Sheriff’s recruit in grave condition; one of 25 trainees hit by car in South Whittier

One of 25 Los Angeles County Sheriff’s recruits injured last week when a driver drove into the pack during a practice run in South Whittier was listed in serious condition, according to the department on Sunday.

The recruit was identified as Alejandro Martinez, who suffered from brain swelling, compound femur fractures, a collapsed lung and multiple organ damage, and was put on a ventilator, according to sources familiar with the incident but not authorized to speak publicly about the matter speak .

Sheriff Alex Villanueva previously said the department’s biggest concern is Martinez, who underwent surgery for head trauma and multiple fractures following Wednesday’s accident.

In a statement, Villanueva said the recruit suffered a setback that took his condition from critical to serious. The department asked the public to “keep him and his family in your prayers.” Two other recruits remain in critical condition while the remaining injured have been discharged from various hospitals.

Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez, 22, of Diamond Bar, was initially arrested on suspicion of the attempted murder of peace officers after Wednesday morning’s crash. However, he was released on Thursday after his arrest was ruled a detention.

Investigators are continuing to develop the case against Gutierrez, but the law does not allow them to hold a suspect in custody for more than 48 hours without referring the case to prosecutors, said Sgt. Gerardo Magos, a spokesman for the LA County Sheriff’s Department .

Once investigators create a case, they plan to arrest Gutierrez and bring the case to the LA County Attorney’s Office, Magos said.

Prior to Gutierrez’s release, Villanueva said in an interview with NewsNation that investigators “developed probable reasons to believe it was intentional.”

Gutierrez could not be reached for comment.

The recruits were running in four columns, escorted by drill instructors and two black-and-white radio trucks, when a Honda CRV pulled into the group around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday near the sheriff’s STARS Center Academy on the 10600 block of Mills Avenue. the authorities said.

As the group ran north on Mills Avenue, a vehicle approached at 30 to 40 miles per hour, according to witnesses. It turned the wrong side of the road and drove into the recruits.

The runners at the head of the formation managed to dodge before the SUV struck others and crashed into a light pole, authorities said.

Villanueva said during a news conference on Wednesday that there were no skid marks at the scene. The driver remained in the vehicle after the accident, and those at the scene initially struggled to get him out, the sheriff said.

“As far as I know, his foot was still on the accelerator in the vehicle,” he said.

Three people stand together near a car crash site in Whittier.

Family members of the suspect stand near the scene of the accident.

(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

A breathalyzer test was taken at the scene and authorities found no evidence of alcohol, Villanueva said, noting the driver “blew a 0.0.” However, authorities are working to determine if he was under the influence of other controlled substances at the time of the crash. A law enforcement source familiar with the investigation said marijuana was recovered from the driver’s vehicle. Sheriff’s recruit in grave condition; one of 25 trainees hit by car in South Whittier

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