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27 Apr, 2019 04:54

Iraq vet with alleged PTSD mowed down pedestrians thinking they were Muslims – police

Iraq vet with alleged PTSD mowed down pedestrians thinking they were Muslims – police

A US army veteran rammed eight people crossing the road in Sunnyvale, California, because he believed at least some of them were Muslim, police said. He may now face hate crime charges in addition to attempted murder.

"Based on our investigation, new evidence shows that the defendant intentionally targeted victims based on their race and his belief that they were of the Muslim faith," Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety Chief Phan S. Ngo said on Friday.

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Isaiah Peoples, 34-year-old Iraq war veteran, ploughed his Toyota Corolla into a group of pedestrians and cyclists as they were crossing the street on Tuesday. Peoples reportedly made no attempt to stop, ramming the crowd, traveling at over 60mph. Out of the eight people injured, three are children: a nine-year-old boy, a 15-year-old boy, and a 13-year-old girl of South Asian descent. The girl was rushed to hospital with a severe brain injury and is now in a coma.

Peoples has been charged with eight counts of attempted murder so far. However, the prosecution does not rule out that hate crime charges might be added to his indictment at some point.

"There is no hate crime allegation charged at this point in time for one reason only; the matter is still being investigated," Jay Boyarski, Santa Clara County chief assistant district attorney said, as cited by CBS San Francisco.

Peoples has battled mental health issues in the past. While it is not clear if he has ever been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), his family and lawyer believe that it was a bout of PTSD that triggered the otherwise inexplicable car rampage.

"It's clearly a case where his mental state is the issue," the man's attorney Chuck Smith stated on Friday, arguing that there was "no other explanation for this than his service."

The US Army confirmed that Peoples was deployed to Iraq from June 2005 to May 2006. He was honorably discharged in 2009 with the rank of sergeant. His brother, Joshua, told Mercury News that Peoples provided security for car patrols while stationed in Iraq. "He was a gunner when they were driving," he said.

Since coming back home, Peoples worked as an accountant for the Defense Contract Audit Agency and was on good standing. Peoples, himself a son of a pastor, was an avid churchgoer. According to police, Peoples was in the midst of delivering food supplies to a local Bible study group when he suddenly changed his mind and crashed into the pedestrians.

Witnesses say that Peoples, after crashing his car into a tree, appeared to be thanking God for what had just happened. "Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus," the suspect reportedly said, the San Francisco Chronicle reported, citing a witness. Peoples did not resist arrest, was "coherent" and displayed a generally calm demeanor when taken into custody, according to police.

In 2015, Peoples had a stint in a mental hospital after allegedly skipping his medication. According to his brother, Peoples checked into the hospital after he began imagining that the government "was bugging his house."

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