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Man arrested after car crashes into sheriff’s trooper in South Whittier

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A 22-year-old Diamond Bar man was arrested Thursday on suspicion of attempted murder of peace officers after a crash this week that injured more than two dozen Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department recruits during training in South Whittier, authorities said.

The man, Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez, was arrested in connection with Wednesday’s crash, authorities said. His bail was set at $2 million, according to the sheriff’s department.

Twenty-five sheriff’s recruits were injured in the early morning crash, including two who remained in critical condition Thursday, authorities said. A total of seven cadets remain in the hospital.

The recruits were running in four columns, joined by drill instructors and two black-and-white radio machines, when the crash happened around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday outside the sheriff’s academy STARS Center in the 10600 block of Mills Avenue, authorities said. .

As the recruits ran north on Mills Avenue, a Honda CRV approached at 30 to 40 mph, according to witnesses. The car drove onto the wrong side of the road and crashed into the group.

Joggers at the front of the convoy were able to get off the road before the vehicle hit others and struck a light pole, authorities said. The video was taken by a man who lives across the street after the wreck, the recruits were shown desperately trying to help those who appeared to be the most seriously injured.

One witness said “it sounded like a plane crash,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva said at a news conference Wednesday.

“There were so many bodies scattered everywhere in various states of trauma that it was quite traumatic for everyone involved,” he said. He described the injuries, which included a head injury and the loss of limbs, as “life-changing”. More than a dozen received injuries of light and moderate severity.

Gutierrez was detained at the scene by cadets. He suffered minor injuries and was taken to a hospital, authorities said.

Family members of the driver of a vehicle that crashed into Sheriff’s cadets Wednesday morning in Whittier stand near the scene of the crash.

(Irrfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

A breathalyzer was administered at the scene and authorities found no signs of alcohol, Villanueva said.

Authorities did not detect the odor of alcohol on the suspect, and he “blew a 0.0” during a breathalyzer test conducted at the scene, Villanueva said.

The arrest came hours after authorities searched the home of the suspect’s family Wednesday night. News video showed deputies banging on the door of a home in Diamond Bar. A tactical group with weapons in hand was also present.

Authorities swooped in after removing the two women from the home. The video shows that authorities spent some time inside, but did not appear to remove anything visible from the home.

The recruits were members of the STARS Center academy in South Whittier. Newly recruited MPs participate in a 22-week training program. They receive intensive training in firearms, law, police procedures, self-defense, law enforcement driving, physical fitness and force de-escalation.

Academic class 464 was in its eighth week.

Times staff writer Noah Goldberg contributed to this report.

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