A driver caused catastrophic injuries in a devastating Whittier crash 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.
But the suspect denies causing the crash intentionally. He says he fell asleep at the wheel.
According to a KABC news report, 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 completed. A news release stated that his release occurred because of the “extreme complexity of the investigation, which includes ongoing interviews, video surveillance review and additional evidence that needed to be analyzed.”
Catastrophic Injuries Reported in Whittier Crash
The horrific incident unfolded early morning on Nov. 16 in South Whittier near Mills Avenue and Trumball Street. 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 said they heard the vehicle accelerating and that it was going about 30 to 40 mph before it crashed into a pole.
Gutierrez was given a field sobriety test shortly after the crash 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.
While 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 beginning the work of serving search warrants on all of Gutierrez’s social media and electronics to see if he has ever expressed “anti-police” views. The authorities are also waiting on toxicology results.
Our thoughts and prayers are with all the recruits and their families who are no doubt going through a traumatic and painful time. We wish them all the very best for a speedy and full recovery.
Complex Investigations and Serious Injuries
When there is an incident of such magnitude, the investigations are often lengthy and complex. There are a number of questions that must be answered. In this particular case, the big question that must be asked 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.
While it is a relief that no one was killed in this crash, it does appear that some of the victims may have sustained major, permanent injuries that would tragically leave them with lifelong disabilities.
For example, a brain injury or loss of limbs, in such cases could prove career-ending, snuffing out a trainee’s promising law enforcement career even before it really started. These types of injuries, while posing physical challenges, can also be emotionally and psychologically devastating.
In addition, these victims and their families would also be looking at significant financial losses such as mounting medical expenses, the cost of rehabilitation such as physical therapy, ongoing treatment, and care costs, cost of prosthetics (in the case of loss of limbs), occupational therapy, etc.
Why Contacting an Experienced Lawyer is Important
In such cases, it can be extremely important to get an experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer on your side right away. A knowledgeable attorney can stay abreast of the official investigation and make sure victims’ and their families’ rights are protected every step of the way.
Whether or not prosecutors pursue criminal charges, injured victims may still be able to sue the defendant in a criminal court alleging negligence (recklessness or carelessness) and seek compensation for their tremendous losses.
In such cases, injured victims may be eligible to receive compensation such as medical expenses, lost income, loss of earning capacity, permanent injuries, disabilities, pain and suffering, and emotional distress.