A Milwaukee man accused of gunning down three of his neighbors because they spoke a foreign language had his guns taken away over mental health concerns — but the weapons were later returned.
Dan Popp is accused of methodically shooting to death three other residents of a four-unit apartment complex March 6 after complaining that a father and son from Puerto Rico did not speak English and then hunting down a Hmong couple, reported the Journal Sentinel.
He was charged with first-degree intentional homicide in the fatal shootings of 40-year-old Jesus Manso-Perez, 36-year-old Phia Vue and 32-year-old Mai Vue, and he faces an additional charge of attempted first-degree intentional homicide for firing at Manso-Perez’s 18-year-old son.
“You guys got to go,” Popp said as he opened fire with a rifle, according to the surviving son.
Police aren’t sure if the murder weapon is one of two guns they took away from Popp eight years ago after relatives reported that he sensed demons and witchcraft at his mother’s house and feared he was the target of a murder conspiracy.
Popp called 911 on Feb. 14, 2008, to report his Bushmaster rifle had been stolen, but he left before police arrived to investigate, so they questioned his mother instead, the newspaper reported.
She told officers her son had been laid-back, easygoing and talkative before she had a heart operation in September 2007, and she said Popp had become argumentative and withdrawn since then.
The mother said her son’s paranoid behavior was growing worse and increasingly frightening, and she said he had also begun to drink vodka heavily and had also possibly been using drugs.
She said her son had begun to follow her constantly because he believed she was plotting with a gay friend to kill him.
The mother allowed police to search her home, and officers found a loaded Bushmaster rifle and a 9mm handgun, along with loaded magazines scattered around Popp’s bedroom.
Popp called 911 again from a bar while police were searching his mother’s home, and officers found him walking nearby.
He told police that he was afraid to stay at his mother’s home because he sensed “demons in the other residents” and suspected they were conducting witchcraft rituals.
Popp told police that he learned of the murder plot against him while serving in the U.S. Navy, and he told officers that someone had electronically controlled his mind.
At that point he handed police a business card for an exterior design company, whose owner said he met Popp the week before, and told officers he was invoking his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.
Police took Popp into emergency detention custody, which allowed them to seize his firearms, and asked a judge to decide whether he should be held for long-term treatment.
It’s not clear whether Popp was committed to long-term treatment, the newspaper reported.
But he applied March 27, 2008, for the return of the two guns.
He said in the petition that he had voluntarily agreed for the temporary removal of his guns but wanted them back as the “lawful owner.”
Popp told the court he would secure the weapons at his sister’s house.
He argued that he had not been convicted of a felony as an adult or juvenile, and he was not subject to court order under the state’s mental health act and had never been found guilty by reason of mental illness.
The Greenfield city attorney filed a letter July 30, 2008, finding the matter had been “resolved” with Popp’s attorney, and his guns were turned over to his older brother the following month, the newspaper reported.
The city attorney, Roger Pyzyk, said he recalled an arrangement with Popp’s brother to keep the guns secure at his home in northern Wisconsin.
A couple who rented a room to Popp for a few months last year said he initially appeared to be “normal,” but they recalled numerous instances of odd behavior and evidence of an addiction to painkillers.
They told him to get rid of about a dozen jars of urine he kept in his room, and they would not allow him to keep a handgun and rifle that he said were connected to his military service.
Popp’s attorney said he had served in Wisconsin Air National Guard.
His former landlord, who asked to remain anonymous, said Popp was clearly paranoid but never made any racist statements to them.
“He would talk about black holes or his brain,” she said. “He would stop in mid-conversation and just be lost. The look in him was totally empty, like nobody was in there.”