Los Angeles-area injured driver suspect released by police recruits from jail as sheriff says investigators believe he acted deliberately. CNN



Investigators believe the man suspected of driving into a group of law enforcement recruits, injuring 25 of them, committed a “deliberate act” and the case should go to prosecutors Friday, the Los Angeles County sheriff said in an interview.

The news came Thursday, just before Nicolas Joseph Gutierrez, 22, was released from jail, according to records that indicated the initial charge was insufficient to hold him after the incident in Whittier.

Yet authorities have “developed probable cause to believe it was intentional,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva told News Nation before Gutierrez’s release Thursday, adding that he expects the case to be presented to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office on Friday.

Investigators undertook a “thorough interview process” and reviewed video surveillance, physical evidence and statements from employers and Gutierrez.

Gutierrez, 22, was released from custody Thursday at 9:49 p.m., jail records show, and the sheriff’s department insists it did not make a mistake in freeing him.

“It’s not like they arrested the wrong suspect,” Deputy Dena Mares told CNN late Thursday. “They just want to make sure the investigation is complete.”

Gutierrez is still considered a suspect, Mares said. Investigators simply want more time to gather evidence for the charges.

Police are required to present a case within 48 hours of a suspect’s arrest, and they weren’t prepared to do that with Gutierrez, Mares said.

Twenty-five recruits from multiple law enforcement agencies were injured Wednesday when a car plowed into the group, an incident Villanueva initially characterized as “a terrible accident.”

That character changed Thursday morning when the department announced the arrest of Gutierrez on suspicion of attempted murder of peace officers.

CNN requested comment from one of Gutierrez’s attorneys, Alexandra Kazarian, who told CNN affiliate KABC on Thursday, “I have no doubt that a thorough investigation will confirm that Nicholas is a hard-working young man who has no animosity toward law enforcement, and that this was an absolutely tragic accident. .”

Guterres was charged Wednesday, inmate records show. He was alone in the car at the time of the crash, the sheriff’s department said.

Five of the injured cadets are in critical condition. Four other recruits suffered moderate injuries, while 16 suffered minor injuries, the sheriff’s office said. Gutierrez also suffered minor injuries, Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Sheila Kelliher said.

All were taken to local hospitals. There are no updates on their status.

CNN has requested comment from the prosecutor’s office and the California Highway Patrol, which is leading the investigation.

The crash appears to be a “terrible accident,” Villanueva originally said at a news conference Wednesday.

The driver, who was going the wrong way, showed no signs of impairment and blew a zero on a breathalyzer test, he said. No skid marks were visible at the scene, the sheriff said.

“It looked like the wreckage of a plane – lots of bodies scattered everywhere in various states of injury,” Villanueva said. “It was quite traumatic.”

Those injured included recruits from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Pasadena, Glendale and Bell Police Departments. Recruits from the El Segundo and University of California, Los Angeles police departments were also present but were not injured.

The 75 recruits, all wearing white T-shirts and green shorts, were in what Capt. Ted McDonald of the department’s training bureau described as a “typical run” of the department’s 22-week training course. They were accompanied by two security vehicles and were running on four lines when they were hit, MacDonald said.

The accident happened about 500 feet from the fire station, officials said. Los Angeles Fire Chief Anthony Marrone said four patients were taken to hospitals with serious injuries. It probably saved their lives.

Fire Capt. Kelliher said the incident was “tough to watch because these young people are getting ready to step into the danger zone in their careers.” “And who knows that when you’re training to do that, you’re actually in harm’s way.”