Police will recommend a murder charge be filed against a driver who intentionally struck more than a dozen pedestrians and bicyclists with his vehicle, authorities said Wednesday.
Police in Fremont said an arrest warrant would be issued for Omeed A. Popal, 29, in the next few days.
“After our conversation with him, we are now confident he is responsible for the hit-and-run death of our citizen,” Detective Bill Veteran said.
Popal was arrested Tuesday in San Francisco after police boxed in his smashed-up sport utility vehicle following the hit-and-run spree. Investigators believe the first person hit was Stephen Jay Wilson, 54, who was killed as he walked home in Fremont, across San Francisco Bay.
Popal is under psychiatric observation at a hospital jail ward, said San Francisco sheriff’s spokeswoman Eileen Hirst. He was being held on suspicion of 14 counts of attempted murder and one count of fleeing a police officer and causing great bodily injury or death, Hirst said.
The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, which would handle the Fremont case, said it did not have a timetable for when charges would be filed.
The injured range in age from 18 to 84. Many were treated and released from hospitals. One person who was struck is in critical condition.
Vera Jenkins DeFrantz, who was hit as she tried to cross the street, said she was lucky. She had no broken bones and did not fall to the ground, where the car could have run over her, she said.
“He waited for the lady in front of me to cross. Then I heard him rev his engine,” DeFrantz said. “He meant to hit me, he meant to hurt me. He wanted to kill me.”
The violence was so shocking, it will be hard to move on, DeFrantz said.
“I don’t know if I can cross the street,” she said. “I’m afraid to venture out right now.”
Popal did not appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol when he was questioned, police said. He told investigators he was angered by a family dispute.
“He indicated he was involved in an argument with a family member, things escalated from there and that’s when he got in the car and took off,” Veteran said.
Popal’s relatives said he had been suffering from delusions and stress from his recent arranged marriage in the family’s home country, Afghanistan.