Attorney for driver who crashed into LA police recruits says client fell asleep, contra to sheriff’s claims

Authorities say he acted with intent

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Tuesday 22 November 2022 00:18 GMT
Driver accused of intentionally hitting law-enforcement recruits in Whittier

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The lawyer for the man who was driving an SUV that veered across a road and crashed into a large group of law enforcement recruits last week has said it was a “tragic accident” that occurred when his client fell asleep at the wheel.

Nicholas Gutierrez, 22, of Diamond Bar was driving to work in his Honda CR-V early on Wednesday when the vehicle plowed into a group of 75 police trainees out on a morning training run in the Los Angeles suburb of Whittier.

His attorney, Alexandra Kazarian, said on Monday that the solar panel company electrical engineer had woken up at 5am that day to head to work and had not been up late the night before.

“He’s a good kid that fell asleep on his way to work early in the morning,” she said.

This runs contra to a narrative given by Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva last week in an interview with NewsNation.

The sheriff said that initial investigations “developed probable cause to believe [the crash] was intentional”.

The Los Angeles Times reports that it confirmed with Mr Villanueva that there was probable cause to arrest the driver on suspicion of attempted murder as there was evidence he had acted deliberately when he injured 25 of the recruits, four critically.

Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez at scene of crash
Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez at scene of crash (FOX11)

“I have no idea why the sheriff said that,” Ms Kazarian said. “All indications in the preliminary investigation are that there’s no evidence whatsoever that this was intentional.”

Mr Gutierez passed a Breathalyzer test at the scene but authorities are trying to determine whether he had used any other controlled substances.

While marijuana was found in the vehicle, Ms Kazarian says when her client was taken to hospital, all the toxicology and sobriety tests came back negative.

Mr Gutierrez was released from custody on Thursday while investigators gathered more evidence.

He told KNBC Channel 4 that he did not intentionally do it.

“I wish it never happened. I feel bad it happened,” he said, adding that he was dragged from the vehicle after the incident.

“They tried to say that I did it intentionally, which I didn’t,” he said. “I kept on telling them I didn’t. I asked if everything was OK.”

Ms Kazarian claims her client was injured after the crash but did not give details.

Four recruits remain in critical condition and one, Alejandro Martinez, has suffered setbacks to his condition and is on a ventilator. He has brain swelling, compound femur fractures, a collapsed lung, and damage to multiple organs, the Times reports.

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