Sunnyvale 'hate crime' crash suspect returns to court

SUNNYVALE, Calif. (KGO) -- The man accused of deliberately plowing his car into a crowd of pedestrians in a Sunnyvale crosswalk returned to court Thursday afternoon for the first time since being charged with multiple hate crimes.

Isaiah Peoples of Sunnyvale faces eight counts of attempted murder for the April incident. Investigators say the Army veteran was heading to Bible study when it happened.

Prosecutors with the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office believe at least two of the eight victims were targeted because of their race and religion.

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"They're alive and working on their health," said Deputy District Attorney Carlos Vega. "They're in various rehab centers and just trying to get better."

Peoples' family remains he had PTSD from serving in the military. Defense attorney Chuck Smith is now looking at other varying factors.

"We're also asking to have some medical tests done... some brain scans done to see if there might be an abnormality, or lesions in his brain, which may have played a role in this incident as well," said Smith.

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The Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety concluded the crash was intentional based on the lack of skid marks at the scene. Community groups, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations are closely monitoring the case.

"Hate crimes when directed toward one group often tends to have a ripple effect on the rest of society, and people should really care," said CAIR's Ammad Rafiqi. "Where are communities and where are families safe? Walking down going alongside the road, going shopping, this really is problematic in that sense that people are being targeted wherever you might envision to be safe."

Legal analysts say Peoples' intent in committing the crime is at center stage for both the defense and prosecution. It could take some time before he enters a plea.

"Until the defense has a complete understanding of their client's mental health status, both at the time of the crime and currently, this case will continue to move slowly," said legal analyst and former prosecutor Stephen Clark.

The 13-year-old girl who was the last of the eight victims to be in critical condition is now out of a coma and is expected to survive.

Peoples will return to court in early September for another status update.
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