A driver of Volkwagen Beetle who sped away from a Ceres Police officer during an attempted traffic stop was killed Saturday evening in a horrific crash underneath a trailer pulled by a big-rig tractor.
Police said that the dead driver, Monica Arias, 36, of Modesto, was the suspect wanted by the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department for shooting a woman on July 11 at Eugene and Herndon. The victim in that shooting was shot in the back but survived.
A male passenger riding in the VW sustained life-threatening injuries when its top was sliced off as it ran a red light at Central Avenue at Hatch Road and under a big-rig trailer.
According to Ceres Police Department spokesman Sgt. Keith Griebel, the incident began at 6:07 p.m. when Officer Eric Souza saw a silver-colored Volkswagen Beetle stopped at the curb at Central Avenue at Herndon Road. He noticed the driver, Monica Arias, 36, of Modesto, and passenger Juan Gutierrez, 38, also of Modesto were in a verbal argument inside the car.
Officer Souza turned around to check on the situation and upon seeing Arias recognized her as being wanted in connection to a shooting which the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department is investigating. A felony $1.5 million warrant for attempted murder had been previously placed for her arrest. Officer Souza backed up behind the Volkswagen to conduct a high-risk vehicle stop but when he activated his emergency lights, Arias sped off at a high rate of speed northbound on Central Avenue. She ran the stop sign at Caswell Avenue and continued northbound at speeds of 80 mph. As the car red the red light at Hatch Road, the car collided with an eastbound semi-truck trailer, shearing the top part of the car off. The two victims trapped inside the wreckage had to be extricated from the vehicle by Ceres firefighters using the Jaws of Life tool. The driver was pronounced dead at the scene. Gutierrez was transported to a local area hospital with life threatening injuries. He was listed in critical condition as of Monday afternoon.
Emergency crews were on scene until 8:45 p.m.
The California Highway Patrol is investigating the collision.
Any person with information related to this collision is asked to contact The California Highway Patrol at (209) 545-7440.
In 2020, 41 people died in police pursuits in California – making it the deadliest year for chases involving law enforcement since 2006 when a state law meant to improve safety took effect. From 2006 to 2020, 476 persons died in the state during pursuits, including 281 drivers fleeing from officers and 94 passengers. During the same period chases resulted in the deaths of 91 innocent bystanders and 10 officers.
Statewide, the majority of initiating violations prior to a pursuit involved speeding, stolen vehicles, registration/license plate violations, and failure to obey traffic control devices at an intersection.