A thirteen-year-old Indian American girl is in critical condition after she and seven others were injured when a man allegedly hit them with his Toyota Corolla while the pedestrians were crossing the street on the evening of Tuesday, April 23 at the intersection of El Camino Real and Sunnyvale Avenue in California.
The city of Sunnyvale police stated during the press conference that the act was racial and was targeted towards Indians.
The incident has shocked and confused the Indian community living in Sunnyvale’s El Camino apartment area, where the family lives. When indica approached the Indian family’s apartment no one was there and residents nearby said that they feared to have their name published since they learned the incident was intentional.
According to the press note, the suspect’s name is Isaiah Joel Peoples, 34, an army veteran, who not only tried to kill the Indian family but was also armed.
Peoples is a Sunnyvale resident and the police have confirmed he was also carrying an unassembled shotgun in his car. He is an Iraq war veteran and has a history of PTSD.
Peoples, who is being held at the Santa Clara County Main Jail without bail, was arraigned in court on Friday, April 26, under high-security and was wearing a red jail jumpsuit. He has been charged with eight counts of attempted murder but could face hate-crime charges after the police learned he did it intentionally thinking the Indian family crossing the streets were “Muslims.”
According to the press note, there were eight people injured including a 13-year-old Indian-American girl named Dhriti, her father, Rajesh Narayan and his 9-year-old son Prakhar. Narayan and his son suffered non-life threating injuries, however, Dhriti is currently in a coma.
“The girl is in serious condition and in a coma,” a friend and neighbor of the family told indica, “and her mother was in India when the incident occurred.” We wish [Dhriti] a speedy recovery.”
A message has been circulated by friends on WhatsApp asking people to pray for Dhriti since doctors say the next 36 hours are critical for her.
Dhriti is a 7th-grade student at Sunnyvale Middle School.
According to the Mercury News, Dhriti’s had the side of her skull removed to relieve pressure on her brain due to bleeding and swelling and she suffered a fractured pelvis.
The Narayan’s friends and the Indian community seemed to be in a shock and confused as to why Peoples would try to kill Indians. The city of Sunnyvale has a high ratio of Indian Americans and most of the people who live near Narayan’s apartment work in tech companies.
Another Indian who lives in the neighborhood, Ajinkya Patil told indica, “We are in shock because this is Bay Area and Indians have been targeted…I don’t think this had happened earlier.”
The Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety Chief, Phan Ngo commented during the press brief: “Peoples targeted an Indian family that was crossing the street at the time. She is in a coma and fighting for her life, police said. Our hearts are with her and her loved ones as we pray for her recovery.”
“New evidence shows that the defendant intentionally targeted the victims based on their race and his belief that they were of the Muslim faith,” Ngo said, however, he did not say whether the attack against the Indian family was planned ahead or was a spur-of-the-moment act. But witnesses told police that after hitting the victims he acted strangely, saying “Thank God for giving me this opportunity!” and “I love you, Jesus, I love you, Jesus.”
His next hearing is scheduled for May 16. Others hurt at the scene were Marina Reimler, 32; Soeren Reimler, 33; Ping Lu, 51; Eric Nava, 24; and Miguel 15.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Jay Boyarsky told media that the family had been targeted based on religion and there was “very appalling and disturbing evidence.”
An Indian man living near the Narayan’s asked a group of Indians talking about the incident on Friday evening, “Why in the US veterans are in such bad mental health?” “Why [does] the US government not take care [of veterans]? I even see many begging on the streets.” The neighbor first thought the family did not follow the traffic signal and accidentally got hit.