Henry K. Lee
A truck driver who had criminal charges against him dismissed in the 2004 death of a popular Oakland police motorcycle officer is now the subject of a civil wrongful-death lawsuit accusing him of colliding with the officer before fleeing the scene.
Carlos Mares, 40, of Modesto stopped his 1996 Freightliner for about 15 seconds and then drove away after hitting Officer William “Will” Seuis, 39, in San Leandro as the officer was riding home on Interstate 238, said the lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court by Seuis’ widow, Michelle Seuis.
Mares was arrested 14 miles away on eastbound Interstate 580 in Dublin on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and felony hit and run hours after the July 22, 2004, crash.
Mares was initially charged with felony hit and run. A year later, however, prosecutors dropped the charge, citing insufficient evidence. Mares’ attorney in the criminal case, Gregory Moreno, said at the time that there was no evidence that Seuis was hit by any vehicle.
Some witnesses said it didn’t appear that Seuis had enough room in the heavy traffic as the 16-year veteran tried to maneuver his department-issue Harley-Davidson motorcycle between a green Mercury Mystique and Mares’ truck, according to the California Highway Patrol report.
But Harry Stern, a Pleasant Hill attorney representing the officer’s widow, said Wednesday, “We’re very confident that we’ll be able to prove our case and show that Will was not at fault in the accident.”
Stern said, “The trucker was driving in an unsafe manner, and that’s bolstered by the fact that the guy consciously fled the scene.”
Named in the suit are Mares and the trucking company that he owned and operated, Mares Trucking. Neither could be reached for comment Wednesday.
Mares has a history of traffic convictions, including speeding on a downhill grade, making an improper lane change and exceeding the weight limit, according to records with the state Department of Motor Vehicles.
Seuis had served as a foot-patrol officer, regular patrol and a street-level narcotics officer before joining the traffic enforcement unit in 1998. He performed as part of the department’s acclaimed 20-member motorcycle drill team, known for its precision maneuvers. He received 33 letters of appreciation from citizens. Besides his wife, he left behind his parents and two daughters.