SUV Driver Arrested in Wrong-Way Crash That Injured 25 Sheriff's Recruits on Training Run

Some of the recruits injured when they were struck by a wrong-way driver in a Whittier neighborhood.

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A man has been arrested in a crash that injured 25 Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department recruits during a training run in a Whittier neighborhood.

Nicholas Gutierrez, 22, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of attempted murder on a peace officer, according to a news release from the sheriff's department. He was detained at the scene of the horrific crash Wednesday morning that left five of the injured law enforcement recruits in critical condition.

The sheriff's department said a DUI breath and field sobriety test administered at the scene did not indicate the driver was under the influence of alcohol. The case was being investigated by the California Highway Patrol.

"It looks like it's an accident -- a horrific accident," Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Wednesday.

The 75 recruits were running northbound on Mills Avenue when a southbound SUV veered into their path, traveling the wrong way on the neighborhood street at an estimated 30 to 40 mph. Video from a camera on a resident's property shows the Honda CRV headed toward the four columns of recruits, all dressed in white shirts as they jogged in formation on the side of the street.

Recruits at the front of the formation told deputies those who were struck had no time to react. After striking the recruits, the SUV slammed head-on into a light pole.

Five police and deputy recruits remain hospitalized in critical condition after a wrong way driver slammed into their cadet class out on a training run in Whittier. Beverly White reports for the NBC4 News on Nov. 16, 2022.

"They had zero warning," said Capt. Pat MacDonald, whose bureau oversees the academy. "Thank God for that light pole because the vehicle ultimately hit it and stopped, as opposed to possibly hitting more recruits."

The recruits were running with eight road guards who wear reflective high-visibility vests. Drill instructors and safety vehicles accompanied recruits on the run, according to the sheriff's department.

Most of the trainees were LA County Sheriff's recruits, but some were from Pasadena, Glendale, and Bellflower.

The victims suffered head injuries broken bones and loss of limbs, Villanueva said at a Wednesday news conference. One victim was on a ventilator, Villanueva said.

Other injuries ranged from minor, including the 22-year-old driver, to moderate.

The recruits are part of a training program at the nearby S.T.A.R.S. Center is located in the 11000 bock of Colima Road in Whittier. The S.T.A.R.S. Center is one of two pre-academy training sites in Los Angeles County.

Witnesses said the recruits often train in the neighborhood.

The programs include physical training and academic sessions. Participation in the program is voluntary and not required to become a sheriff's deputy trainee.

County Supervisor Janice Hahn said the victims represent about half of the current class.

The California Highway Patrol asked anyone with information about the crash to contact investigators at 562-868-0503.

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