Hearing begins for man accused in hit-and-run rampage

A 30-year-old Fremont man accused of running down several people in the streets of San Francisco in August 2006, appeared in San Francisco Superior Court today at the start of a preliminary hearing to determine whether he should stand trial on attempted murder charges.

Omeed Aziz Popal faces multiple counts of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon for allegedly striking 17 people with a sport utility vehicle on the afternoon of Aug. 29. He has remained in custody in San Francisco since that time.

Popal’s preliminary hearing is scheduled to last several days, after which Judge Carol Yaggy will weigh whether the evidence is sufficient for a trial.

Testimony began this morning with witnesses describing being struck as they walked along various city streets, including a 71-year-old woman who said the last thing she remembered was walking on the sidewalk in the 1800 block of Fillmore Street.

“I woke up and I was lying on the sidewalk,” Maribel Voucher said. “That’s about all I remember.”

Voucher said she spent four days in the hospital following the crash.

Popal is also facing a murder charge in Alameda County for the fatal hit-and-run death of 54-year-old Stephan Jay Wilson in Fremont earlier that afternoon.

Defense attorneys contend Popal has a history of mental illness, but after a positive reaction to medication, he was found competent to stand trial in November 2006.

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