Investigators Believe Crash Into LA Sheriff's Recruits Was Intentional, But Legal Twist Has Suspect Released From Custody


A Los Angeles county motorist is under investigation for a Wednesday car crash that authorities suspect was an intentional attack on a group of law enforcement recruits.

In a twist, however, 22-year old suspect Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez was released from custody on Thursday night, with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department requiring further evidence to charge him with a crime.

He might not be free from a jail cell for long.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva indicated that the agency had only released him because a complex investigation into the crash was ongoing, and that it’d have to be completed before the filing of criminal charges, according to KABC-TV.

Footage of the crash shows an SUV barreling down the wrong side of the street in the city of Whittier, California, slamming into a large group of law enforcement trainees who were running in formation.

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Warning: The following video clips include footage that some readers may find disturbing

Aerial footage of the crash’s aftermath shows a large group of first responders present to react to a mass-casualty style event.

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Some of the crash victims have been left with serious injuries as a result of the collision, including missing limbs and head trauma, according to KABC. The recruits were affiliated with a variety of Los Angeles-area police departments, as well as the county sheriff’s department, according to Villanueva.

Seven remain hospitalized, including one recruit on life support with brain injuries.

Sheriff Villanueva initially described the crash as an accident, only to indicate that subsequent information had led the authorities to suspect the car crash was intentional.

Villaneuva has indicated that Gutierrez was released from custody on a “provisional” basis as authorities shored up what he sees as a strong criminal case against the alleged driver.

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The sheriff expressed his concerns with progressive Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, describing the decision to release Gutierrez as influenced by a concern Gascón could spike the case.

“We definitely have grave concerns about his ability to prosecute, so we are actually gonna provisionally release him until we can have the case iron-clad… and submit it to the D.A. for filing consideration,” Villanueva indicated.

Gutierrez was initially arrested on suspicion of attempted murder on peace officers after the Wednesday crash, according to KABC-TV.

A statement of charges hasn’t been referred to Gascón as of Friday, with law enforcement continuing to investigate the crash.

An attorney for Gutierrez described the crash as an “absolutely tragic accident” in a statement, according to KABC.

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