A deaf motorist accused of driving his car through a crowd watching the “Zombie Walk” parade during last summer’s Comic-Con convention, seriously injuring one woman, was ordered Thursday to stand trial on a felony charge of reckless driving causing great bodily injury.
Matthew Pocci, 47, faces three years in state prison if convicted.
A pedicab driver testified during a 1 1/2-day preliminary hearing that Pocci was “super angry” before accelerating and plowing through the crowd last July 26.
Saad Zaalan said the defendant was honking his horn and waving his arms as if he wanted Zaalan to move out of the way as the “Zombie Walk” proceeded through Island and Second avenues. Zaalan said he tried to explain to Pocci that he would have to wait until the parade-goers passed by and the crowd dissipated, but the defendant rolled up his window.
The witness said people from the “Zombie Walk” jumped onto the front end of Pocci’s car, then the defendant drove off, striking a woman who suffered a serious arm injury.
“He was super angry,” Zaalan said of Pocci.
Zachariah Adams, an off-duty sheriff’s deputy, said he was enjoying the parade with his family when he heard Pocci honking his horn. He said he approached the defendant’s car, trying to get Pocci to stop moving forward.
Adams said one person sat on the hood of the defendant’s car and another banged on his front windshield.
“He (Pocci) accelerated quickly and basically drove through the crowd,” Adams testified.
Deputy District Attorney Anthony Campagna said Pocci — who had worked at the Comic-Con convention earlier in the day — came upon several hundred adults, teenagers and children participating in the annual “Zombie Walk” parade about 5 p.m.
Campagna said Pocci stopped his car about two to three car lengths behind the parade-goers — some dressed in Halloween-type costumes — and turned off the car engine and waited for about 10 minutes before deciding to drive through the crowd.
The prosecutor said Pocci became frustrated and impatient and “floored” his sedan, hitting a woman directly in front of him and continuing on.
“He decided to make a very, very bad choice,” Campagna told Superior Court Judge Lisa Schall.
Defense attorney Ashby Sorensen said Pocci was “scared and frightened” when people in the crowd surrounded his car and took the action he felt was prudent. Pocci wanted to protect himself, his girlfriend, her sister and his girlfriend’s 9-year-old son in the car, Sorensen said.
Pocci — who stayed at the scene — was not initially cited, but the District Attorney’s Office reviewed the case and in February sent the defendant a letter informing him of the charge.
In an online interview, Pocci said he feared for his safety when people were jumping on and punching his car. Pocci said someone even opened the rear door.
San Diego police Detective Dan Wall testified that he reviewed several videos taken at the scene and didn’t see anyone hitting Pocci’s car before he “revved” his engine and accelerated forward.
Following the preliminary hearing, the judge ruled that enough evidence was presented for Pocci to stand trial. He will be back in court June 24 for arraignment.
— City News Service
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