A 23-year-old driver, Nicholas Gutierrez, has been charged with vehicular manslaughter and reckless driving in connection with a tragic crash that occurred last year. The incident involved Gutierrez plowing into a group of Los Angeles County sheriff’s recruits who were on a training run, resulting in the death of one recruit and injuries to 24 others. The charges include two counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and nine counts of reckless driving causing great bodily injury, as announced by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
If convicted, Gutierrez could face a maximum sentence of up to 12 years in state prison. The crash took place on November 16, 2022, in Whittier, where approximately 75 recruits from the county Sheriff’s Department and various local police agencies were running in formation. The SUV driven by Gutierrez veered onto the wrong side of the road, collided with the cadets, and then crashed into a pole.
Gutierrez, a resident of Diamond Bar, was initially arrested after the incident but was released pending further investigation. He was arrested again on Thursday, according to the District Attorney’s office. The charges come after a thorough examination of the circumstances surrounding the crash.
Former Sheriff Alex Villanueva had reported that 25 cadets suffered injuries, ranging from severe head injuries to broken bones. One of the injured, Alejandro Martinez, remained hospitalized for eight months before succumbing to his injuries in July.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna commented on the charges, stating, “The felony filings today are a step towards justice for the family of Deputy Alejandro Martinez and all the LASD Recruits who were injured, many of whom have life-altering injuries sustained because of this tragic incident.”
Despite initial concerns, tests did not reveal any indication that Gutierrez was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash. In an interview with Media, Gutierrez claimed that he had fallen asleep at the wheel while on his way to work as an electrician installing solar panels.
“I woke up to the sound of [recruits] banging on the windows,” Gutierrez said. “I didn’t intentionally do it. I wish it never happened. I feel bad it happened.”
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A statement from Gutierrez’s attorney, Alexandra Kazarian, emphasized that Gutierrez and his family are fully cooperating with law enforcement and expressed their profound devastation over the tragic accident.