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Criminal Justice

Driver In Whittier Car Crash That Injured 25 Sheriff And Police Recruits Is Arrested, Then Released

A dark SUV at a stop on a sidewalk has a severely crumpled hood.
An SUV involved in a morning crash Wednesday is examined by law enforcement. Officials said the driver of the vehicle that crashed into a training run for law enforcement recruits had a negative field sobriety test.
(Frederic J. Brown
AFP via Getty Images)
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After arresting a driver in connection with a collision that injured 25 law enforcement recruits on a morning run, L.A. County sheriff's officials released the man from custody late Thursday "due to the extreme complexity of the investigation."

That decision came the day following the man's arrest on suspicion of attempted murder. The crash into a group of 75 people running in formation at dawn left 25 people injured — some critically.

According to a news release Friday from the LASD, the investigation "includes ongoing interviews, video surveillance review, and additional evidence needed to be analyzed."

They did not release additional information about findings or a possible motive. On Thursday, department officials said they intended to present the case to the L.A County District Attorney's office Friday.

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Now they say: "Homicide investigators, along with California Highway Patrol investigators, will continue to pursue all evidence relevant to this matter until a thorough investigation is complete."

Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez, 22, was released without bail. That was after his initial bail was set at $2 million, according to inmate information on the sheriff's department's website.

Sgt. Gerardo Magos, an L.A. County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson, told the L.A. Times that "they are not legally allowed to hold a suspect in custody for more than 48 hours without presenting the case to prosecutors," adding that they are still working on developing a case against Guitierrez.

What We Know So Far

Sheriff's news releases have not give any details about what prompted the arrest or a possible motive. Prior to the arrest, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the collision initially appeared to be an accident, but he emphasized the investigation was still underway.

The crash occurred Wednesday morning at dawn near the intersection of Mills Avenue and Telegraph Road in South Whittier. A class of LASD recruits, along with several trainees from other departments, were running in formation on the northbound side of Mills Avenue when Gutierrez's car veered into their lane.

In total, 25 people sustained injuries that ranged from mild to critical. According to officials, the worst injuries included limb loss, head trauma and broken bones. At least one person was placed on a ventilator. In all, five people were in critical condition.

According to officials, the run was a routine part of training. Recruits were running in formation and shepherded by two safety vehicles and eight people wearing reflective safety vests. 

After striking the group, Gutierrez's vehicle collided with a light pole, which authorities believe prevented more injuries from occurring.

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The crash is under investigation by the LASD and the California Highway Patrol.

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