The California man accused of ploughing his car into 75 recruits on an early morning jog — resulting in some of them losing limbs — simply fell asleep at the wheel, his lawyer claims.
Witnesses estimated Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez was driving his Honda CR-V between 30 to 40 mph on the wrong side of the road as it careered straight into the recruits, injuring 25 of them before smashing against a pole around 6:30 a.m. on Nov. 16.
“I think it was just a completely tragic and freak accident,” lawyer Alexandra Kazarian told The Post. “He wasn’t up late the night before, but he just fell asleep on his way to work.”
The impact critically injured at least five cadets, some of them losing limbs, officials said. One cadet, Alejandro Martinez, suffered a setback over the weekend and is in “grave condition,” Sheriff’s officials said Monday.
Kazarian told The Post that Gutierrez woke up at 5 a.m. that morning and was on his way from his parent’s home to work, as he usually did.
The recruits were training at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department academy in nearby Whittier, Calif.
LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva last week said investigators believed there was “probable cause to believe” the crash “was intentional,” but Kazarian refutes those claims.
“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 said Gutierrez “comes from a long line” of law enforcement, including several family members who work in the Sheriff’s Department, the California Highway Patrol and the Los Angeles Police Department.
She said Gutierrez studied electrical engineering, had been working for a solar power company and was in the middle of his electrical engineering apprenticeship.
“He’s living at home with his parents, goes to work, goes to the gym, and comes home … that was his routine,” Kazarian said. “He’s not a ‘party guy.’ He’s a good kid.
“He and the family are all absolutely devastated at the prospect that he had anything to do with the injuries. It’s an absolute nightmare for the entire family.”
In an interview with NBCLA, Gutierrez said he “wish it never happened” and maintained the tragic incident was an accident.
“I didn’t intentionally do it,” he said in the interview. “I feel bad it happened. … They tried to say that I did it intentionally, which I didn’t. I kept on telling them I didn’t.”
Investigators conducted a sobriety test on Gutierrez at the incident site, and a Breathalyzer test also was administered. Gutierrez passed both and he “blew a 0.0,” Villanueva said.
Gutierrez was detained on Nov. 16 but was released the next day because investigators could not legally hold him more than 48 hours without presenting their case to prosecutors.
“There were no conditions on his release and there’s no fear that he’s a flight risk,” Kazarian said of her client. “He’s fully cooperating with the investigation.”