The driver accused of plowing through a large group of 75 law enforcement recruits in Los Angeles County on Wednesday has been named, charged, and released. Investigators now believe the incident to have been intentional.
Building an 'ironclad, iron proof' case
In a statement on Nov. 17, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department indicated that 22-year-old Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez was charged with attempted murder on peace officers and that additional charges were pending.
CNN reported that while investigators have strong suspicions that the suspect meant to inflict harm on the recruits, they first need to shore up those suspicions with substantial evidence.
Since the department is usually required to present a case to the district attorney within 48 hours of a suspect's arrest, they provisionally cut Gutierrez loose after his initial arrest. According to the Los Angeles Times, Gutierrez's original arrest was deemed a detention.
LASD Deputy Deanna Mares told CNN: "It's not like they arrested the wrong suspect. ... They just want to make sure the investigation is going to be complete."
Sgt. Gerardo Magos similarly suggested that there was ample evidence but that law enforcement just wanted "to make sure it's properly presented."
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva suggested that part of the reason investigators are taking more time is that they don't trust the leftist district attorney to do his job.
The sheriff told NewsNation, "We operate under prosecutor George Gascón. We definitely have grave concerns about his ability to prosecute. We are actually going to provisionally release him (Gutierrez) until we can have the case ironclad, iron-proof, and submitted to the DA for filing consideration. Right now, we want to tie up all the loose ends on the case and then present it to the DA."
Gutierrez is reportedly due in court on Friday.
A 'deliberate act'
Gutierrez allegedly drove 30 to 40 mph the wrong way up a street near the sheriff's STARS Center Academy in Whittier, California, where 75 sheriff's deputy recruits were jogging. The suspect is said to have mowed down 25 recruits, some of whom reportedly lost limbs.
Twenty of the victims are with the LASD; two are with the Glendale PD; two are with the Bell PD; and one is with the Pasadena PD.
The Independent reported that were it not for a light pole, even more people could have been injured.
Captain Pat MacDonald said, "Thank God for that light pole, because the vehicle ultimately hit it and stopped, as opposed to possibly hitting more recruits."
Five recruits were left in critical condition. According to the Los Angeles Times, over a dozen others suffered "life-altering" injuries of varying severity.
Villanueva described the aftermath to NewsNation: "It was a bedlam, chaos, you know, there were bodies everywhere, bones sticking out and bleeding profusely. It was a pretty traumatic scene."
"In fact, the paramedics that were there had never seen something of that scale. It was almost like an airplane accident, but everyone was alive, thankfully," added Villanueva.
As of Thursday night, seven recruits were reportedly still in the hospital, two of whom remained in critical condition.
The LASD noted that homicide investigators would present the case to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office on Friday for filing considerations.
Villanueva believes the vehicular attack to have been a "deliberate act."
In one video of the incident caught on a nearby security camera, it appears as though the suspect oriented his vehicle toward the victims:
Surveillance video shows moment of horrific Whittier crash that injured 25 recruitsyoutu.be
The sheriff said on Wednesday that there were no skid marks at the scene, suggestive of a failure or a refusal to apply the brakes when driving toward the recruits. After allegedly mowing down the prospective deputies, Gutierrez allegedly remained in the Honda CR-V with his foot still on the accelerator.
A field sobriety test indicated that Gutierrez was not drunk on the morning of the brutal incident. The Los Angeles Times indicated that marijuana may have been recovered from the suspect's vehicle.
Two dozen LA sheriff recruits injured after car plows into groupyoutu.be