Popal pleads not guilty to murder

An East Bay man accused of running down more than a dozen people in an alleged hit-and-run rampage in San Francisco in August 2006 pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of attempted murder today in San Francisco Superior Court.

Omeed Aziz Popal, 30, is accused of targeting 16 pedestrians with his sport utility vehicle during a 15-minute span on various city streets and sidewalks of northern San Francisco on Aug. 29, 2006.

The victims' injuries ranged from minor scrapes to one woman who suffered life-threatening injuries and is now a quadriplegic.

The incidents took place about 45 minutes after 54-year-old Stephen Jay Wilson was fatally struck in a hit-and-run in Fremont, for which Popal is being charged with murder in Alameda County.

In San Francisco, Popal is facing 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, according to the San Francisco District Attorney's office.

Though Popal confessed to police about the crimes after his arrest, his attorney and family contend he has a history of mental illness.

According to the San Francisco Public Defender's Office, he suffers from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and auditory command hallucinations.

Appearing for his superior court arraignment this morning with his attorney, Popal entered not guilty pleas to all the charges.

He will return to court Feb. 26 in order to set further dates in the case, including possibly setting a trial date.

Popal had originally been charged with 18 counts of attempted murder, but charges were dropped for two alleged victims due to insufficient evidence, according to the District Attorney's office.

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