Lawyer: Driver in sheriff’s academy crash fell asleep

Driver In Sheriff’s Academy Crash Says It Wasn’t Intentional
Jae C. Hong - staff, AP

FILE - Two investigators stand next to a mangled SUV that struck Los Angeles County sheriff's recruits in Whittier, Calif., Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022. One of the Los Angeles County law enforcement recruits struck by the SUV during a training run last week was in deteriorating condition Sunday, Nov. 20. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department says in a statement that Alejandro Martinez has suffered setbacks that have left him in grave condition. The department says three other members of the sheriff's academy class remain in critical condition.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The driver of an SUV that crashed into Los Angeles County law enforcement recruits on a training run last week fell asleep at the wheel while driving to work, his attorney told a newspaper Monday.

Attorney Alexandra Kazarian told the Los Angeles Times that Nicholas Gutierrez was on his way to his job as an electrical engineer at a solar panel company when he fell asleep. He had awoken at 5 a.m. but had not been up late the night before, she said. Authorities have said the crash happened at around 6:30 a.m.

“He’s a good kid that fell asleep on his way to work early in the morning,” Kazarian told the newspaper.

Kazarian did not respond to requests for comment Monday from The Associated Press.

Gutierrez had been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder of a peace officer, but was abruptly released. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said further investigation was needed.

“I didn’t intentionally do it,” Gutierrez, 22, told NBC4LA during an interview with his family. “I wish it never happened. I feel bad it happened.”

The Nov. 16 crash injured 25 members of a sheriff’s academy class, several critically. An injured cadet was discharged over the weekend while another victim remains hospitalized in critical but stable condition, UCI Health said Monday.

The crash occurred as sheriff’s and police recruits ran in formation in a street. Authorities said the SUV veered onto the wrong side of the road and into the recruits, then crashed into a pole.

Kazarian said in statement Friday that her client had no drugs or alcohol in his system, NBC4LA reported.

“Nicholas comes from a proud law enforcement family and the injuries to these recruits is beyond heartbreaking,” Kazarian said.