WHITTIER, Calif. - Twenty-five law enforcement recruits for various agencies across Los Angeles County were injured, five critically, after a Honda CR-V going the wrong way plowed into them and hit a light pole during their morning run in Whittier, authorities said.
The California Highway Patrol said the incident was reported at 6:25 a.m. Wednesday near the intersection of Mills Avenue and Telegraph Road. Upon impact, firefighters with LA County Fire Station 96 heard a loud crash and immediately rendered aid to the cadets and called for additional resources. Authorities said 20 law enforcement vehicles from various agencies responded to the scene.
CHP Capt. Charlie Sampson said the driver was going southbound on Mills Avenue when he veered into the opposing lanes and struck the victims who were running northbound in formation.
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.
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, which is roughly a mile and a half from the crash site.
Whittier is located 20 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles.
SkyFOX flew over the scene and showed the debris from the wreckage as well as additional patients being triaged by medical personnel.
LA County Sheriff-elect Robert Luna issued a statement in response saying, "I’m heartbroken and praying for the recruits who were injured this morning after being hit by a vehicle in Whittier. I want to offer my unconditional support to the Sheriff and Police Chiefs from LA County agencies, their departments and the families of those who are injured in this difficult time."
What we know about the driver
The 22-year-old driver, later identified as Nicholas Gutierrez, underwent a sobriety test at the scene and LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva later confirmed the suspect passed the breathalyzer test, and that he also suffered injuries in the crash that required treatment at an area hospital.
However, officials said marijuana was found inside the SUV Gutierrez was in.
Gutierrez was placed in custody Thursday but was released hours after. The driver'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.
His family said he was on his way to work at the time of the crash.
Who was hurt in the crash?
Sheriff Villanueva and LA County Fire Captain Tony Maroney provided an update later Wednesday morning from UCI Medical Center in Orange County where some of the victims were transported.
Of the 25 who were struck, Villanueva said 16 recruits suffered minor injuries, four had moderate injuries, and five were critically injured.
The class 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
"I just felt sick. Here were all those recruits on their morning run who basically got plowed into by this driver," LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn said, adding the county is putting all its resources into aiding the victims. "We’re hoping they pull through."
A neighbor told FOX 11 that the recruits often jog in the area and run in packs wearing high-visibility vests.
The names of the victims have not been released and Villanueva said Wednesday night that the victims have a long road to recovery.
Those who witnessed the crash are asked to contact the California Highway Patrol as the investigation continues.
How you can help
The Sheriff's Relief Association is accepting donations on behalf of LASD Academy 464. Checks can be made payable to:
Sheriffs’ Relief Foundation
Memo: Class 464 Recruits
Checks can be mailed to:
Sheriffs’ Relief Association
11515 Colima Road, Building B
Whittier, CA 90604
More information on donating will be available online, the LASD said.