When Omeed Aziz Popal, like Muhammad Reza Taheri-azar, drove his SUV into people, he was clearly trying to hurt or kill them. Like Taheri-azar, he seemed completely calm and at peace with himself after the incident. Like Taheri-azar, who explained his jihadist motivations in detailed letters full of Qur’an quotes, he then identified himself as a terrorist. Police, however, quickly ruled out the possibility of terrorism — again, as they did in the case of Taheri-azar.
The cases are different, of course, in that Taheri-azar repeatedly demonstrated his jihadist motivations, while Popal, at least according to published reports, only identified himself as a terrorist once. Popal, we were told, was suffering from stress over an arranged marriage. And now he has been found not guilty of murder, by reason of insanity.
Maybe Popal really is insane. Certainly there is plenty of evidence that he is. I wonder, however, if the judge even considered the possibility that he had a jihadist motivation, or that such a motivation could coexist with insanity. Given the general ignorance of the jihad ideology and political correctness that prevails everywhere, I doubt it. This is yet another case in which possible jihad elements don’t seem to have been investigated, but simply swept under the rug. If law enforcement officials had ever shown any awareness of the possibility of a freelance jihad strike by someone with no connection to any terrorist group, there might be less cause for suspicion. But they haven’t.
“Hit-run rampage driver found insane, won’t go to prison for S.F. attacks,” by Jaxon Van Derbeken for the San Francisco Chronicle, July 31 (thanks to Michael):
(07-31) 18:31 PDT SAN FRANCISCO — The Fremont man accused of a hit-and-run rampage in San Francisco two years ago that injured 16 pedestrians was found not guilty by reason of insanity by a Superior Court judge Thursday, a ruling that will keep him out of state prison but could result in his being institutionalized for the rest of his life.
Judge Carol Yaggy ruled after prosecutors and the defense agreed to waive a trial on whether Omeed Aziz Popal was legally insane at the time of the attacks Aug. 29, 2006. Popal, 31, was accused of 16 counts of attempted murder and other felonies.
Yaggy cited the findings of two court-appointed doctors, who said Popal was bipolar and schizophrenic when he ran down the pedestrians, one of whom was left paralyzed.
Popal will be institutionalized for at least two years, when he will be entitled to a release hearing. If he is not found sane, he will be entitled to similar hearings every two years.
However, under Yaggy’s ruling, the burden of proof is on Popal for as long as 55 years, when it would shift to the prosecution to show why he should remain hospitalized….
Feinland said Popal’s family was “happy he is going to get help rather than prison.”
Relatives and Popal’s attorneys said he had been hospitalized for mental problems at least twice in 2006 before the hit-run attacks, and that he had confessed to a San Francisco killing that police concluded he did not commit.
In the court-ordered evaluations in San Francisco, one doctor found that Popal’s “history of mental illness is clear and rather compelling” and concluded he suffered from a “genuine psychotic disorder.”
Popal has been hearing voices ordering him to hurt people since he was 18 and has suffered from hallucinations, the doctor said.
During the hit-run attacks, another doctor found, Popal believed that a “tall dark person” was in the passenger seat of his Honda Pilot sport utility vehicle, urging him to drive faster and run down people.
Both doctors concluded that Popal lacked the mental capacity to know what he was doing was wrong.
Mike Mahoney, the now-retired San Francisco police inspector who investigated the case, scoffed at the insanity argument.
“He knew exactly what he did. He told me exactly what he did,” Mahoney said.
The most seriously injured of Popal’s victims in San Francisco, massage therapist Susan Rajic, was paralyzed from the neck down when she was struck near her home at Laurel and California streets. Mahoney said he would like to bring her before a judge and “let the court see what the hell he did. She has a life sentence to a wheelchair.”
Fremont victim was first
Authorities believe Popal began his attacks in Fremont by ramming 54-year-old Stephen Wilson with his SUV as Wilson walked in a bike lane on Fremont Boulevard. He died at the scene.
Popal then drove to San Francisco and, in the course of half an hour shortly after lunchtime, ran down people from the Tenderloin to Laurel Heights, authorities said. Most of the injured were hit along a corridor of roughly 10 blocks running west from Pacific Heights.
Witnesses described seeing the black SUV chasing pedestrians and bicyclists up the street and across lawns. In some cases, the driver circled back to hit people prone in the street.
The attack finally stopped when police cruisers boxed in Popal’s SUV outside a drugstore on Spruce Street near California Street.
Officers said Popal had calmly told them that “everyone needs to be killed.” He said he had thought about killing people “since yesterday,” according to a police report.
“I planned to kill those people I ran over,” police quoted him as saying. “They needed to be killed.”…
Why did they need to be killed?