Local News

Dump truck operator pleads no contest in Hillsborough boy's death

Posted February 20

— A Harnett County man pleaded no contest Monday to a misdemeanor charge after his unattended dump truck ran over a Hillsborough boy the day after Christmas.

Five-year-old Everett Copeland was playing outside his home with three other children on Dec. 26 when he was hit and killed by the truck, which rolled away from a home construction site at the top of Dogwood Bloom Lane in the Forest Ridge subdivision.

"It continues to devastate our family," Everett's father, Bill Copeland, said in court as he fought back tears. "Never again will we hold him, laugh with him or hug him. Never again will our family be whole."

Alejandro Suarez, 28, of 287 Spider Lily Lane in Angier, left his truck running in neutral, but he told first responders he had set the brake only to see the truck rolling down the hill. An arrest warrant charging him with misdemeanor death by vehicle states the truck was left unattended and that Suarez failed to effectively secure the parking brake.

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said a mechanic checked the truck recently and told authorities that he believes the brakes were engaged when Suarez got out on Dec. 26. The mechanic said that, as the truck, which doesn't have a park position, was loaded with dirt from the construction site, the load became too heavy for the brakes to hold, Woodall said.

Suarez had gotten out of the truck to go to the bathroom, Woodall said, and he and other workers tried to catch the truck but couldn't.

"This was a human error," defense attorney Bill Young said outside of court. "Mr. Suarez is a human and feels horrible like any human whose massive mistake would have resulted in this kind of tragic outcome."

Bill Copeland said the accident was easily preventable. He and his family have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Suarez; Apex-based Kala Contracting, which had hired him; and Amward Homes of N.C., the general contractor for the construction site and owner of the property.

"I hope everybody’s careful. I think this is one of those events that happens, and then we look back on it and say, 'How did it happen?'" Woodall said outside of court. "It could’ve been prevented at many different points along the way."

District Judge Samantha Cabe sentenced Suarez to 65 days in jail – the maximum penalty for misdemeanor death by vehicle in 75 days behind bars – and since he has been in jail for a month and a half, he will be released on Feb. 28.

"(The Copeland family) wanted him to be held responsible to the degree the law could," Woodall said. "We all understand, and they understand, that no one will be ever held responsible to the degree of loss. That’s impossible. But they wanted him to be held responsible."

Federal immigration authorities will take custody of Suarez, who faces deportation because he is in the country illegally, after his sentence is finished.

Young said Suarez came to the U.S. from Mexico 11 years ago to earn money to support his family.


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  • Janet Ghumri Feb 21, 2017
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    My sympathy is with the family of the poor little one who lost his life. The driver will be haunted by what happened and will suffer for it long after it slips from the news of the day. Prayers for the family

  • Tim Blanchard Feb 21, 2017
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    If the day without immigrants was day after Christmas, then this illegal would not have killed this poor child.

  • Joseph Herring Feb 20, 2017
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    View quoted thread

    Do you really think that even if he was allowed to obtain a license...That he would maintain insurance?!!
    Had the government done their job and had stricter laws of illegals....This poor child would be at home with his family right now.

  • Thomas White Feb 20, 2017
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    This is a reason why the general assembly should allow Mexicans the ability to drive in NC. With this the person would be required to have personal insurance and hopefully be required to pass a driving test. Charge a surcharge for both the license and insurance to cover past abuses of the system.

  • Eric Davis Feb 20, 2017
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    He's only charged with a misdemeanor so he will be allowed to walk free on the 28th. Orange county doesn't work with ICE so this scum bag will be back at it March 1st.

  • Ronald Woodard Feb 20, 2017
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    Our State E-Verify law to prevent illegal immigrants from working in NC is a big yet sad joke after having been watered-down after passage by cheap illegal labor advocates. Our NC General Assembly pretends to have an E-Verify bill, then contractors pretend to not hire illegals, and our news and TV media pretend to be outraged by it. Unfortunately our citizenry is left with the consequences of law breakers, inaction on legislation, businesses who know they are hiring illegal immigrants and could care less, and illegal immigrant advocacy groups caring even less with the media often carrying their water for them.

  • Mark Hayes Feb 20, 2017
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    View quoted thread

    The ACLU would have a field day with that, although a great idea this country is far too liberal for such to happen.

  • Bill Gibson Feb 20, 2017
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    Maybe illegal aliens, especially ones who are involved in horrible incidents like this, should be made to work for a time, building "the Wall." Just enough to cover the cost of Court and repatriation processing fees... and maybe food and lodging until they are returned to their country of origin.

  • Mark Hayes Feb 20, 2017
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    And he will make a U turn at the border and be back withinn days.