(UPDATED 11/4/15, FOLLOWED BY AS-IT-HAPPENED INCIDENT REPORT)
A deaf motorist who drove through a group of spectators watching the “Zombie Walk” parade in San Diego, seriously injuring one woman, was convicted Wednesday of felony reckless driving.
Matthew Pocci faces three years in prison when he is sentenced Dec.11.
Jurors deliberated a little more than a day before finding the defendant guilty.
Pocci testified that he was “very nervous” while waiting for pedestrians to move out of the way near Second and Island as he left the Comic-Con convention on July 26, 2014. The defendant said he started to worry when a crowd surrounded his car and people sat on the hood.
Deputy District Attorney Anthony Campagna told jurors the defendant stopped for several minutes on Second Avenue, and even turned his engine off for a few moments, before honking his horn “loudly, aggressively” and driving into a group of onlookers.
Defense attorney Ashby Sorensen said his client is unable to hear, as were two other adults in the vehicle.
Sorensen said Pocci drove into the intersection when people waved him through, but two large men climbed on the car, “acting very rude, acting disruptive. A lot of people would think they were threatening.”
Pocci had attended the annual celebration of the popular arts at the San Diego Convention Center as a volunteer assisting deaf attendees, and had just left the center with his girlfriend, her son and her sister.
Campagna said spectators were lined up three-deep along Island Avenue to watch the march of Comic-Con attendees in Halloween-type costumes, including in Gaslamp Quarter intersections. It was clear that a parade was going on and that the defendant would have to wait, he said.
Pocci drove off after running over the woman, causing a serious arm injury. The defendant stopped a couple of blocks later and contacted a police officer.
He 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 felony charge.
The annual passage of rite at Comic-Con International, the 8th Annual “ZombieWalk” turned poignantly bizarre around 5:30 p.m Saturday. That’s when a driver startled by zombies struck a 64-year-old woman with his car breaking her arm as he tried to get away from the crowd.
Zombies from the huge crowd at 2nd and Island avenues just outside the San Diego Convention Center where comic-Con has held sway for three days smashed the car windshield and chased down the car. The driver then turned himself in to nearby San Diego police officers. He wasn’t immediately arrested, but police said the incident remained under investigation. The ZombieWalk Twitter feed later reported the driver had been arrested.
The 48-year-old man, whose name wasn’t immediately available, said he was driving his car, a black Honda Civic, with family, including two small deaf children. When the children saw the zombies they became afraid, he said, so he tried to find a way out of the suddenly enveloping crowd of zombies, some of whom were striking the car.
Cell phone video footage showed a crowd of about 250 people in the vicinity of the car, many dressed in zombie-wear, along with other traffic at the busy downtown intersection. Witnesses said when the man accelerated the car through the intersection he struck the woman who fell to the ground. Many witnesses said they initially though the accident was part of ZombieWalk itself.
As the vehicle passed through the scene, many in the crowd of zombies chased it down. One zombie said he sat on the front hood to keep the driver from proceeding and smashed the windshield to keep the driver from seeing. TV photos of the car showed its windshield shattered.
The man finally stopped in front of some police officers who asked what happened and detained him for questioning. The SDZombieWalk Twitter feed at https://twitter.com/sdzombiewalk provided real-time coverage of the incident.
ZombieWalk began about 15 minutes before the incident at Island and 1st avenues, a block away. It was billed as an all-ages affair even inviting grandparents, kids and dogs, adding, with its Facebook page saying, “Remember…the more the scarier.” The zombies traditionally walk to the nearby Gaslamp District, San Diego’s entertainment.