MILWAUKEE (AP) — A judge ruled Wednesday that a Milwaukee man is incompetent to stand trial in the shooting deaths last month of three of his neighbors.
Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge J.D. Watts made the ruling after a court-ordered mental health report found Dan Popp, 39, did not have the ability to understand the charges and help in his defense, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Popp is charged with three counts of first-degree intentional homicide in the March 6 deaths of 40-year-old Jesus Manso-Perez, 36-year-old Phia Vue and his 32-year-old wife, Mai Vue. He’s also charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide for allegedly shooting at Manso-Perez’s 18-year-old son.
Two of the victims were members of the Hmong community. Police say the third victim identified himself as Puerto Rican before he was killed. Popp has not been charged with a hate crime.
“We will fight for justice that the victims deserve,” Mai Vue’s brother, Tou Xiong, told reporters Wednesday. “Lives were taken because of Dan J. Popp’s hatred for those who are different from him.”
The judge ordered Popp committed to a state mental health facility for up to one year. Popp will be periodically reviewed to determine whether treatment has made him competent for trial. His first review hearing is scheduled for July 14.
Defense attorney Christopher Hartley had requested the competency exam. Hartley did not immediately reply to phone and email requests from The Associated Press for comment Wednesday.
According to the criminal complaint, Popp attacked Manso-Perez and his son, Jesus Manso-Carrasquillo, as they were coming upstairs after putting a load of clothes into the washing machine. Before they went to the basement, the document states, Popp had asked where they were from, to which they replied “Puerto Rico.” Popp, who is white, then said, “Oh, that’s why you don’t speak English,” the complaint says.
When they came back up, Popp was waiting with a long gun, police say. He told the father and son, “You guys got to go,” and shot Manso-Perez, according to the complaint.
Manso-Carrasquillo ran down the stairs and outside, where he alerted people who called 911, police say.
Shortly afterward, according to the criminal complaint, Popp burst into the Vues’ apartment. The family had fled into bedrooms when they heard the shooting, but Popp forced his way inside, led Phia Vue out and killed him, police say.
Popp then started to drag Mai Vue and her two young daughters out of the apartment, the document states. Authorities found Mai Vue dead in Popp’s apartment.
After the hearing, representatives of the victims’ families renewed their calls for the case to be investigated as a hate crime.
“From the beginning of this case people were rushing to say, ‘Oh, this was a mental illness issue,'” said Darryl Morin of the League of United Latin American Citizens, speaking on behalf of the Manso-Perez family. “Every expert we’ve spoken to on the issue of hate crimes has said there’s always been some degree of mental illness involved.”