Man jailed for shooting at cars

Stock image.
Stock image.

A MAN who drove around Perth with a loaded semi-automatic gun and shot at cars in the city’s north, narrowly missing occupants, has been jailed for five years and three months.

Afghanistan-born Abdul Fatha Popal, 37, was affected by methylamphetamine when he shot at vehicles on Beechboro Road North, which is surrounded by scrubland, in June 2017.

One car was hit by seven bullets, but the 64-year-old driver was not injured because she ducked down as she drove past Popal.

The other victims included a father and his 16-year-old daughter, and a woman who had pulled over to take photos and was reaching down to pick up her camera when he windscreen was shot out.

Her dog was in a crate on the rear seat and she feared it had been hit.

Popal was arrested in Morley the following day following a pursuit by Tactical Response Group officers, during which he hit speeds of up to 140 km/h in a 70 zone and drove through a red light.

They found a loaded handgun on the front passenger seat along with almost 200 rounds of ammunition.

He then spent more than a month in a psychiatric facility.

Defence counsel Simon Freitag told the District Court of WA his client was mentally unwell from his drug use and “knew people were after him but wasn’t sure it was police”.

There was no doubt he’d caused mayhem, Mr Freitag said, but his behaviour was out of character and he was “now a reasonable person” after undergoing drug and alcohol programs.

“This has been a very steep decline from an otherwise successful and happy life,” Mr Freitag said.

Judge Wendy Gillan said Popal was an unusual man and sentencing him was a difficult exercise.

He had worked hard and earned good money running a car battery supply business, and had previously only committed driving offences, but his 30-minute shooting spree was due to his drug use, which ramped up over the fortnight before the shootings and caused auditory hallucinations.

“You may have killed or very seriously injured any one of your victims or a passer-by,” Judge Gillan said.

She said she accepted Popal was remorseful.

When he was sentenced on Tuesday, some of his victims in the public gallery scoffed when they heard he will be eligible for parole in September next year, taking into account time already served.

Popal will also have his licence disqualified for two release after release.

He was due to stand trial but eventually pleaded guilty to a string of offences including endangering life after negotiations with prosecutors.

More news:

Mentally ill man not guilty of stabbing murder

Murder-accused mum remains in hospital