A driver caused multiple catastrophic injuries when his car collided with a large group of law enforcement recruits. Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez, 22, was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after officials say he intentionally crashed into a group of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies who were out training for a run the morning of Nov. 16. The suspect denies causing the crash intentionally. He says he fell asleep at the wheel.
LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the suspect was released from custody until investigators can develop more evidence and present a stronger case for prosecutors. Media outlets have reported that Gutierrez was released due to insufficient evidence that a crime was committed. A press release stated that the release of Gutierrez occurred due to the “extreme complexity of the investigation, which includes ongoing interviews, video surveillance review and additional evidence that needed to be analyzed.”
The incident unfolded early morning on Nov. 16 in South Whittier. Officials said a class of about 75 recruits was out on a run as part of a training exercise when Gutierrez veered onto the wrong side of the road and crashed into the group. The collision left 25 recruits with injuries ranging from head trauma to loss of limbs. Officials said seven of the victims are still in the hospital, two in critical condition. One of those critically injured was still on life support with serious brain bleeding and/or swelling, Villanueva said.
Some recruits reported hearing the vehicle accelerating and that it was going about 30 to 40 mph before it crashed into a pole. After the crash Gutierrez was given a field sobriety test and blew a 0.0, officials said. They also described the scene as “chaotic” saying that it looked like the scene of an airplane crash. Officials initially suspected it was an accident, they later said information was received that suggested that Gutierrez intentionally struck the recruits. Gutierrez strongly denied this when he spoke to the media.
Investigators are just beginning the work of serving search warrants on all of Gutierrez’s social media and electronics to see if he has expressed “anti-police” views. The authorities are also waiting on additional toxicology results. Whenever there is an incident of such magnitude, the investigations are typically lengthy and complex. In this case, the biggest question is whether the driver intentionally rammed into the group of law enforcement recruits. It appears that the sheriff’s department has some evidence to suggest that might have been the case. However, they are still analyzing and reviewing facts and evidence to determine what really transpired here. If this was a deliberate act, the defendant could be looking at attempted murder and other serious criminal charges especially if officials find evidence that the attack was planned.
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