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Omeed A. Popal, suspect in the hit-and-run spree in San Francisco, with his wife Nahid Popal.
FREMONT — Relatives said they were shocked to learn that Omeed Aziz Popal may have been behind the wheel of the SUV that killed one and injured at least 14 people in Fremont and San Francisco on Tuesday.

"This is not the Omeed that I know," said Popal's cousin, Hamid Nekrawesh. "I couldn't believe it was him."

Members of Popal's extended family dropped by his Cabrillo Drive home Tuesday as his immediate family was questioned by police and had vacated the house. Popal's family members said they had no idea what could have driven Popal to commit this crime. "I'm kind of shocked," said Mina Aziz, a relative of Popal. "I can't believe that boy could do that thing. He's not that kind of boy."

Popal, who was born in Afghanistan and moved to the United States when he was a youngster, returned to Kabul about three months ago for an arranged marriage. After getting married, Popal returned to Fremont about a month ago.

Nekrawesh said the only thing he could think of that might have troubled Popal was his arranged marriage.

"The only problem I could see is he grew up as a Westerner and went to Afghanistan to get married," Nekrawesh said. "The parents of the bride were very strict. They did not allow them to get together and talk like he could have here."

However, Nekrawesh said Popal seemed happy before leaving for Kabul, adding, "The lifestyle is very different in Afghanistan.


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Nekrawesh said Popal planned to bring his bride to the United States after she received a visa.

Popal's cousin, Zarghona Ramish, said he was nervous before his wedding. He had been having bad dreams, and "he thought the devil was coming to kill him," Ramish said.

Residents watched Tuesday as police taped off Popal's house while waiting for a search warrant. Many of Popal's neighbors said the family wasn't well-known in the neighborhood.

Popal lived with his parents, one younger brother and two younger sisters, according to Nekrawesh.

Several neighbors said the family was nice but mostly kept to themselves.

"They never bugged anybody," Alberto Barroso said. "They always had guests over, though."

William Lofton, 69, who has lived on Cabrillo Drive for 40 years, said the Popal family moved in about three years ago. He said they own two vans and a black SUV, which he said weren't there at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Lofton said the family sold computers built at garage sales, and that one of the vans the family owned was cluttered with bicycles and other items.

Nekrawesh said Popal's father, Najib, sold goods at various Bay Area flea markets.

After moving from Kabul, Popal's family lived in Hayward while he was growing up. Aziz said he always had a smile on his face as a boy.

Nekrawesh said Popal was an auto mechanic in multiple local shops, the most recent on Mowry Avenue in Newark.

Popal's family attended the Abu Bakr Siddiq Mosque in Hayward, and Nekrawesh said Popal's father went regularly.

Nekrawesh said that Popal's extended family is possibly the largest in Fremont, with more than 500 relatives living here.

Staff writer Jeremy Herb can be reached at (510) 353-7013 or jherb@angnewspapers.com.