The driver accused of intentionally hitting a group of pedestrians in Northern California attacked people he believed were Muslims, police said.
Two hate crime charges will be added to the eight counts of attempted murder already leveled against Isaiah Peoples, 34, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office said. The charges will be officially filed Thursday.
Peoples is scheduled to appear in court Thursday afternoon in San Jose.
“Prejudice is not harmless,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said. “Someone’s child is in critical condition today because of someone’s ignorance and hatred. So today, we stand with her and her family, and all of our Muslim and Indian neighbors.”
A 13-year-old was among the eight people injured in last month’s attack in Sunnyvale, about 9 miles west of San Jose. The girl’s father and brother were also injured, police said.
Defense attorney Chuck Smith did not enter a plea during a hearing last month, instead asking a judge to postpone his arraignment.
“Absolutely we are disputing that this was an intentional act, and this is a case of mental disorder,” he said, adding that his client is a religious man who is praying for the people who were hurt.
An Army veteran who was doing contract work for the US Department of Defense, Peoples is accused of driving his Toyota Corolla into the crowd at a major intersection in the city of 140,000 on the evening of April 23. He was on his way to a Bible study group, investigators said.
The Sunnyvale resident crashed his car at the scene and was taken into custody, police said. Those injured ranged in age from 9 to 52 years old. Peoples showed no remorse, police said.
Police originally said Peoples believed his victims were Muslim, but in Thursday’s announcement, prosecutors said “he thought they were Muslim and/or Indian.”
“Hate crime allegations can be filed when a defendant targets a person or group due to their disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation,” the prosecutor’s office said.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Jay Boyarsky said last month, as Rosen’s office was investigating the matter and contemplating hate crime charges, that Peoples targeted one or two of the pedestrians based on his perception of their race or religion.
If convicted, People faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
CNN’s Stella Chan and Nicole Chavez contributed to this report.