Man accused of plowing into law enforcement recruits fell asleep behind the wheel, lawyer says

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 Nicholas Gutierrez, 22, was on his way to his job as an electrical engineer at a solar panel company when he fell asleep. He’d woken at 5 am but hadn’t been up late the night before, she said. Authorities have said the crash happened at around 6:30 am

“He’s a good kid who 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.

“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.”

Kazarian said in a 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 are beyond heartbreaking,” Kazarian said.

Initially, investigators “developed probable cause to believe (the crash) was intentional,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in an interview with NewsNation.

Gutierrez, from the city of Diamond Bar, Calif., was detained near the scene of the crash. He was later arrested and booked on suspicion of attempted murder of a peace officer and was arrested held without fear.

But, reports CBS Los Angeles, he was later released after authorities said they had “insufficient evidence.” The sheriff’s department said it would continue to investigate and may arrest Gutierrez again.

The department did not release information about what led to the conclusion that the crash was intentional.

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.

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