Driver Who Hit Sheriff's Recruits: It Was an Accident

Nicholas Gutierrez, initially arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, says he fell asleep
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 22, 2022 10:05 AM CST
Driver Who Hit Sheriff's Recruits: It Was an Accident
Two investigators stand next to a mangled SUV that struck sheriff's recruits in Whittier, California, on Wednesday.   (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said 25 recruits were injured, several critically, when a driver deliberately plowed into them as they jogged near a training center in South Whittier on Wednesday. The driver tells a very different story. In an interview with KNBC, 22-year-old Nicholas Gutierrez says he was headed to his job as an electrician around 6:30am when he fell asleep at the wheel, causing his Honda CR-V to veer onto the wrong side of the road and into the path of 75 recruits who were running in a four-column formation. "I didn't intentionally do it," he says. "I wish it never happened. I feel bad it happened."

Gutierrez was initially arrested on suspicion of attempted murder of a peace officer. Villanueva told reporters that there was "probable cause to believe that this was intentional," per KNBC. However, Gutierrez was released around 10pm Thursday, with the sheriff's department saying further investigation was needed to file charges. Gutierrez appeared for the interview with cuts across his face. His attorney, Alexandra Kazarian, says the injuries occurred at the scene but weren't a result of the crash itself. After his vehicle hit a pole, Gutierrez says he "woke up to the sound of [recruits] banging on the windows" and "they dragged me out."

"They tried to say that I did it intentionally, which I didn't. I kept on telling them I didn't," continues Gutierrez, who didn't have any drugs or alcohol in his system, per his attorney. He says he even passed a lie detector test. KNBC also spoke to law enforcement sources who said a witness saw Gutierrez with his head down as if sleeping or looking at something in his lap. In a statement, Kazarian says her client "comes from a proud law enforcement family and the injuries to these recruits is beyond heartbreaking," per the AP. Some recruits suffered what Villanueva describes as loss of limbs. Five were initially listed in critical condition. One, Alejandro Martinez, was in grave condition on Monday. (More car crash stories.)

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