WHITTIER, Calif. (KABC) — A 22-year-old Diamond Bar man who authorities believe intentionally crashed into a group of law enforcement recruits was released from custody Thursday evening, according to jail records.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the suspect was only released until investigators can develop more evidence and present a stronger case for prosecutors.
Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder on peace officers for Wednesday’s crash that injured 25 recruits, but jail records show he was released at 9:49 pm due to insufficient evidence a crime was committed.
“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,” a news release from authorities said.
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“I have no doubt that an in-depth investigation will confirm that Nicholas is a hard working young man who holds no animosity towards law enforcement, and this was an absolutely tragic accident,” Alexandra Kazarian, Gutierrez’s attorney, said in a statement to Eyewitness News.
The case was expected to be presented to the LA County District Attorney’s Office on Friday, but Villanueva said on a cable news network that the suspect would be “provisionally” released as investigators worked to build a stronger case.
“Right now, we want to tie up all the loose ends on the case and then present it to the DA,” Villanueva said in an interview on NewsNation.
A Sheriff’s Department investigator told Eyewitness News Thursday that they believed the suspect intentionally slammed into the recruits.
Video shows SUV slam into recruits
Villanueva previously said the crash was an accident, however, authorities say that was based on preliminary information and further evidence collected led them to believe the suspect intentionally slammed into the group.
The incident unfolded early Wednesday morning in the South Whittier area near Mills Avenue and Trumball Street. Villanueva said a class of about 75 recruits were on a run as part of a training exercise when the driver veered onto the wrong side of the road and crashed into the group.
The collision left the 25 recruits with injuries ranging from head trauma to loss of limbs. Five of them were critically injured.
Some recruits said they heard the vehicle accelerating and it was going about 30 to 40 miles per hour before it crashed into a pole, Villanueva said Wednesday.
Villanueva said the driver was given a field sobriety test shortly after the crash and “blew a 0.0.”
The scene after the crash was chaotic, and authorities said it looked like an airplane wreck. Deputies got help from a nearby county fire station and immediately transported some of the most badly injured directly to hospitals.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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