Lawyer: Wrong-way driver who hit 25 sheriff’s recruits fell asleep at the wheel on his way to work

Wrong-way driver who mowed down 25 sheriff’s recruits leaving five critically injured fell asleep at the wheel on his way to work, his attorney claims – after cops say they believe it was ‘deliberate’

  • A lawyer for the 22-year-old who mowed down 25 sheriff’s recruits in Whittier, California, says he fell asleep at the wheel
  • Nicholas Gutierrez crashed into the group of law enforcement agents in training on November 16 at around 6.30am local time 
  • After the accident, police and sheriff officials said that they believed Gutierrez struck the recruits ‘intentionally’ while they were out for a training run
  • Three of the recruits remain in critical condition

The 22-year-old wrong-way-driver who mowed down sheriff’s recruits last week in Southern California claims he fell asleep at the wheel. 

On Wednesday, November 16, Nicholas Gutierrez, 22, struck 25 sheriff’s recruits in Whittier, California, who were out for a training run in the early morning hours. 

Gutierrez hit one-third of the law enforcement agents in training, leaving five of them in critical condition, three of whom remain in critical condition at this time. 

After the collision, law enforcement officials claimed that Gutierrez intentionally struck the group of recruits, which Gutierrez and his lawyer, Alexandra Kazarian, vehemently deny. 

One law enforcement official described the scene after the collision as looking like a 'plane wreck'

One law enforcement official described the scene after the collision as looking like a ‘plane wreck’ 

In a new interview, Nicholas Gutierrez, 22, claims he fell asleep at the wheel before slamming into 25 sheriff's recruits in Whittier, California on November 16

In a new interview, Nicholas Gutierrez, 22, claims he fell asleep at the wheel before slamming into 25 sheriff’s recruits in Whittier, California on November 16

The car Gutierrez was driving was seen badly damaged after the incident on November 16

The car Gutierrez was driving was seen badly damaged after the incident on November 16 

‘I didn’t intentionally do it,’ Gutierrez said in an interview with NBC4 LA

The driver, who appears in the interview with cuts and bruises covering his face, and his lawyer alluded that his injuries may have been caused after he had been pulled from the car. 

His attorney said that his injuries were suffered at the scene but were not from the crash. 

‘They dragged me out,’ Gutierrez said. ‘I asked if everything was ok. 

‘They tried to say that I did it intentionally, which I didn’t. I kept on telling them I didn’t.’

The 22-year-old and his lawyer say that he simply fell asleep and that he did not mean to cause the serious injuries, some of which the sheriff called ‘life-altering.’ 

Officials have asserted that some injuries include loss of limbs and as of Monday, at least one of the recruits, Alejandro Martinez, was in ‘grave condition.’

At many as 25 recruits suffered injuries including head trauma, broken bones and a 'loss of limb,' with five critically injured following the crash in Whittier on Wednesday morning

At many as 25 recruits suffered injuries including head trauma, broken bones and a ‘loss of limb,’ with five critically injured following the crash in Whittier on Wednesday morning

Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez, 22, was released from jail after he was charged with attempted murder as authorities need more time to gather evidence in the case against him

Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez, 22, was released from jail after he was charged with attempted murder as authorities need more time to gather evidence in the case against him

Martinez suffered broken legs, brain swelling, and internal bleeding. 

In response to his actions, Gutierrez said: ‘I wish it never happened. I feel bad it happened.’ 

‘I fell asleep at the wheel,’ Gutierrez said. ‘I woke up to the sound of (recruits) banging on the windows.’ 

Officials, however, have said that Gutierrez’s actions were ‘intentional.’ 

LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said he was 'provisionally' released, but said that investigators 'developed probable cause to believe it was intentional'

LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said he was ‘provisionally’ released, but said that investigators ‘developed probable cause to believe it was intentional’ 

LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said after his ‘provisional’ release that evidence collected pointed to the incident being intentional after ‘an exhaustive interview process with everyone involved, with the video surveillance, the statements from the recruits, the physical evidence they have and what they got from the suspect himself.’

Gutierrez was released from jail Thursday after he was charged with attempted murder as authorities said they needed more time to gather evidence to present to the District Attorney’s office.

The sheriff’s department is required to present a case to the DA within 48 hours of an arrest, and they were not ready to do so.

‘Right now, we want to tie up all the loose ends on the case and then present it to the DA,’ Villanueva told NewsNation. 

Authorities on the scene are pictured transporting a bloody victim into an ambulance

Authorities on the scene are pictured transporting a bloody victim into an ambulance

Some were treated on the scene, while others were transported to local hospitals

Some were treated on the scene, while others were transported to local hospitals

In a statement issued Friday, Gutierrez’s lawyer said that the 22-year-old and his family ‘appreciate’ a full investigation is being conducted. 

‘The Gutierrez family appreciates the Sheriff’s Department taking the time to conduct a full and complete investigation. 

‘As many have asked, we want to emphasize that Nicholas was his way to work, and had no drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of this tragic accident,’ the attorney said. 

The driver reportedly blew a 0.0 during a breathalyzer test but was found to have marijuana in his car. 

A Honda SUV suddenly appears and slams right into the group of recruits with no clear indication of attempting to slow down. Bodies and debris scattered across the street

A Honda SUV suddenly appears and slams right into the group of recruits with no clear indication of attempting to slow down. Bodies and debris scattered across the street

The footage starts off showing the  recruits wearing white t-shirts and jogging together in formation in the area of Mills Road and Telegraph Road with two patrol cars following behind

The footage starts off showing the  recruits wearing white t-shirts and jogging together in formation in the area of Mills Road and Telegraph Road with two patrol cars following behind

New video shows the terrifying moment a wrong-way driver barreled into a group of law enforcement recruits while they were on a training run in southern California

New video shows the terrifying moment a wrong-way driver barreled into a group of law enforcement recruits while they were on a training run in southern California

It remains unclear whether he was high at the time of the crash Wednesday morning.

‘Nicholas comes from a proud law enforcement family and the injuries to these recruits is beyond heartbreaking,’ Kazarian said. 

Alison Triessl, a legal analyst for KTLA, said after Gutierrez spoke out Monday that he could still face a heavy prison sentence if the crash was accidental. 

‘If in fact this was an accident and the prosecutors do not charge this man with an intentional act, he is still looking at a reckless driving, causing great bodily injury for each cadet that was gravely injured and for each of those counts, he could be looking at a maximum of three years in prison per count,’ Triessl said. 

Triessl also said that if any recruits die from their injuries, Gutierrez could face vehicular manslaughter charges. 

Authorities say the driver was traveling the wrong way when he plowed into a group of recruits

Authorities say the driver was traveling the wrong way when he plowed into a group of recruits

A gray SUV was a mangled mess after the 22-year-old driver slammed into a pole

A gray SUV was a mangled mess after the 22-year-old driver slammed into a pole 

At the time, Villanueva said that the crash site ‘looked like an airplane wreck, there were so many bodies scattered everywhere.’

In a statement, the Los Angeles Police Department said: ‘Our thoughts are with those impacted by this morning’s events involving the Sheriff’s Recruits.

‘As we await more information on their conditions, we are wishing everyone a quick recovery.’

Gov. Gavin Newsom also issued a statement saying: ‘Our hearts are with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s recruits injured this morning while training to serve their communities.

‘Jennifer and I send our best wishes for their recovery and stand with their loved ones and colleagues at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department during this difficult time.’

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