Violent Crime

*Omeed Popal Indicted for Murder in Fatal Car Accident Death of Stephen Jay Wilson

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Omeed Aziz Popal of Fremont has been indicted on murder charges for allegedly striking and killing 54-year-old old Stephen Jay Wilson in Fremont in August 2006, Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Tim Wellman said today.  An Alameda County Grand Jury issued its indictment against Popal, 32, on Friday, Wellman said.  He said that in addition to the murder charge, Popal faces a use of a deadly weapon clause for allegedly using his car to kill Wilson. The Fremont incident occurred south of Ferry Lane on Fremont Boulevard at about 11:50 a.m. Aug. 29, 2006. About 45 minutes later, Popal went on a 15-minute driving rampage
in San Francisco, running down more than a dozen pedestrians on various city streets and sidewalks with a black Honda Pilot before being boxed in by police cars in the city’s Laurel Heights neighborhood.  The victims’ injuries ranged from minor scrapes to one woman who suffered major injuries and is now a quadriplegic. The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office charged Popal with 16 counts of attempted murder, 16 felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon, one felony count of battery on a peace officer and one felony count of reckless evasion from police. But on July 31, 2008, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Carol Yaggy ruled that Popal had been legally insane at the time of his San Francisco crimes and found him to be not guilty by reason of insanity. On Aug. 21 Yaggy ordered that Popal be sent to Napa State Hospital for treatment. Wellman said Popal is still at the Napa facility. He said he will seek a bench warrant to have Popal transferred to Alameda County, where he is tentatively scheduled to be arraigned on May 8. Wellman said it will be up to Popal’s attorney in the Alameda County case to decide whether to put on a mental health defense again.  He said Popal doesn’t yet have an attorney for his Alameda County case.  In San Francisco, Popal was represented by Deputy Public Defender Sandy Feinland.  The day that Popal was found to be not guilty by reason of insanity, Feinland said Popal has a documented history of severe psychiatric disorders and evaluations by two court-appointed doctors confirmed he was
suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and auditory and visual command hallucinations at the time of the incidents. Feinland said Popal was incapable of understanding that what he had done was wrong.  Feinland noted that during Popal’s preliminary hearing in December 2007 he also gave a series of false confessions to police after his arrest, including that he had killed his family the night before, that he had an AK-47 assault rifle in his car, and that he had stabbed a man to death five
years before in San Francisco, all of which were untrue. Feinland appeared to be surprised today when he learned that Popal
has been indicted in Alameda County. The defense lawyer said that in the San Francisco case “two years of careful analysis by the court, the district attorney and court-appointed experts agreed that Mr. Popal was not criminally responsible for the incidents because he suffered from severe mental illness.”       Feinland said Popal “had always been a kind, gentle, family-oriented person until he started having hallucinations six months before he was arrested.” Expressing disappointment that Popal has been indicted, Feinland said he thinks that “findings by experts who analyzed the situation should carry more weight than people who are second-guessing the situation three years later.”

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