Accident in Whittier: Driver Nicholas Gutierrez was released after his arrest for beating law enforcement recruits
WHITTIER, Calif. (KABC)– A 22-year-old Diamond Barman, who authorities believe deliberately crashed into a group of law enforcement recruits, was released from custody Thursday night, according to prison records.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the suspect was only released until investigators could develop more evidence and present prosecutors with a stronger case.
Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez was arrested on suspicion of the attempted murder of peace officers for Wednesday’s crash, which injured 25 recruits, but prison records show he was released at 9:49 p.m. on insufficient evidence of a crime.
“Due to the extreme complexity of the investigation, which includes ongoing questioning, review of CCTV and additional evidence requiring analysis, homicide detectives have released Mr. Gutierrez from custody in the sheriff’s department,” the authorities said in a release.
RELATED: Wrong-way driver slams into law enforcement recruits while jogging in Whittier
“I have no doubt that a thorough investigation will confirm that Nicholas is a hard-working young man who harbors no animosity towards law enforcement, and this was an absolutely tragic accident,” Gutierrez’s attorney Alexandra Kazarian said in one Statement to Eyewitness News.
The case was due to be brought before the LA County Attorney’s Office on Friday, but Villanueva said on a cable news channel that the suspect would be released “provisionally” while investigators worked to build a stronger case.
“Right now we want to wrap up all the loose ends of the case and then take it to the prosecution,” Villanueva said in an interview with NewsNation.
An investigator with the sheriff’s department told Eyewitness News Thursday that they believe the suspect deliberately punched the recruits.
The video shows an SUV crashing into recruits
Villanueva previously said the crash was an accident, but authorities say this was based on preliminary information and further evidence accumulated, leading them to believe the suspect was ejected into the group on purpose.
The incident happened early Wednesday morning in the South Whittier area near Mills Avenue and Trumball Street. Villanueva said a class of about 75 recruits were fleeing as part of a training exercise when the driver turned the wrong side of the road and crashed into the group.
The collision left the 25 recruits with injuries ranging from head injuries to loss of limbs. Five of them were critically injured.
Some recruits said they heard the vehicle accelerate and travel about 30 to 40 miles per hour before it crashed into a pole, Villanueva said Wednesday.
Villanueva said the driver underwent a field sobriety test shortly after the accident and “blew a 0.0.”
The scene after the crash was chaotic, and authorities said it looked like a plane wreck. MPs got help from a nearby fire station and immediately transported some of the most seriously injured directly to hospitals.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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https://abc7.com/whittier-crash-suspect-released-arrest/12466799/ Accident in Whittier: Driver Nicholas Gutierrez was released after his arrest for beating law enforcement recruits