1 dead, 14 injured in apparent hit-and-run spree in San Francisco
SAN FRANCISCO — The driver of a sport utility vehicle plowed across sidewalks and crosswalks throughout the city Tuesday, killing one man and injuring at least 14 people in a series of attacks on pedestrians and motorists, police said.
The man struck people in 13 locations until police surrounded him with squad cars, authorities said.
The spree began around noon in Fremont, where a man walking along the side of the road was hit by an SUV. He was thrown into a field and killed, police Sgt. Chris Mazzone said.
Witnesses said the driver did not slow down.
The driver then crossed the bay into San Francisco, where he injured at least 14 people during a 20-minute hit-and-run spree, police said.
The victims were taken to three hospitals. One was in critical condition.
The rampage ended when police arrested the man in the Presidio Heights district. The black SUV was still in the middle of the street an hour later, its front end and windshield smashed in.
"These are the things, these are so senseless," Mayor Gavin Newsom said after meeting with victims and their families. "They're utterly inexplicable. They're impossible to rationalize."
The driver's name was not immediately released, but state motor vehicle records show the license plate on the SUV registered to Omeed A. Popal of Fremont.
An aide to the mayor, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the open investigation, said Popal was the suspect in custody. Court and property records list Popal's age as 29.
A woman who identified herself as his cousin said he was having recurring nightmares about someone coming to kill him and had been taking medication.
"He thought the devil was coming to him," said Zargona Ramish, who went to the family's home Tuesday afternoon while Popal's relatives were speaking with police. "He is a very good person. He is not like that. What's wrong with him?"
The mayhem left a trail of debris on sidewalks and streets. White sheets covered a bloodstained patch of concrete. A broken pair of eyeglasses lay in the middle of the road. And a lone running shoe sat on the asphalt cordoned off by yellow tape.
No weapons were found on the suspect, though the car had not been searched, said Sgt. Neville Gittens. There was no information on whether drugs or alcohol were involved, and it was unclear how fast he was driving, he said.
"It was very chaotic," Gittens said.
Daniel Fulford, a bartender at Frankie's Bohemian Cafe, was tending to customers when he heard tires screeching and saw the black SUV careening around a corner.
"I heard his tires," he said. "Then I heard a couple of thuds. I looked out and saw a couple of people lying in the middle of the street. They were just pedestrians walking."
As bystanders began gathering around the victims, the SUV came back around, swerving and knocking over newspaper boxes on the sidewalk, Fulford said.
"Everybody started freaking out, getting out of the street," he said. "That car was like a weapon.
He could have come right at us."