Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva says the crash that injured 25 law enforcement recruits in South Whittier Wednesday morning was not an accident.
“(Investigators) went through an exhaustive interview process with everyone involved, with the video surveillance statements from the recruits, the physical evidence that they had, and what they got from the suspect himself. They usually were in a position to form the opinion that this was a deliberate act,” Villanueva told NewsNation Thursday.
The motive force, Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez, 22, is now charged with attempted murder of a peace officer and other charges are pending, the sheriff’s department said.
Bond was set at $2 million, Gutierrez was released from custody Thursday evening, per California penal code 849(B)(1), which authorizes peace officers to release arrested individuals from custody as a consequence of insufficient grounds to file a criticism against that person.
KTLA 5 sought answers from the Gutierrez when he returned to his Diamond Bar with relations Thursday evening.
“Why did you run into the recruits?” KTLA reporter Mary Beth McDade asked, to no reply.
“As a consequence of the acute complexity of the investigation, which incorporates ongoing interviews, video surveillance review, and extra evidence needed to be analyzed, homicide investigators have released Mr. Gutierrez from the Sheriff’s Department custody today at roughly 9:55 p.m.,” authorities said in an updated news release Thursday. “Homicide investigators, together with California Highway Patrol investigators, will proceed to pursue all evidence relevant to this matter until a radical investigation is complete.”
Gutierrez had marijuana within the SUV and could have been intoxicated on the time of the South Whittier crash, although he passed a field sobriety test, sources told the Los Angeles Times.
Security camera video obtained by KTLA shows the SUV veering into the other lanes of travel and directly into a gaggle of 75 recruits from the STARS Center Academy who were jogging on Mills Avenue around 6:30 a.m. The vehicle stopped after hitting a light-weight pole.
A complete of 25 recruits were injured, five of them critically.
The recruits immediately rendered aid to their injured colleagues while they waited for paramedics to reach.
“The motive force still had (his foot) on the accelerator, so my boyfriend had to interrupt the glass or the window open to attempt to get him to stop,” one woman told KTLA. “Unfortunately, he wasn’t in a position to. But they were in a position to open the door and get the motive force out and detain him.”
Authorities are still trying to find out why Gutierrez swerved into the recruits.
“The Sheriff’s Department would love to thank the Los Angeles County Fire Department, the California Highway Patrol, the incredible medical staffs who’re caring for our injured personnel, the opposite agencies that assisted on this investigation, and the outpouring of affection and support we have now experienced from the community,” the department said.
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