WHITTIER, California – The story of the 22-year-old driver accused of plowing a Honda CR-V into 25 Los Angeles County law enforcement recruits while driving the wrong way in Whittier continues to take twists and turns.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department confirmed after 10 p.m. Thursday that Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez is back on the streets. The announcement comes hours after Gutierrez was taken into custody and arrested for the attempted murder of a peace official(s) and may have been under the influence of a recreational drug when the crash occurred.
According to LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, the investigations led authorities to believe the crash was intentional.
“They did a thorough investigation. They interviewed dozens and dozens of witnesses and victims,” Villanueva said of the crash believed to have been deliberate. “That was the conclusion.”
Despite Villanueva’s conclusion, LASD told FOX 11 later that night that Gutierrez had been released as investigators looked for more evidence.
Gutierrez, who lives in Diamond Bar, faces charges and is due to appear in court on Friday. Despite the sudden release, charges are pending.
The California Highway Patrol said the collision was reported at 6:25 a.m. Wednesday near the intersection of Mills Avenue and Telegraph Road. CHP Captain Charlie Sampson said the driver was traveling southbound on Mills Avenue when he turned into the opposite lanes and hit victims who were going northbound during a morning practice session.
The members of Academy Class 464 go to the Sheriff’s Training Academy and Regional Services (STARS) Center at the 11500 block of Colima Road, about a mile and a half from the crash site.
Gutierrez underwent a sobriety test at the scene and Villanueva later confirmed that he passed the breathalyzer test. He was slightly injured in the horrific collision and was taken to hospital.
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Gutierrez’s family told FOX 11 that he is a “good boy” who the law enforcement community respects because he comes from a law enforcement family.
A video taken at the scene shows the moments when the cadets were hit, injuring 25. Sixteen recruits suffered minor injuries, four had moderate injuries, and five were seriously injured.
The cadets, including two who were airlifted, were rushed to several hospitals in LA and Orange County, including UCI Medical Center in the City of Orange, St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, LAC+USC Medical Center in Boyle Heights , Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance and PIH Health Whittier Hospital.
Academy Class 464 consists of 75 recruits for the LASD, Bell PD, Glendale PD, Pasadena PD, and the UCLA Police Department. Of the 25 injured, Villanueva said:
- 1 injured with Pasadena PD
- 2 injured with Bell PD
- 2 injured with Glendale PD
- 20 injured with LASD
The names of the victims have not been released and Villanueva said some of them have a long road to recovery.
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The investigation is ongoing.
Anyone who can provide additional information or witnessed the crash is asked to contact LASD’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.