California wrong-way driver asleep at wheel before crash that injured 25 recruits: attorney

The 22-year-old wrong-way driver arrested on suspicion of attempted murder of a peace officer allegedly fell asleep at the wheel of the SUV he was driving when he veered into the wrong lane and crashed into Los Angeles County law enforcement recruits on a training run, injuring 25 of them, his attorney confirms with FOX 11.

The attorney of Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez, Alexandra Kazarian, is refuting claims made last week by Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva that Gutierrez intentionally struck the law enforcement recruits.

"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." 

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In spite of Villanueva's conclusion, LASD – who is working with the California Highway Patrol on the investigations – said the "extreme complexity" of the investigation left authorities needing to get more evidence, thus releasing Gutierrez. He had been in custody on $2 million bail.

Since the crash, one of the five Los Angeles County law enforcement cadets critically injured suffered setbacks and is in "grave condition," sheriff's officials said Sunday.

"Alejandro Martinez, has suffered setbacks that have left him in grave condition. Please keep him and his family in your prayers," the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said on social media. 

Four recruits remain in critical condition and all others have been released, officials added.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: California wrong-way driver crashes into 25 law enforcement recruits; 5 in critical condition

In addition to the five who remain hospitalized, four had moderate injuries and 16 had minor injuries at the time of the incident. 

About 75 recruits, from the LASD and several local police agencies, were running in formation in the street just before 6:30 a.m. in the Los Angeles suburb of Whittier when the driver veered into the wrong lane and struck the runners before crashing into a nearby light pole, authorities said.

The case has not been formally referred to the district attorney’s office for prosecution. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office said in an email that sheriff’s and highway patrol authorities advised late Thursday that they wouldn’t be presenting a case at this time.

Authorities said a field sobriety test performed on Gutierrez was negative.