Man accused of driving into California law enforcement recruits, killing 1, is charged with manslaughter

A man accused of driving an SUV into a group of law enforcement recruits who were on a training run last year in Southern California has been charged in connection to the crash that left one trainee dead and others injured, prosecutors said.

Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez, 23, faces two counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and nine counts of reckless driving on a highway causing a specified injury, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said Thursday.

The charges come nearly a year after the incident near Whittier, California, in which authorities say Guiterrez drove in the wrong direction on November 16, 2022, and hit the running recruits, who were from various California law enforcement departments.

Gutierrez hit about two-dozen recruits, nine of whom were critically injured, according to the district attorney.

One of the injured trainees, Alejandro Martinez, 27, died of his injuries in July, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department said.

Gutierrez surrendered to authorities Thursday, was cooperative and has been released on bond, his attorney, Alexandra Kazarian, told CNN.

Kazarian said Gutierrez fell asleep while driving to work on the day of the crash, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

At the time of the crash, Gutierrez showed no signs of impairment and blew a zero in a Breathalyzer test, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.

Gutierrez was arrested shortly after the crash but was released that month, according to records that indicated the initial complaint was insufficient to hold him.

Gutierrez has family in law enforcement, Kazarian told the Los Angeles Times. His father is a retired correction officer, and he has other family working in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles Police Department and the California Highway Patrol, Kazarian told the Times.

“He harbors absolutely no animosity toward law enforcement,” she told the newspaper.

Gutierrez is set to be arraigned on Tuesday. Conviction on the charges would carry a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison, according to the district attorney’s office.

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said the formal charges are a step toward justice.

“The aim is to provide a sense of justice and accountability for the lives lost and the lives forever changed as a result of this tragic event,” Gascón said Thursday.

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