Wrong-way California driver released after allegedly plundering into 25 law-enforcement recruits

The saga involving the 22-year-old driver accused of plowing into 25 law enforcement recruits from various agencies across Los Angeles County with a Honda CR-V while driving the wrong way in Whittier continues to take bizarre turns.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department confirmed after 10 pm Thursday that Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez is back on the streets. The announcement comes hours after Gutierrez was taken into custody and was arrested for the attempted murder of a peace officer(s) and may have been under the influence of a recreational drug when the crash occurred.

According to LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, the investigations left authorities believing that the crash was intentional.

“They did a thorough investigation. They interviewed dozens and dozens of witnesses and victims,” ​​Villanueva said, regarding the crash believed to be done intentionally. “That was the conclusion.”

In spite of Villanueva’s conclusion, LASD told FOX 11 later in the night that Gutierrez was released due to the fact that investigators are looking for more evidence.

Gutierrez, who lives in Diamond Bar, may face additional charges and is scheduled to appear in court on Friday. Despite the sudden release, the charges are pending.

The California Highway Patrol said the collision was reported at 6:25 am Wednesday near the intersection of Mills Avenue and Telegraph Road. CHP Capt. Charlie Sampson said the driver was going southbound on Mills Avenue when he veered into the opposing lanes and struck the victims going northbound while out on a morning training run.

The members of Academy Class 464 attend the Sheriff’s Training Academy and Regional Services (STARS) Center located in the 11500 block of Colima Road, roughly a mile and a half from the crash site.

Gutierrez underwent a sobriety test at the scene and Villanueva later confirmed he passed the breathalyzer test. He suffered minor injuries in the horrific collision and was hospitalized.

RELATED: What we know about the California driver who hit 25 law enforcement recruits in LA County

Gutierrez’s family told FOX 11 that he is a “good kid” who respects the law enforcement community because he comes from a law enforcement family.

A video taken from the scene shows the moments the cadets were hit, leaving 25 injured. Sixteen recruits suffered minor injuries, four had moderate injuries, and five were critically injured.

The cadets were rushed, including two who were airlifted, to various hospitals across LA and Orange counties including UCI Medical Center in the city of Orange, St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, LAC+USC Medical Center in Boyle Heights, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, and PIH Health Whittier Hospital.

Academy Class 464 consists of 75 recruits for the LASD, Bell PD, Glendale PD, Pasadena PD, and the UCLA Police Department. Of the 25 injured, Villanueva said:

  • 1 injured with Pasadena PD
  • 2 injured with Bell PD
  • 2 injured with Glendale PD
  • 20 injured with LASD

The names of the victims have not been released and Villanueva said some of them face a long road to recovery.

RELATED: How you can help California law enforcement recruits from the LA County crash

The investigation is ongoing.

Anyone who is able to provide additional information or witnessed the crash is asked to contact the LASD’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.

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