The suspect who drove into a group of jogging police recruits last week in suburban Los Angeles fell asleep at the wheel and did not intend to cause the accident, his attorney said.
Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez was driving to his job as an electrical engineer in his Honda CR-V when he crossed over into the opposite lane and hit a group of 75 recruits jogging in formation on the side of the street, attorney Alexandra Kazarian told the Los Angeles Times.
“All indications in the preliminary investigation are that there’s no evidence whatsoever that this was intentional,” she said.
The recruits were employed by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and had 14 more weeks until graduation. Two dozen were injured, including five critically. The crash appeared to be intentional, so Gutierrez was booked on suspicion of attempted murder, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said to NewsNation.
CRASH SUSPECT WHO INJURED 25 RELEASED FROM CUSTODY DUE TO INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE
“We operate under prosecutor George Gascon. We definitely have grave concerns about his ability to prosecute,” Villanueva said. “We are actually going to provisionally release [Gutierrez] until we can have the case iron-clad, iron-proof, and submitted to the DA for filing consideration. Right now, we want to tie up all the loose ends on the case and then present it to the DA.”
Villanueva has been one of the most vocal opponents of District Attorney George Gascon, who has a mandate to seek less than maximum sentences in many violent felonies and avoid filing weapons charges.
Gutierrez was given a breath test at the crash scene, which came back clean. An investigation continues as to whether he was under the influence of drugs at the time, Villanueva said.
Seven of the recruits are still in the hospital, including two in critical condition. One person is on life support with brain bleeding and swelling, while another has multiple leg fractures.