A 22-year-old Diamond Barman has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder of peace officers following a crash this week that injured more than two dozen Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department recruits while training in South Whittier, authorities said Thursday.
The man, Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez, was arrested early Wednesday hours after the accident, authorities said. His bail was set at $2 million, according to the sheriff’s department.
Twenty-five sheriff recruits were injured in the crash, including two who were in critical condition Thursday, authorities said. A total of seven cadets are still in the hospital.
The recruits were running in four columns and were accompanied by drill instructors and two black-and-white radio cars at the time the crash occurred at about 6:30 a.m. Wednesday near the sheriff’s STARS Center Academy in the 10600 block of Mills Avenue, authorities said. .
As the recruits raced north on Mills Avenue, a Honda CRV approached at 30 to 40 mph, according to witnesses. The vehicle ended up on the wrong side of the road and collided with the group.
Those runners at the front of the motorcade were able to get out of the way before the vehicle struck others and crashed into a light pole, authorities said. Video taken by a man who lives across the street of the crash showed recruits desperately trying to help those who appeared to be most seriously injured.
A witness said “it looked like a plane wreck,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva said at a news conference Wednesday.
“There were so many bodies scattered all over the place in various states of injury that it was quite traumatic for everyone involved,” he said. He called the injuries, which included head trauma and lost limbs, “life-changing.” More than a dozen others suffered minor to moderate injuries.
Gutierrez was detained at the scene by cadets. He suffered minor injuries and was taken to hospital, authorities said.
A breathalyzer was taken at the scene and authorities found no evidence of alcohol, Villanueva said.
Authorities detected no odor of alcohol on the suspect, and he “blew a 0.0” during a breathalyzer test taken at the scene, Villanueva said.
The arrest came hours after authorities searched the home of the suspect’s family on Wednesday evening. A news video showed deputies banging on the door of the house in Diamond Bar. There was also a tactical team with drawn weapons.
Authorities entered after escorting two women from the house. The video showed authorities spending some time inside, but they didn’t seem to remove anything visible from the house.
The recruits were members of the STARS Center Academy in South Whittier. Deputy recruits participate in a 22-week training program. They undergo extensive training on firearms, law, police procedures, self-defense, law enforcement driving, physical fitness, and de-escalation of violence.
Academy Class 464 was in its eighth week.
Times staff writer Noah Goldberg contributed to this report.