Nicholas Gutierrez: Driver in wrong-way crash that injured 25 sheriff trainees denies it was 'intentional'
'I wish it never happened. I feel bad it happened,' said Nicholas Gutierrez
WHITTIER, CALIFORNIA: A week after a group of law enforcement recruits out for a training run in Whittier were struck by an SUV on November 16, the wrong-way driver now claims that the crash was not "intentional". In an interview, Nicholas Gutierrez claimed he fell asleep behind the wheel and that the collision that injured 25 recruits was not malicious. Following the wrong-way collision, Gutierrez was taken into custody and then jailed on charges of attempting to murder a peace officer. He was later set free from custody after officials indicated they needed more evidence to press charges.
Gutierrez told NBCLA, "I didn’t intentionally do it," adding that he dozed off on the way to work. "I wish it never happened. I feel bad it happened." According to his lawyer, Alexandra Kazarian, the crash was not to blame for the facial injuries he sustained at the site. Gutierrez said, "They dragged me out. I asked if everything was ok. They tried to say that I did it intentionally, which I didn’t. I kept on telling them I didn’t."
MEAWW reported earlier that up to 25 trainees were hurt, with at least five of them being badly injured in the car crash. The injuries ranged from head trauma to broken bones to loss of a limb. In the graphic video obtained by ABC, the trainees can be seen jogging in formation while donning white t-shirts near Mills Road and Telegraph Road only seconds before the collision. Two patrol cars can be seen trailing behind them. When a Honda SUV suddenly approaches and slams into the group of recruits without giving any obvious signs of attempting to slow down. There appears to be minimal traffic on the quiet street.
The Sheriff's Training Academy and Regional Services Center, which is about a mile-and-a-half away from the crash site, is where all of the recruits were enrolled, according to FOX11. The group was moving while being protected by eight road guards, two black and white radio cars, and drill sergeants. Everyone wore vests with reflective tape. After hearing a huge noise outside, the first responders were firefighters from Station 96 in the neighborhood, where they discovered the Honda that had crashed.
After being held at the scene of the crash, he was reportedly questioned numerous times and provided deputies and investigators with a consistent account. There are no charges against him in relation to the collision. Gutierrez said he passed a lie-detector test, reported NBCLA.
The man was on his way to work as an electrician installing solar panels and claimed he goes the same route every day. Although he admitted he couldn't recall everything that happened in the moments before the collision, he did say that it wasn't planned. According to law enforcement officials, a witness spotted him gazing down, possibly at a mapping gadget or perhaps nodding off, as per the NBC4 I-Team report. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department verified to Daily Mail that Gutierrez was charged with attempted murder against one or more peace officers and that further charges are imminent. Although Sheriff's authorities did not elaborate on the circumstances that led to that determination, he stated in a media interview that detectives had "probable cause to believe that this was intentional." Booking records revealed that Gutierrez was released from the downtown Los Angeles Twin Towers jail at approximately 10 pm on Thursday. The initial court date, which was set for Friday, was deleted.
Gutierrez's attorney Kazarian stated, "Nicholas comes from a proud law enforcement family and the injuries to these recruits are beyond heartbreaking. The Gutierrez family appreciates the Sheriff’s Department taking the time to conduct a full and complete investigation. As many have asked, we want to emphasize that Nicholas was on his way to work, and had no drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of this tragic accident."