A suspect who allegedly drove into a group of jogging sheriff’s recruits in Los Angeles has been released from custody even though five of the victims are hospitalized in critical condition.
State law requires the district attorney to file charges within 48 hours of arrest, and that did not happen, so Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez, 22, was released a day after the crash on Thursday evening, jail records show. The case is being handled jointly by the California Highway Patrol and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
“Due to the extreme complexity of the investigation, which includes ongoing interviews, video surveillance review, and additional evidence needed to be analyzed, homicide investigators have released Mr. Gutierrez from the Sheriff’s Department custody today at approximately 9:55 PM,” a statement from the department said.
Gutierrez is suspected of driving into a pack of 75 sheriff’s recruits who were jogging in formation along a neighborhood street in the Los Angeles suburb of Whittier. The group was wearing reflective vests and flanked by a patrol car.
A backyard surveillance camera captured the incident and was provided to ABC7. It shows a car driving on the wrong side of the road slamming into the front of the group. The car then careened into a light pole.
“Some recruits are saying they heard the car accelerating, they estimate around 30 to 40 miles per hour,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva said at the time. “You can see how little reaction time that allows someone.”
Mangled bodies were splayed across the road as fellow recruits rushed to help the two dozen wounded. Some of the five critically injured recruits had head injuries, and one person lost a limb. One of the five is a woman, Villanueva said.
The average age of the recruits is 22, and they were looking forward to a long career in law enforcement, he said.
“It’s tragic — these are young kids just starting their career in law enforcement with just eight weeks into the academy. They still had 14 weeks to go,” Villanueva said.
Gutierrez was arrested at the scene and booked on charges of attempted murder of a peace officer.