino Real and Sunnyvale Avenue about 6:40 p.m., Tuesday, before plowing into a tree near the entrance to a shopping center.
Seven in the group of eight were struck in the crosswalk by Peoples’ car as they crossed the intersection, police said Wednesday, including a 13-year-old now in critical condition.
In a recorded Facebook post, Sunnyvale police Chief Phan S. Ngo offered more details of the crash and said the violent collision was a deliberate act. He referred to a witness who said Peoples said “something to the effect of ‘Thank you, God’” in the minutes after the wreck.
“Peoples did not slow down prior to the collision and appeared to have accelerated as he moved into the crosswalk where the people were crossing,” Ngo said. “Based on evidence gathered at the scene, it appears Peoples intentionally ran over the pedestrians.”
Eight in all were hurt including a 9-year-old boy who was treated and released. Four people remain at local hospitals including the critically injured 13-year-old. The teen suffered the most serious injuries, Ngo said. A 32-year-old woman, a 33-year-old man and a 52-year-old man also had major injuries.
Ngo said Peoples didn’t know the victims and that he appeared to have acted alone. Ngo said Peoples had no known terrorist connections and that investigators still seek a motive for the collision.
Peoples was booked into Santa Clara County custody Wednesday without bail, jail booking records showed. Investigators on Wednesday also served a search warrant on his Sunnyvale apartment, Ngo said.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Peoples’ mother Leevell Peoples, said her son was a U.S. Army sharpshooter who served in Iraq and was discharged because of post-traumatic stress disorder. Peoples said her son graduated from the Sacramento campus. Sacramento State officials confirmed his attendance Wednesday afternoon.
Calls by The Bee to phone numbers listed as Leevell Peoples’ were not returned Wednesday.
“We can confirm that Isaiah Joel Peoples attended Sacramento State from Fall 2009 through Summer 2012,” university spokeswoman Anita Fitzhugh said via email. Peoples graduated with a bachelor of science degree in Business Administration in 2012, Fitzhugh said.
Born in San Francisco, Peoples lives in Sunnyvale, Ngo said.
Police spokesman Capt. Jim Choi offered chilling words Tuesday night taken from witness statements to the first responders on scene, the Associated Press reported: The driver did not try to avoid the pedestrians in the walk, Choi said. He did not attempt to swerve out of their way. He did not brake.
“It looks like this may have been an intentional act by the driver based upon what’s on scene and some statements obtained,” Choi told San Francisco television station KPIX following the collision. “He didn’t try to veer away. He didn’t try to brake or slow down. The vehicle was speeding and drove directly into the crowd.”
The intersection in the crash’s aftermath was blocked off with crime tape and marked with dozens of evidence markers – more than 34 dotted the roadway – KPIX news footage showed. Overturned bicycles and what appeared to be clothing were scattered along the sidewalk. A short distance away, another marker – No. 3 for investigators’ identification – sat on the hood of the driver’s car. The car’s windshield was smashed, its nose crumpled into a tree at the entrance to Allario’s Park & Shop, a strip mall near the intersection.
“There was no indication that the vehicle tried to avoid,” Choi told KPIX. Sunnyvale called on the FBI’s San Francisco field office after the crash and are now working together in Choi’s words as reported by the AP, to make sure “we are looking at all the possible motives and angles.”
Sunnyvale authorities remain the lead on the nascent investigation. San Francisco FBI officials did not return calls to The Sacramento Bee Wednesday, but told the Associated Press Tuesday that its agents will play a larger role if it is found that a federal crime was committed.