Defendant in deadly Calif. hit-and-run found competent to stand trial
SAN FRANCISCO – An SUV driver accused of running down 19 people in a deadly spree through streets and sidewalks was found competent to stand trial after his medication was changed.Police arrested Omeed Aziz Popal on Aug. 29 after surrounding his sport utility vehicle with squad cars. By then, victims had been hit at more than a dozen locations in Fremont and San Francisco, and a 54-year-old man had been killed in Fremont, where Popal lives.Popal, 29, was found competent Wednesday to stand trial in San Francisco on 18 counts of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon, plus single counts of battery on a peace officer and reckless evasion from police. He is suspected of murder in Fremont.A San Francisco Superior Court judge made the ruling after Popal’s medication was changed, defense lawyer Sandy Feinland said.”It relieved a lot of his symptoms,” Feinland said, but declined to elaborate. “Now we expect the case to develop into a not guilty verdict for reason of insanity.”Popal’s arraignment, delayed since his arrest to allow for court-ordered psychological exams, was set for Dec. 5.In court Wednesday, relatives of some of the victims lauded the judge’s ruling.”The court is saying this person needs to step forward and take responsibility,” said Shonna Hall, whose uncle suffered broken bones when he was struck. “He has devastated people’s lives.”
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