SUNNYVALE (CBS SF) -- The Army vet who served in Iraq targeted eight people to intentionally run down with his car on a Sunnyvale street because he believed they were Muslims, Sunnyvale police said Friday.
Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety Chief Phan S. Ngo said evidence pointed to the startling revelation involving Isaiah Peoples' motive behind his Tuesday night rampage.
"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," Ngo said. "We understand that you will have many questions based on this announcement. However, we will not be releasing further information for now."
Peoples was officially charged with eight counts of attempted murder -- four of the counts with special allegations -- during a brief court appearance Friday. He will return to court on May 16th to enter a plea and could face life in prison if convicted of the crimes.
Prosecutors said hate crime allegations were still being investigated and could be added later.
"There is no hate crime allegation charged at this point in time for one reason only; the matter is still being investigated," said Jay Boyarski, Santa Clara County Chief Assistant District Attorney. "There is very appalling and disturbing evidence that at least one or two of these victims were targeted based on the defendant's view of what their race or religion may have been."
Chief Phan S. Ngo and Prosecutor Jay Boyarski say victims targeted because of race and religion
Peoples' attorney Chuck Smith told reporters outside the courthouse that the defense will focus on claims his client suffers from post traumatic stress disorder from his years of serving in the military in Iraq.
"It's clearly a case where his mental state is the issue," he said. "There is no real issue in terms of what happened, but his mental state is going to be the battleground in the case. We are going to have him evaluated by the best people we can find because like all veterans he deserves the best people we can find...There is not other explanation for this than his service, the things he saw and what happened to him when he was our serving his country."
He denied police claims that the attack was intentional.
Isaiah Peoples Attorney Chuck Smith Talks About His Client's Defense
READ: Court Documents
Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety Chief Phan S. Ngo said investigators have yet to uncover a motive or explanation Peoples' actions.
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Officers responded to a call of a crash around 7:30 p.m. at the intersection of El Camino Real and Saratoga Sunnyvale Rd. and upon arrival discovered several injured pedestrians and Peoples' car slammed into a tree.
Shantain Vargas was among the witnesses. She took out her cellphone to capture video of the crash scene and couldn't quite believe her eyes -- Peoples seemed to be shouting like you would in church.
"He was saying, 'thank you, Jesus ... thank you, Jesus.' He was rocking back and forth," Vargas told KPIX 5.
The video shows Peoples sitting on the ground surrounded by officers. At times, he can be heard yelling out: "Yes, you are, Jesus. Yes, you are!"
Police eventually put cuffs on Peoples and arrested him.
On Friday, court documents revealed the extent of the injuries of the victims of the rampage.
The most severely injured was the 13-year-old -- identified in the court documents as Dhriti Doe. She suffered "inter cranial bleed, brain swelling, with left side of skull removed to relieve pressure, pelvic fracture, critical condition and life threatening."
The others were:
- Maria Reimler, who turns 33 on Monday, who suffered "broken left femur and humerus; fractured radius and ulna. Abrasions and lacerations throughout"
- Soren Reimler, 33, who suffered "right femur fracture. Abrasions throughout"
- Ping Lu, 41, who suffered "broken right and left leg. Broken right arm"
- Rajesh Narayan, 45, who suffered "torso soft tissue injury, left arm injury non-specific"
- Rrakhar Doe, 9, who suffered "right arm bruising"
- Eric Nava, 24, who suffered "minor injuries non-specific
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