The Army veteran who appears to have intentionally plowed his car through a crowded Sunnyvale intersection to strike seven pedestrians and bicyclists had just picked up food on his way to a Bible study group, authorities said Thursday morning.
After the incident, Isaiah Joseph Peoples, 34, crawled from his wrecked Toyota Corolla and repeatedly moaned, “Thank you, Jesus,” a witness told The Chronicle.
Authorities suspect Peoples — charged Thursday with eight counts of attempted murder — made no effort to avoid the pedestrians, and so far he “has not shown any remorse,” said Phan Ngo, chief of the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety.
At a press conference Thursday, Ngo said investigators are still looking into reports that Peoples suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and mental illness. So far nothing has suggested the suspect was behaving unusually after the incident.
“He did not behave in any manner that would be considered bizarre,” Ngo said.
The chief declined to answer questions about whether Peoples, a Sunnyvale resident, acknowledged careening his vehicle into the crowd and whether he admitted it was an intentional act.
“I’m not ready to reveal what he said,” Ngo said.
The chief did say Peoples had a shotgun in his car, but he said it was disassembled and inoperative.
Sunnyvale police arrested Peoples on Tuesday night at the corner of El Camino Real and Saratoga-Sunnyvale Road, where he allegedly struck seven pedestrians and bicyclists around 6:40 p.m., sending several of them flying through the air.
Among the victims was a father who managed to push his 9-year-old son out of the way, police said. However, the boy was still injured in the incident, and officials said Peoples intended to hit him, which accounts for the eighth charge of attempted murder.
Ngo confirmed that Peoples served in the U.S. Army from 2004 to 2006 and received an honorable discharge before joining the Army Reserve from 2006 to 2008. Army officials said he was a civil affairs specialist who attained the rank of sergeant and was deployed to Iraq from June 2005 to May 2006.
When he returned from the Middle East, Peoples suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and was in a psychiatric hospital for a year in 2015, according to his brother, 38-year-old Joshua Peoples. He said his brother was taking medication “to keep his mood right,” but he didn’t know what kind.
Investigators are still waiting on the results of toxicology tests, Ngo said.
Isaiah Peoples worked as an accountant and grew up in Union City, where he went to high school, his brother said.
“He’s always just trying to do good for himself,” Joshua Peoples said. “I really believe him going to the Army … messed up his mental health.”
Police believe his actions were intentional but not connected to any terrorist group, Ngo said.
Victims of the crash include three children, two from the same family, authorities said.
A day after the incident, a 13-year-old Sunnyvale girl remained in critical condition; a 32-year-old woman, 33-year-old man and 52-year-old man were in stable condition with major injuries; the 9-year-old boy and 45-year-old father were treated and released from a hospital with minor injuries; and a 15-year-old boy and 24-year-old man were treated by paramedics at the scene, police said.
The FBI is assisting with the investigation, and Sunnyvale public safety officials admit they are still puzzled over what led to the incident.
“We still do not know what his motives were, ” Ngo said.
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