SUNNYVALE (CBS13) — Sunnyvale police now say former Sacramento State student and Army war veteran Isaiah Peoples, who allegedly mowed down pedestrians, targeted his victims because he thought they were Muslim.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys came out in front of television cameras to lay out their strategies for the courtroom with two very different versions of what everyone agrees is tragedy all around.
The Santa Clara District Attorney said adding hate crime charges are possible, citing new police evidence Peoples deliberately drove into a crowd he believed included Muslims, ranting about Jesus Christ.
“There is no hate crime charges at this point in time for one reason only — the matter is still being investigated,” Santa Clara Chief Assistant District Attorney Jay Boyarsky said.
Peoples’ attorney said the violent attack was not deliberate and was caused by Peoples’ PTSD.
“Veterans and veterans with PTSD and other mental disorders deserve not to simply be locked up but rather treated and helped,” Peoples’ attorney Chuck Smith said.
Recent California state law requires judges to consider a defendant’s U.S. military record and PTSD diagnosis, as a mitigating factor only at the time of sentencing.
“Whether an individual really suffers from it, and whether that affected or has consequences on their behavior is still something that’s always litigated, it’s peculiar to the person though,” Sacramento attorney Mark Reichel said.
Sacramento clinical psychologist Diane Powell said PTSD is a diagnosis that covers many symptoms but becoming psychotic and homicidal is not typically one of them.
“The religious statement is suspicious,” Doctor Powell said. “I would want to know much more about that. I would want to know the history. How long has it been, since he has shown an array of symptoms that are so-called PTSD.”
Peoples is due back in court next month.