LOS ANGELES (AP) — Authorities arrested a 22-year-old driver suspected of attempted murder for allegedly ramming his vehicle into Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Academy recruits during a drive, injuring more than two dozens of people.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement Thursday that Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez was arrested Wednesday investigating an attempted murder of a peace officer.
Authorities said a man driving an SUV early Wednesday veered onto the wrong side of the road in the suburb of Whittier, ramming into recruits during an early morning run. Five of them were seriously injured.
The scene after the crash was chaotic and authorities said it looked like plane wreckage. Deputies got help from a nearby county fire station and immediately transported some of the most seriously injured directly to hospitals.
Authorities said a field sobriety test conducted on the driver was negative.
Online jail records show Gutierrez is due in court on Friday. It’s not immediately clear whether Gutierrez has an attorney who can speak on his behalf.
There were about 75 recruits from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and several local police departments running in formation down the street just before 6:30 a.m. when the accident happened. They wore white T-shirts and green shorts, and were accompanied by two black-and-white radio cars and eight highway guards wearing reflective vests for safety, sheriff’s authorities said.
Sheriff’s authorities have yet to submit their case against Gutierrez to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for prosecution and said they plan to do so on Friday.
Ambrosio E. Rodriguez, a defense attorney who previously worked as a prosecutor in nearby Riverside County, said that to file an attempted murder charge, prosecutors would have to prove that Gutierrez intended to kill.
“There’s a high bar to prove it, to show that this guy was trying to kill these cadets,” he said. He said evidence obtained from the vehicle could be critical, adding that a key question is whether the driver applied the brakes when the vehicle was heading towards the recruits.
“If he hits the brakes and realizes he’s doing something wrong, it’s very different than if he hits the accelerator,” he said.