Craig Voss, 71, of San Diego, also faces five counts of serious bodily harm in a felony and one count of driving under the influence, Nisleit said.
Three people died at the scene in downtown San Diego and six others were injured, Fire Chief Colin Stowell said.
Mayor Todd Gloria said most or all of the people gathered on the sidewalk of the underpass were homeless.
Nisleit said many people were looking for shelter from the rain in the tunnel.
“I don’t know if people were sleeping, if people were sitting there,” Nisleit said. He said it appeared that several tents and personal belongings had been placed along the sidewalk.
After the vehicle hit the crowd and came to a stop on the road, the driver of the Volvo station wagon attempted to rescue and identified himself to officers, the police chief said.
The driver was cooperative and did not attempt to leave the area, the chief said at an earlier press conference. Authorities initially said the driver fled the scene before being arrested.
Police chief said at least two people taken to hospital were in critical condition.
Police received a radio call several minutes before the crash, about a vehicle matching the Volvo’s description, but officers were not following it at the time of the incident, Nisleit said.
He said the car “for some reason turned right and got all the way onto the curb”. The car returned to the road where it stopped and the driver exited, Nisleit said.
The incident, reported just after 9 a.m., occurred in the 1500 block of B Street near San Diego City College.
“I’m like whoa! Is this guy going to stop ever?” Williams said the driver got out of his car and hid his face and “drove off.”
Another witness, Michael Luke, told KGTV that the driver remained at the scene and looked distraught.
“I saw the wagon move and things started to show up… and the drag… Horrible,” Luke said.
The investigation is ongoing.
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