Popal preliminary hearing wraps up

No witnesses were presented this week in defense of the man accused of running down at least 17 people on the streets and sidewalks of San Francisco more than a year ago as his preliminary hearing came to a close.

Omeed Aziz Popal, the 30-year-old man accused in the hit-and-run rampage that left one person paralyzed and several more with permanent injuries, may find out assoon as next week if there is enough evidence for the case to go to trial.

Popal pleaded not guilty to 36 felony charges. His lawyer has repeatedly said he suffers from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and auditory command hallucinations.

Much of the evidence revealed so far in the eight days of actual pretrial time has focused on the accounts of dozens of police officers and emergency responders, though a handful of eyewitnesses and victims were also called to the stand.

On Dec. 20, however, an interview with Popal just hours after the Aug. 29, 2006, rampage was publicly aired for the first time. The two hours or so of tapes and the subsequent testimony revealed a man who sounded rational and calm but often talked nonsense, offering false confessions and rambling about donating his “good heart.”

“I was planning to just take people’s lives,” Popal told investigators. “Just because I wanted to.”

Deputy Public Defender Sandy Feinland didn’t return calls for comment on the case Thursday. He spent Wednesday wrapping up an hour-long cross-examination of Inspector Michael Mahoney, the lead investigator in the case.

Upon cross-examination, Mahoney confirmed that Popal had also told investigators he killed his family the previous night, he stabbed a San Francisco man five years before and he had an AK-47 assault rifle in his car, which all turned out to be untrue.

A decision to go to trial could come as soon asMonday.

bbegin@examiner.com

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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