Prosecutor: Driver in Zombie Walk crash was frustrated, impatient

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SAN DIEGO -- A deaf motorist accused of driving his car through a crowd watching the "Zombie Walk'' parade during the 2014 Comic-Con convention in San Diego was frustrated and impatient, but wasn't threatened, a prosecutor said Monday.

In his opening statement in the trial of Matthew Pocci, Deputy District Attorney Anthony Campagna said 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.

Pocci, 47, moved his car forward as the parade proceeded down Island Avenue while people tried to convince him to stop, but appeared agitated when someone sat on the side of the hood, the prosecutor said.

"He floored it -- he accelerated his car so fast he left skid marks on the street,'' Campagna told the jury.

He said a woman was run over and suffered a broken arm. A photograph showed tire tread marks on her bruised forearm.

Pocci faces three years in prison if convicted of felony reckless driving causing great bodily injury on July 26, 2014.

Defense attorney Ashby Sorensen said the case will come down to differing perceptions. His client is unable to hear, and two other adults in the vehicle are also deaf.

He said Pocci lives in "a different reality'' because of his condition.

His client drove into the intersection when people waved him through, but two large men climbed on the car, "acting very rude, acting disruptive,'' Sorensen said. "A lot of people would think they were threatening.''

His client 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 mother, the lawyer said.

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.

The prosecutor said the incident took place just after a pedicab driver pulled in ahead of Pocci.

"At some point, he became impatient and didn't feel like he should have to wait there anymore,'' Campagna said.

Pocci drove off after running over the woman, but 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 charge.  Witness, Anna Bettencourt was standing just feet away from the car when it lurched into the crowd.  "people were pleading with him, with open hands on the car saying please stop.. but he persisted."  Pocci may take the stand in his own defense next week.

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