A California Army veteran 'intentionally targeted' Muslims in car attack, police say

  • Law-enforcement officials charged 34-year-old Isaiah Peoples with eight counts of attempted murder after he “intentionally targeted” people he believed were Muslims when he drove into them with his car.
  • One of the victims is a 13-year-old girl who was in a coma on Friday.
  • Witnesses reportedly said Peoples muttered “Thank you, Jesus” after the crash. Prior to the incident, Peoples was delivering food to his Bible study group.
  • Peoples’ defence attorney said his client was “clearly” motivated by some kind of “mental disorder or mental defect.” He did not elaborate.
  • Peoples served in the US Army for five years and deployed to Iraq for 11 months.
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Police are saying the driver accused of ploughing through a group of pedestrians in Sunnyvale, California, thanked Jesus after the collision. Investigators say evidence suggests he targeted the pedestrians because he thought they were Muslim.

Law-enforcement officials charged 34-year-old Isaiah Peoples with eight counts of attempted murder after the incident on Tuesday. One of the victims is a 13-year-old girl who was in a coma on Friday, according to The Associated Press.

The charges Peoples is facing carry a potential maximum sentence of life in prison. Officials declined to charge the Army veteran with a hate crime because the case is still under investigation, Jay Boyarsky, the Chief Assistant District Attorney of Santa Clara, said during a press conference on Friday.

Witnesses to the incident reportedly said he muttered “Thank you, Jesus” after the crash, The Associated Press reported.

Prior to the incident, Peoples was delivering food to his Bible study group, according to The Mercury News. Police reportedly said a disassembled shotgun was inside his car.


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Peoples’ defence attorney said his client was “clearly” motivated by some kind of “mental disorder or mental defect.” He did not elaborate.

Smith referred to Peoples’ military record and suggested there was a correlation between his service and the incident.

Peoples served in the US Army for five years and deployed to Iraq for 11 months, according to The Mercury News. At one point in his career, Peoples was a civil-affairs specialist in the Army Reserves, BuzzFeed News reported.

During their deployments, civil-affairs specialists generally embed with the local population to build a rapport with the community. Some civil-affairs units work closely with special operations forces or governmental agencies in the course of their duties. They could be exposed to dangerous situations in this capacity.

Peoples was reportedly awarded a medal that signified he engaged in combat or was engaged by the enemy. He was honorably discharged as a sergeant.

“He served our country honorably and admirably,” Smith said. “And he’s led an otherwise blameless life. So there’s no explanation for this other than his service, the things he saw, and what happened to him mentally while serving our country.”

Peoples’ brother and mother suggested the incident may have been caused by post-traumatic stress disorder from his deployment. His mother, Leevell Peoples, claimed he had “a bad episode” in 2015 and was taken to a treatment facility at the time, The Associated Press said.

Peoples is due in court again on May 16.

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