California authorities have confirmed that the motive behind a U.S. driver who intentionally ran over several people, with a car, in Silicon Valley did so because he suspected some of them to be Muslims.
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“New evidence shows that the defendant intentionally targeted the victims based on their race and his belief that they were of the Muslim faith,” the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety's Phan Ngo said.
The crash resulted in eight injuries, including a 13-year-old girl and her 9-year-old brother. The girl is currently in a coma and is suffering severe brain trauma. The brother escaped more severe injuries due to his father pulling him out of the path of the vehicle.
United States Army veteran Isaiah Joel Peoples has been charged with eight counts of attempted murder and four counts of great bodily injury and now faces a potential life sentence, if convicted.
At a court hearing on Friday, Peoples did not accept a plea deal and was held without bail. According to Ngo, the Army veteran has shown no sign of remorse for what the prosecutor referred to as a "horrifying and horrible crime."
Peoples' lawyer, Chuch Smith, claims the act to be "a product of some mental disorder or some mental defect." The attorney has described Peoples as a religious man who cares for the injured and added that the act may be a result of post-traumatic stress disorder, and that instead of being locked up, he should be "treated and helped."
Peoples' mother confirmed that the former Army man received treatment for PTSD in 2015 after serving in Iraq.
Ngo stated that Peoples' Facebook accounts show "nothing of significance" that would further imply his client's affiliation to any Muslim hate-groups, adding that Peoples also maintains a clean criminal record.
Authorities have yet to clarify what evidence led to the conclusion that the act was motivated by Peoples' belief that the victims were Muslim and have also not confirmed whether the attack was planned.
Other victims include one woman and four adult men as well as a 15-year-old boy who was treated at the scene and released. Two others have since been released from receiving medical care.
The United States has experienced a surge of hate crimes against Muslims in recent years, and the effects are being seen worldwide.