Well, it’s official: Popal’s defense will be that he’s crazy:
A San Francisco judge ordered a detailed psychiatric report today on the 29-year-old Fremont man charged with 18 counts of attempted murder stemming from a hit- and-run rampage that prosecutors said was premeditated and involved a plan to kill a police officer.
The defendant, Omeed Aziz Popal, “said he wanted to kill a police officer but didn’t see any” as he drove around San Francisco in the middle of the day Tuesday, picking off pedestrians with his sport utility vehicle, prosecutor Jim Thompson told Superior Court Judge Donna Little.
Thompson made the statements in arguing against bail for Popal, who is being held in the psychiatric ward of San Francisco General Hospital.
Popal told authorities that he had been thinking about killing someone for a day before he allegedly set off in his Honda Pilot, ran over and killed a 54-year-old man in Fremont and drove to San Francisco, where as many as 19 people were struck in about a dozen locations.
Will Maas, a public defender, quickly interceded to stop the bail discussion, and Popal’s arraignment was delayed until Sept. 6. Popal was not in court.
Outside court, Public Defender Jeff Adachi said Popal suffers “serious mental illness” and called the attacks “a horrible tragedy.”
Members of Popal’s family have said he suffered from psychological problems recently and had been hospitalized at least twice.
It could well be true — or not. The fact is, from here on out, whatever information comes in regarding his motives and conduct, it will be slotted under the “insane” heading.
And now, here’s a snarky sarcasm alert. Don’t read the next sentence if you can’t handle snarky sarcasm. Given the number of young Muslim males who have had insanity attacks, whether in San Francisco, or Seattle, or Arizona, or North Carolina, maybe we have to consider whether the pressures of living in a pluralistic, Democratic, non-Sharia society are too much for their delicate sensibilities.
By the way, to shift the focus away from the living and to the dead, here is a very lovely word portrait of Stephen Jay Wilson, whom Popal killed.
UPDATE: The family busily spins the (maybe true) insanity story.
UPDATE II: It appears that Popal is truly delusional:
Family members said Popal could be rational and calm. But he had also been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and had been hospitalized at least twice in recent months after suffering breakdowns, relative said.
At 29, Popal still lived with his parents in Fremont. His mother was especially sheltering, seeing the world as filled with “evil people” and trying to keep Popal from being harmed, said his cousin, Hamid Nekrawesh.
“Since he was a little kid, they had been overly controlling of him,” he said. “They tried to keep him away from evil situations, in their mind, and that had a negative effect on him. He just didn’t have any friend or anyone to talk to except mom and dad.”
Last spring, Popal was voluntary committed to Kaiser Medical Center in Fremont after a breakdown brought by a dream of “the devil taking him to a graveyard and trying to kill him,” Nekrawesh said.
Not long after, Popal went to his native Afghanistan for a marriage his family had arranged.
“He was supposed to be taking medication,” Nekrawesh said. “From what I heard from his mom and dad, when he was in Afghanistan, he was perfectly fine. When he came back, all these problems occurred.”
In July, Popal confessed to a murder in San Francisco, saying he had stabbed someone, said Majeed Samara, an attorney who represented Popal until Wednesday. Police concluded there was nothing to the story and took him to Washington Hospital in Fremont for psychiatric evaluation. The hospital concluded he posed no risk to himself or others and released him.
In other words, the fact that his religious identity aligns perfectly with other young men in America who have recently engaged in acts of mass (or attempted mass) murder, is a mere coincidence. I don’t fault any of us, though, who believed that Popal’s religion is a relevant part of the story, to be considered with all the other available facts. It also says a lot about the degradation of modern news reporting that so many of us — and I put myself in a front row seat on this one — suspected that the Press was trying to cover up his religious identity, rather than being forthcoming with it. In any event, it’s a tragedy no matter how one looks at it.