Witnesses: car that killed Ware was speeding
Judge must now decide whether to send case to trial
The driver accused of hitting and killing William Ware appeared in court Dec. 27 for a preliminary hearing. Several witnesses took the stand before a judge, but no jury.
Before the court went into recess for the day, five witnesses answered questions from Duffy Magilligan, the prosecuting deputy district attorney, and Dennis Smith, lawyer for Matthew Pumar — the 22-year-old Mountain View driver who is alleged to have run into Ware after speeding recklessly through an intersection. All of the witnesses were called by the prosecution.
Judge Thang Nguyen Barrett listened as the witnesses — most of whom were at or near the intersection of Escuela Avenue and California Street on June 21, at about 9 a.m. — described the accident, often referencing a map hung on the wall.
All witnesses who were at the scene of the accident said the driver of the car that struck and killed Ware swerved to avoid a utility van, which was on the scene with a crew making repairs to the intersection's traffic signals.
The witnesses who were at the intersection at the time of the crash — two pedestrians, a driver for a local company that transports the disabled, and the driver of the utility van — said that Pumar appeared to have run a red light before swerving and losing control of his vehicle.
The prosecution's final witness, Officer Daniel Garcia of the Mountain View Police Department, spent much of his time explaining the story Pumar gave him, which was recorded in Garcia's official report. During his testimony, Garcia said Pumar had told him that he had tried to get through the intersection before the light turned red, by pushing the gas pedal of his 2000s-era Audi A4 "as far as it could go." According to Garcia's report — basically Pumar's side of the story — he was driving 40 mph in the 35 mph zone and only began to accelerate "three car lengths" before entering the intersection.
During Garcia's testimony, Magilligan showed a video of the scene, periodically pausing the tape and asking the officer to explain what the court was seeing. There were two yellow tarps seen in the video — one apparently covering Ware's foot and another perhaps 10 yards away apparently covering the rest of Ware's body. It was a grisly scene, and caused Ware's niece, Dolores Marquez, to leave the court room in tears.
"The emotions ran high," Marquez said at the end of the day. "It's just a horrible way to be remembered."
A previous witness told a different story, one in which he was alarmed by Pumar's rate of speed close to 100 feet before the intersection. That witness told the judge that Pumar was going close to 60 mph before he accelerated, estimating he may have been going 80 mph at the time of the crash.
Smith, Pumar's lawyer, repeatedly asked each of the witnesses to recall the color of the traffic signals, as well as the pedestrian crossing signals, on both Escuela Avenue and California Street at the time Pumar entered the intersection.
He and Magilligan also asked each witness the position of the utility van in relation to the traffic signals. Three of the four witnesses who saw the accident unfold reported that the utility van had entered the intersection, heading westbound on California Street, and had begun turning left onto southbound Escuela Avenue before the traffic signals turned red on California Street; and that Pumar had entered the intersection heading east on California Street after his light had turned red — at which point he swerved to avoid the utility van, ran up on the curb and collided with Ware. The fourth on-scene witness was unsure when the utility van entered the intersection, but did say that Pumar was traveling at an excessive rate of speed prior to the accident.
Barrett must now decide whether there is enough evidence to warrant a trial. Pumar pleaded not guilty to the felony charge of gross vehicular manslaughter on Sept. 26.
Ware was a well-known Mountain View resident who was waiting for a bus in the 1800 block of California Street when he was killed.
Pumar remained on the scene and cooperated with police and investigators. He was arrested on July 10 after the investigation was completed. He immediately posted $100,000 bail and was released.
Family members for both parties were present in the court room. At recess, Ware's sister, Heather Bogle of Astoria, Ore., held back tears as she said she was confident that the case would go on to trial — "unless he (Pumar) pleads guilty, like he ought to do."
Neither Pumar nor any family members would speak to the press. Although Ware's sister said no one from the Pumar family had reached out to her after the accident, Pumar's lawyer told the Voice that his "whole family has expressed to me the greatest sympathy for Mr. Ware. It's been a tragedy for everybody."
The preliminary hearing was set to resume on Jan. 3, after the Voice's press time.