The deaf driver who hit and seriously injured a 64-year-old woman during Comic-Con in San Diego last July has been criminally charged in the matter. Matthew Pocci, 47, is facing one count of reckless driving with injury and one count of personal infliction of great bodily injury, according to the San Diego District Attorney’s office. He is expect in court for arraignment on March 9.
Pocci was driving through San Diego with two other deaf adults and his child in the back when they came upon a crowded intersection. The bulk of the ZombieWalk crowd (held annually without incident for seven years) had passed, but the intersection was still crowded with people — some dressed as zombies and other regular pedestrians. After waiting awhile to get through the intersection, Pocci began honking the horn and tried to edge his way through the crowd with his vehicle.
After he began inching forward, video shows that one member of the crowd jumped on his hood, others pounded the car, and it appeared in the video that Deadline posted at the time that one man opened the back door of the car where his child sat. Police said that the car’s windshield was shattered.
Pocci’s attorney said his child became frightened by the costumes, the situation escalated, and the car’s occupants became scared for their lives. The car bolted forward quickly, striking a woman who was hit and knocked to the ground. She was not in costume.
According to the police at the time, the pedestrians legally crossing the street had the right of way. “For vehicle code and common sense, you cannot use a car to move people out of the way,” said Lt. Marshall White, who is in charge of special events for the San Diego Police Department, at the time. “Never ever can you use a deadly weapon to make a path across a crowd of people. When you are in a busy congested area, you must wait. I do not want to condone people’s impatience in justifying a car to go through a crowd of people.”
Countered Pocci’s attorney Dan Gilleon: “Matthew was in fear for his life. You don’t put a person in a position where he is surrounded and has to make a decision, ‘Do I get out of here and save my family because we were in fear of our lives, or do we stay and get hurt or worse?’ There should have been permits and police along the walk for traffic control. There was no criminal intent here.”
Video from the incident indicated Pocci laid on the horn before bolting through the crowd. “A lot of focus was paid on the honking of the horn,” Gilleon said, “but you have to understand that from a deaf’s person’s perspective, he’s never heard a horn. All he knows that you use the horn to alert people to get out of the way.”
There was no permit issued at the time for the annual ZombieWalk. Deadline was told in July that the event’s organizers didn’t need one because it was a small group that was about one block long and they obeyed traffic signals. There also were no police officers present at the intersection, but it was regulated by stop signs.
“You can’t go out there and say permits aren’t needed to control these crowds,” said Gilleon. “The Chief of Police Shelly Zimmerman was leading the march. She said that they were there to make sure that the ZombieWalk crowd was following rules, but the most important rule would have been a permit requirement that would have resulted in traffic control. There needed to be a permit with this large of a crowd. The evidence is going to be very strong and very compelling that this was initially investigated by the police and was determined to be non-criminal. My opinion is that the city needed to save face and avoid liability for someone who was severely injured.
“It’s absurd how the chief of police and police turn a blind eye to all the dangers that come from Comic-Con crowds,” he said. “They are scared if Comic-Con is not down there and going elsewhere that the city will lose revenue.”