Man Who Drove Into Pedestrians in Sunnyvale Charged With Attempted Murder

Updated Thursday, 4:05 p.m.

Prosecutors have charged Isaiah Joel Peoples, 34 — a former U.S. Army sharpshooter who has a history of PTSD — with eight counts of attempted murder after saying he plowed his car into a crowd of pedestrians in Sunnyvale.

The Santa Clara County district attorney's office filed the charges Thursday against Peoples. He is being held at Santa Clara County Jail and is set to be arraigned Friday in San Jose.

Authorities say Peoples was on his way to Bible class when he deliberately drove his vehicle into pedestrians at the intersection of El Camino Real and Sunnyvale Avenue around 6:40 p.m. on Tuesday, hitting people both walking in the crosswalk and waiting on the sidewalk to cross.

Peoples, a Sunnyvale resident, is accused of hitting seven people and injuring a total of eight, including a 13-year-old girl who is in critical condition.

Sunnyvale public safety Capt. Jim Choi said Peoples is cooperating with investigators and has shown no remorse.

Sunnyvale resident, Isaiah Joel Peoples, 34, is accused of driving a black, four-door sedan into pedestrians at the Sunnyvale Avenue crosswalk and then hitting pedestrians waiting on the sidewalk to cross, police said.
Sunnyvale resident, Isaiah Joel Peoples, 34, is accused of driving a black, four-door sedan into pedestrians at the Sunnyvale Avenue crosswalk on April 23, 2019 and then hitting pedestrians waiting on the sidewalk to cross, police said. (Courtesy of Sunnyvale police)

Phan Ngo, chief of the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety, said during a Thursday news conference that no motive has been determined in the incident.

"Peoples did not slow down prior to the collision and appeared to accelerate as he moved into the crosswalk where the victims were crossing. The vehicle struck seven of eight victims and ultimately crashed into a nearby tree," Ngo said in a video on Facebook on Wednesday.

"Following the collision, a witness reported that Peoples stated something similar to, 'Thank you God,'" Ngo added.

Ngo said Thursday that Peoples had no criminal record. A search of his car turned up a dismantled, inoperable shotgun. Ngo said Peoples had picked up food to take to a Bible study group before he struck the pedestrians.

Six of the eight people injured, including the 13-year-old, were taken to area hospitals. Their conditions on Thursday had remained unchanged:

  • A girl, 13, with major injuries was in critical condition.
  • A woman, 32, with major injuries was in stable condition.
  • A man, 33, with major injuries was in stable condition.
  • A man, 52, with major injuries was in stable condition.
  • A boy, 9, was treated and released with minor injuries.
  • A man, 45, was treated and released.
  • A man, 24, was treated and released at the scene by paramedics.
  • A man, 25, was treated and released at the scene by paramedics.

Peoples sustained no apparent injuries and refused medical treatment, Ngo said.


Ngo said it appeared that Peoples was acting alone. Police searched his apartment and took his computer to forensics. Nothing from his Facebook accounts suggested a motive. The driver and the victims didn't seem to know each other, Sunnyvale police Capt. Jim Choi said Wednesday.

The FBI was notified in case there were federal law violations, Ngo said, adding that Peoples hasn't been linked to terrorist organizations.

Prentice Danner, an FBI field officer in San Francisco, wrote in an email Wednesday that the agency was in touch with Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety and will become more involved if it's determined a federal crime was committed.

William Sharp, a spokesman for the U.S Army, wrote in an email Thursday that Peoples served as a civil affairs specialist in the Army Reserve from March 2004 to July 2009, attaining the rank of sergeant. He was deployed to Iraq from June 2005 to May 2006.

Ngo said Thursday that Peoples was honorably discharged. Ngo also said Peoples had been working as a Department of Defense contractor.

Peoples' mother, Leevell Peoples, told the Associated Press that her son experienced post-traumatic stress disorder while serving in Iraq, where he was an Army sharpshooter. She said he had a "bad episode" of PTSD about two years ago. Peoples graduated from Sacramento State University after returning from Iraq and was a "model citizen," Leevell Peoples said.

KQED's Peter Jon Shuler, Ted Goldberg and Don Clyde contributed to this report with additional reporting from Bay City News and The Associated Press.

Sponsored