A motorist drove her car onto a sidewalk in the heart of Reno's crowded gambling casinos today and bowled over pedestrians, killing five and injuring 27 others, three critically.

"The victims looked like mannequins," a witness said of the dying and injured.

Shocked pedestrians took refuge in the clubs and behind parked cars.

Police Capt. Donald McKillip identified the motorist as Priscilla Ford, 51, of Reno. He said she was booked on an open charge of murder. One police official said she made a voluntary statement, but he declined to give details.

McKillip said he could give no explanation for the woman's behavior, but he said she apparently tried to hit pedestrians. "There were indications she had been drinking, but we are still waiting for test results," he said.

Ford, who did not suffer any injuries, was taken to the Washoe Medical Center for the tests, he said. She muttered vulgarities as police escorted her into headquarters after her hospital examination.

"She drove along the sidewalk at a high rate of speed despite the fact that injured people were covering the hood and windshield of her vehicle as she hit them," Police Lt. Dick Kirkland said.

Police estimated there were 1,000 people on the streets, most of them Thanksgiving Day fun-seekers, when the incident happened.

Police said Ford drove north on Virginia Street for a block and a half and came to a stop at an intersection crowded with cars. They said she started at the CalNeva Club and drove past Harrahs and Harold's Club, as well as several smaller casinos. Her Lincoln Continental struck several parked cars, witnesses said.

"It would be very difficult to believe that this thing could have been an accident," McKillip told reporters.

"She came right at us, she came right at us with a body still on the hood of the car, and she looked like she was looking for somebody else to hit," said a weeping Marty Edmundson of Reno.

"She must have been going 80 . . . right smack through everybody," said Patty McCalin of Hayward, Calif.