Wrong-Way Driver Who Plowed Cadets Says He Was Asleep at the Wheel

Nicholas Gutierrez’s lawyer says the crash was not intentional, and that he passed out somewhere between his parent’s house and work

Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez, the wrong-way driver who plowed his car into 75 sheriff’s recruits on a training run—injuring 25, some grievously—did not intend to hurt anyone but fell asleep behind the wheel, his lawyer says.

“I think it was just a completely tragic and freak accident,” Guiterrez

lawyer Alexandra Kazarian told the New York Post. “He wasn’t up late the night before, but he just fell asleep on his way to work.”

The group of 75 recruits from the STARS Center Academy in South Whittier were jogging in a four-column formation around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, accompanied by two drill instructors and two radio cars, when the Honda CRV driven by Gutierrez,22, closed in. The SUV then abruptly crossed to the wrong side of the road, plowing into the cadets, according to witnesses, and did not come to a halt until it rammed a lamppost.

A breathalyzer test administered to Gutierrez at the scene of the arrest on Wednesday tested 0.0., according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Five recruits are critically injured, including “loss of limb,” LASD said on Monday. One recruit, Alejandro Martinez, experienced a decline in status over the weekend and is now listed in “grave condition.”

“Alejandro Martinez, has suffered setbacks that have left him in grave condition. Please keep him and his family in your prayers,” LASD posted on social media. Martinez has serious head trauma.

Kazarian told the Post that Gutierrez woke up at 5 a.m. the morning off the incident and drove from his parent’s home to his workplace, as he did every day.

LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said last week that investigators thought there was “probable cause to believe” the crash “was intentional,” but Kazarian denied those claims. The charge of attempted murder of a peace officer, which Gutierrez was originally charged with, requires that the crime was intentional.

“I have no idea why [Villanueva] came out and said that, especially while the initial investigations showed … there was no evidence it was intentional,” Kazarian told the Post.

Kazarian touted Gutierrez’s long family history in law enforcement, with members who work in the LASD, the California Highway Patrol and the Los Angeles Police Department.

Gutierrez, a student living with his parents, also had a job installing solar panels and holds down an apprenticeship, Kazarian said, adding, “He’s a good kid.”

In an interview with NBC4, Gutierrez reiterated that the tragedy was a horrible accident.

“I didn’t intentionally do it,” he said. “I feel bad it happened… They tried to say that I did it intentionally, which I didn’t.”

He does not remember the moments immediately before the crash, he says. “I fell asleep at the wheel. I woke up to the sound of [cadets] banging on the window.”

Kazarian told LAMag last week that Gutierrez comes from a law enforcement family and has “zero animosity toward law enforcement,” adding, “Homicide investigators have no evidence whatsoever to say this was intentional… He is a hard-working young man who lives with his parents and installs solar panels for a living.”

The investigation continues.

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