Driver fell asleep before Whittier crash that injured law-enforcement recruits, lawyer says

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Tuesday, November 22, 2022
Driver in sheriff's academy crash fell asleep at wheel, lawyer says
The driver of an SUV that crashed into law enforcement recruits on a training run last week fell asleep at the wheel while on his way to work, his attorney said.

WHITTIER, Calif. (KABC) -- The driver of an SUV that crashed into Los Angeles County law enforcement recruits on a training run last week fell asleep at the wheel while on his way to work, his attorney said.

Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez, 22, of Diamond Bar, was arrested after the collision on suspicion of attempted murder of a peace officer but was abruptly released as officials said they wanted to develop more evidence.

Attorney Alexandra Kazarian said the crash was a "tragic accident."

Gutierrez, she said, had not been up late the night before. He normally gets up for work around 5 a.m. and was driving that morning to his job as an electrical engineer for a solar panel company, she said.

"He's a good kid that fell asleep on his way to work early in the morning," she told Eyewitness News.

Gutierrez comes from a law enforcement family, she said, with a father who is a retired corrections officer and other family members in the LAPD, sheriff's department and CHP.

"He harbors absolutely no animosity toward law enforcement," she said.

The Nov. 16 crash in Whittier injured 25 members of a Los Angeles County sheriff's academy class, several critically. Authorities said Sunday that one recruit, Alejandro Martinez, was in grave condition. Three others remained in critical condition.

The Sheriff's Department said the rest of the law-enforcement recruits have been released from the hospital.

The 22-year-old Diamond Bar man who authorities believe intentionally crashed into a group of law enforcement recruits was released from custody Thursday evening. Now, investigators are beginning the work of serving search warrants on all of Gutierrez's social media and electronics to see if he ever expressed any "anti-police" views.

Authorities arrested Gutierrez, as investigators alleged he intentionally slammed into the group of about 75 law-enforcement recruits who were on a run as part of a training exercise. The academy class included sheriff's and other police agencies' recruits.

Investigators have not elaborated on what evidence they had to warrant the arrest, and they released Gutierrez the following day. Sources told ABC News the charge is based on statements made by recruits and other witnesses who were on scene at the time of the crash.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva initially said the crash appeared to be an accident, but later said he thought it might have been intentional. Authorities later clarified that the determination was based on preliminary information, adding that the investigation was ongoing.

The crash occurred as sheriff's and police recruits ran in formation in a street. Authorities said the SUV veered onto the wrong side of the road and into the recruits, then slammed into a light pole.

Video shows SUV slam into recruits

New surveillance video shows a wrong-way driver slamming into a group of law-enforcement recruits in Whittier on Wednesday.

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