updated 8/1/2008 5:15:30 AM ET 2008-08-01T09:15:30

A man who drove on streets and sidewalks to run down 19 people will be placed in a state psychiatric hospital after a judge ruled Thursday that he was insane.

Omeed Aziz Popal, 31, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to 18 felonies, including 16 counts of attempted murder for the August 2006 hit-and-run rampage through streets and sidewalks on both sides of San Francisco Bay.

The victims were hit at more than a dozen locations in Fremont and San Francisco before police surrounded Popal's vehicle and arrested him. A separate trial is on hold in Alameda County, where Popal faces a murder charge for the death of a 54-year-old pedestrian.

Popal's plea was part of a deal with prosecutors in which he admitted to the San Francisco crimes and withdrew his previous not guilty pleas, a procedural move.

"He essentially admitted to his conduct, which was outrageous and clearly life threatening and has changed the lives of these victims in many ways," San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris said.

Popal could spend the rest of his life in the hospital, Harris said.

Doctors: Hallucinations at time of crimes
Superior Court Judge Carrol Yaggy unsealed reports by two doctors who diagnosed Popal with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. The doctors said Popal was hallucinating at the time the crimes were committed.

Popal's attorney, Sandy Feinland, said his client's family is happy he will receive treatment rather than prison time.

Feinland had argued that Popal's history of mental illness and psychological breakdowns showed he did not know his actions were wrong.

Popal's family also said he was having difficulties with his medication and was anxious about a recent arranged marriage in Afghanistan. Popal is a U.S. citizen who emigrated from Afghanistan at the age of 5.

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