LOS ANGELES, CA – The law enforcement community was shocked and saddened when news broke of a man who seemingly intentionally ran over more than twenty police recruits who were out for a run.
Although the LEO community was thankful the alleged suspect in the case was taken into custody, that thankfulness turned into shock when authorities allowed his release after not being able to provide sufficient evidence to hold him in custody.
A group of law enforcement recruits for different law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles, California took off on a training run on the morning of November 16th. As they ran in formation, marked police vehicles followed in attempts to protect them from any passing motorists.
Sadly, as the group of roughly 75 recruits neared Mills Avenue and Trumball Street in the South Whittier area, a vehicle seemingly intentionally steered into the group.
Everyone in the area watched in horror as the vehicle, allegedly driven by 22-year-old Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez, plowed into the group of recruits. After the carnage was over, approximately 25 of those recruits suffered injuries which left some in critical condition.
Police acted quickly and arrested Gutierrez, charging him with several counts of attempted murder of peace officers. The relief that was felt when Gutierrez was arrested was short-lived because investigators were unable to produce enough evidence to prosecutors within two days of him allegedly intentionally mowing down around 25 police recruits.
Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder on peace officers for Wednesday's crash in Whittier that injured 25 recruits, but jail records show he was released at 9:49 p.m. Here's what we know. https://t.co/7smBO29w5l
— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) November 19, 2022
Most of the police investigations are lengthy as detectives have to sort through all available digital media that may have captured any or all of the incidents. Not to mention all of the suspect, witness, and victim interviews so that they can get a good picture of not only what happened, but apparent criminal intent.
Sadly, doing so takes time and two days from an arrest being made in a situation that dictates immediate action is difficult at best. Regardless, California law requires the accused to be released within two days if there is not enough evidence presented to prosecutors, and since detectives were unable to do so within two days, Gutierrez was released from custody.
The release of Gutierrez is a sign that this was nothing more than an accident, according to Alexandra Kazarian, his attorney. Kazarian spoke to CNN affiliate KABC:
“I have no doubt that an in-depth investigation will confirm that Nicholas is a hard-working young man who holds no animosity towards law enforcement, and this was an absolutely tragic accident.”
While prosecutors ordered the release due to lack of evidence in the case, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Gerardo Magos told the Los Angeles Times it exists…they just have to ensure they present it properly. Sergeant Magos reported:
“The evidence is there. We just want to make sure it’s properly presented.”
Initial reports and video evidence shows the moment when an SUV, allegedly driven by Gutierrez, was driving down the street and changed direction into the crowd of new officers. Video from the backyard of a nearby residence shows the SUV does not appear to slow down or attempt to avoid the numerous new officers who were running.
— New York Post (@nypost) November 18, 2022
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva reported receiving reports from the recruits that confirm the appearance that Gutierrez did not slow down before impact, rather, he allegedly accelerated into the crowd. Sheriff Villanueva said:
“Some recruits are saying they heard the car accelerating, they estimate around 30 to 40 miles per hour. You can see how little reaction time that allows someone [to get out of the way].”
After striking many of the recruits, leaving some with critical life-altering injuries, Gutierrez did not stop until he struck a light pole on the east side of the street. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Captain Pat MacDonald and others credit the light pole with potentially saving more recruits. Captain MacDonald said:
“There was a light pole on the east side of the street and the one thing that was relayed to me was, ‘Thank God for that light pole’ because the vehicle ultimately hit it and stopped as opposed to possibly hitting more recruits.”
After the incident, Gutierrez agreed to perform field sobriety exercises and was given a portable breath test which showed there did not appear to be any alcohol in his system. While Gutierrez did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol, that does not mean that he was not under the influence of drugs at the time of the crash.
Although Gutierrez has been released from custody, investigators want to ensure everyone that does not mean he will not be arrested and charged at a later date. When and if investigators can show sufficient evidence to prosecutors, he will be arrested and hopefully held responsible if he did intentionally attempt to kill the new police officers he allegedly ran over.
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