Everything we know about LA car crash that injured 25 police recruits

Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez was reportedly “arrested on suspicion of attempted murder on peace officers in connection with Wednesday’s crash.”

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Thursday 17 November 2022 19:04 GMT
At least 25 police recruits struck by vehicle during morning run

At least 25 police recruits have been injured after a group of trainees was struck by a vehicle driven by a 22-year-old man while they were out for a morning run in the Los Angeles suburb of Whittier.

Here is everything we know so far.

Who is the suspect?

Authorities confirmed to the Los Angeles Times that Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez was “arrested on suspicion of attempted murder on peace officers in connection with Wednesday’s crash.” The sheriff’s department told the outlet that bail was set at $2mn.

Gutierrez reportedly did not smell of alcohol, but was given a breathalyzer test and “blew a 0.0” at the scene. After being detained at the scene, he was taken to the hospital to be treated for minor injuries, per the Times.

His arrest happened hours later when police searched his home in Diamond Bar.

Captain Sheila Kelliher of the Los Angeles County Fire Department told the assembled press that the 22-year-old driver was heading the wrong way down the road and that it was unclear how he lost control of the car.

“We do not have a cause we do not have any other information on how the driver lost control,” she said.

The driver passed a field sobriety test and blew 0.0 in his blood alcohol test, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said, according to NBC News.

“So the cause of the accident, motive, anything, is unknown at this time,” the sheriff told reporters. “And now we’re just facing some life-altering injuries.”

When did it happen?

California Highway Patrol said the incident was first reported around 6.30am, close to the Mills Avenue and Telegraph Road intersection.

Who are the victims?

Some 25 police recruits were taken to hospital after a group was struck by a vehicle while they were out for a morning run in the Los Angeles suburb of Whittier.

The recruits are being trained at the Sheriff’s Training Academy and Regional Services (STARS) Center on Colima Road, about a mile and a half from the site of the scene of the incident.

The incident, including what led to the group being struck, is under investigation.

The assistant chief of the California Highway Patrol, Charlie Sampson, told the press that a total of 75 cadets were running in the group.

Sheriff Villanueva said that those in the front of the formation, and who saw the vehicle barrelling towards them, were able to get out of the way in time. Those running behind the front group, however, couldn’t see what was coming and took the brunt of the impact.

An area resident told Fox 11 that the police trainees often run on the street in the area in large groups.

Of the 25 recruits who were injured, two were from the Bell and Glendale police departments, one came from Pasadena forces and the remaining 20 were Los Angeles sheriff’s recruits, officials said.

What are the injuries?

Captain Kelliher said 25 recruits were injured, as well as the driver.

She said five sheriff’s deputy cadets suffered critical injuries, four were moderately injured, and 14 suffered minor injuries.

Sheriff Villanueva later confirmed that the individuals who were in critical condition had suffered “life-altering” injuries.

Captain Kelliher told the press that the cadets “were running doing their morning training exercise when this person ran into them”.

A 22-year-old man crashed into a group of police cadets out for a morning run
A 22-year-old man crashed into a group of police cadets out for a morning run (Screenshot / ABC7)

Captain Kelliher confirmed that a light pole was struck as well.

“Traditionally, when we go for runs we're in our PT gear, which is ... shorts, T-shirts and sweatshirts. I don't know that for sure. But that's a typical outfit that we would wear during our PT,” she said.

Cadets could be seen in the area wearing black t-shirts and green shorts.

What was the emergency response?

A witness said ambulances responded “within 10 minutes” and that “when I came out, I was probably out there for like five minutes and then I started hearing ambulances come through”.

“We got young recruits. We got strong people out there – you could see that our helicopters are on scene. Our paramedics are the best in the business. Everybody got here quickly, everybody was taken care of immediately. And all those patients were off-scene immediately,” Captain Kelliher told reporters.

25 police recruits were injured after being struck by a vehicle while on a morning run
25 police recruits were injured after being struck by a vehicle while on a morning run (Screenshot / Fox 11 LA)

She said that each “multi-casualty incident is pretty similar – every time we come in and immediately just start looking who our critical patients are and we try to get them off scene immediately”.

“And there's a certain little thing that we go through to see if they're breathing, see if they're conscious, stop the bleeding if it's possible,” she said. “And then we get them into the right category. If people can walk up and walk away we call them the ‘walking wounded’, [if] they can come to us ... we know they're minor patients and the sorting just goes that way.”

Cadets are treated after being struck by a car
Cadets are treated after being struck by a car (Screenshot / ABC7)

The area resident told ABC7 that “I come out to see people on the floor ... it was really crazy”.

“Everyone was kind of in a panic, there [were] cables on fire and the car was smoking ... it was really a graphic scene,” he added.

Joseph said that he and other residents rushed to help, bringing water and towels.

“The car was completely wrecked, like the whole front end was done,” he told ABC7. “The light pole was on the floor ... it was like three or four of us neighbours that came out because this has happened before. We’ve lived here for 10 years. It’s happened before like where a car crashes into a gate, but this was like ... no one could ever imagine for this to happen.”

“There were so many people. Everyone was kind of in various conditions, some were unconscious, some were still conscious, some with really bad injuries to their legs. There was people bleeding from their face,” he said.

“The sheriff’s academy ... like they run through here all the time so you feel kind of connected to them,” the witness told the local TV station. “So it was a really crazy thing to wake up to.”

According to Fox 11, LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn said that “I just felt sick. Here were all those recruits on their morning run who basically got plowed into in this driver”.

She said no resource is being spared to help the victims.

“We’re hoping they pull through,” she said.

Did the incident happen in a dangerous area?

A witness, only identified as Joseph, told ABC7 that “the street is really dangerous and it's a main street but there’s so much foot traffic and also just regular traffic and there's always people speeding or driving drunk through here”.

He added that it’s not “uncommon to hear a crash outside of the house like that. But I've never seen something this bad”.

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