A shocking accident occurred on Nov. 16 in Los Angeles County when 25 sheriff recruits were struck by a wrong-way driver while on a training run.
The injured recruits were representing the Pasadena, Glendale, and Bell police departments. Recruits from the UCLA and El Segundo police departments were also present, but they were not injured.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva says he believes the driver, 22-year-old Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez, struck the recruits deliberately.
Read on to find out more about what happened and how AttorneyJeff Injury Lawyers can assist you with representation in this tragic wrong-way accident.
How Were the Whittier Sheriff Recruits Injured?
The recruits were wearing matching uniforms and running in formation as part of a 22-week training course. They were accompanied by two tracking vehicles and road guards wearing reflective vests.
Gutierrez was driving towards them in an SUV when he suddenly veered to the other side of the road. He was traveling at around 30-40 miles per hour when he ran his car into the group without stopping. Some said he may have even sped up before moving forwards.
The impact of the crash sent several officers into the air. In the aftermath, victims were scattered in all directions. Injuries ranged from mild to critical.
Gutierrez eventually hit a light post. If he hadn’t, he may have hit more officers.
“It happened so quickly that just the people that saw it veer into them, they jumped out of the way, but the people behind had no chance because they never saw it. They didn’t have sufficient warning,” Villanueva said.
The driver was arrested and released, giving investigators a chance to build a case. He may be facing attempted murder charges.
“Due to the extreme complexity of the investigation, which includes ongoing interviews, video surveillance review, and additional evidence needed to be analyzed, homicide investigators have released Mr. Gutierrez from Sheriff’s Department custody” the agency said in a press release.
The Driver’s Claims
To make the charge of attempted murder stick, it must be proven that Gutierrez’s actions were intentional. The driver says his actions were “100% unintentional”. He claims he drifted off before the crash and veered into the wrong lane.
Gutierrez, who works as an electrical engineer, is described by his attorney as coming from a “proud law enforcement family”. His father is a retired corrections officer, and his relatives work for the Los Angeles Police Department. California Highway Patrol and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.
What Injuries Did the Officers Sustain?
The officers that were hit sustained various injuries including the following:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Broken bones
- Cracked ribs
- Soft tissue trauma
- Bruising and scarring
- Mental health injuries
- Physical disfigurement
Many victims will have to put their careers on hold while they are recovering. Several are dealing with injuries that will greatly reduce quality of life.
What Charges is the Driver Likely to Be Facing?
It is believed that the driver’s actions were intentional. Therefore, he may be looking at a first-degree attempted murder charge which carries a minimum sentence of at least 15 years in prison. He may also be facing other charges including assault with a deadly weapon, reckless driving causing bodily injury, and aggravated battery causing serious injury.
What Type of Compensation May the Officers Be Eligible For?
The officers will be eligible for various types of compensation depending on the type of injury they incurred and the severity of the incident. These include:
- Medical expenses including emergency care and hospitalization
- Nursing care to cover long term health needs
- Treatment for mental health issues
- Lost income due to time taken off work to recover
- Loss of earning potential, many officers may no longer be unable to follow their desired career path
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma
- Equipment needed to account for handicaps and lifestyle changes
- Childcare and household expenses if the victim is forced to hire staff to take care of responsibilities they can no longer do themselves
- Punitive damages which may be rewarded if the crime is considered excessively violent. These are put into place to discourage the defendant from engaging in similar actions in the future.
While the incident occurred to the group, each victim will be responsible for bringing their claim and proving their case separately. Their lawyers will need to gather evidence establishing the circumstances of the accident and the injuries sustained.
AttorneyJeff Injury Lawyers Helps Pedestrian Accident Victims
If you or a family member were injured in this police recruit wrong way accident, you have the right to seek compensation. AttorneyJeff Injury Lawyers can assist you in getting the compensation you deserve.
AttorneyJeff Injury Lawyers is an award-winning group of lawyers representing the SoCal area. We will work tirelessly to get you the best possible results. Contact us to schedule a consultation and learn how we can assist you with your case.