The driver accused of striking pedestrians at a zombie parade outside the 2014 Comic-Con convention in San Diego was described as "aggressive", "impatient" and "super angry” just before his car plowed into the crowd.
Matthew Pocci has pleaded not guilty to reckless driving through a crowd of pedestrians for the incident that occurred at 2nd and Island avenues on July 26, 2014.
One San Diegan, Cyndy Campbell, was seriously injured during the incident and says her life hasn't been the same since.
She was watching and taking pictures at the walk when she says Pocci ran her over with his car, something he has since apologized for in an interview with NBC 7.
In a previous interview, Pocci said the crowd was out of control and he feared for his family's safety.
On Wednesday, attorneys for both sides gathered in a downtown courtroom for the preliminary hearing.
The first of more than a dozen witnesses to be called over the next two days described an angry driver who started slowly pushing through the crowd as people pleaded for him to stop and then accelerated rapidly running people over.
Witness Anna Bettencourt testified, “I was standing right next to the car and the car accelerated really quick.”
She said immediately afterward she heard screaming.
Under cross-examination, Pocci's defense attorney pointed out that Bettencourt told investigators that Pocci was yelling at the crowd. Under oath however, Bettencourt said she wasn't standing close enough to hear anything Pocci was saying.
San Diego County Sheriff’s Deputy Zachariah Adams was off-duty and with his family when he noticed a car moving toward the crowd. He approached the driver’s side of the vehicle and knocked on the window. He testified Pocci could see him knocking on his window but he didn’t look at him.
“As he started to hit people in the crowd people jumped on the vehicle,” the deputy testified adding that a man in white shorts sat on the car’s hood and punched the car’s windshield.
Under cross-examination, Adams said the driver did not seem angry. He also confirmed that he told a responding San Diego Police officer that people were “pounding on the car.”
Pocci, who is deaf, has explained in past interviews that he was confused by all the commotion.
Using ASL, he described the events in March during an interview with NBC 97.
"I was so nervous that someone was going to come into my car that I tried to go through a little bit slowly," he signed. "But that's when someone banged on my windshield and you know cracked the glass and after that I was so petrified that I decided to just go through."
Pedi-cab driver Saad Zaalan testified the driver in a vehicle behind him was honking at him. He described the driver as “super angry.”
Zaalan said he repositioned his pedi-cab to try and tell the driver he had to wait until the parade was over.
“He wouldn't look at me when I was talking to him he just kept honking and rolled the window up,” he said.
Zaalan also testified a woman wearing a badge tried to talk to the driver through an open window on the passenger’s side.
Under cross-examination, Zaalan said when people jumped on his car, Pocci got angry and drove forward.
Pocci faces three years in prison if convicted. He has filed a lawsuit against the City of San Diego for poor crowd control during the event.