After a wrong-way driver plowed head-on into a group of law enforcement recruits in Whittier, one recruit remains critically injured on Friday.
29-year-old Jose Arias is one of two law enforcement recruits among the 25 injured cadets who remain in critical condition.
Arias is struggling to overcome his devastating injuries. A husband and father of two young children, Arias is a former Marine who dreamed of having a career in law enforcement, but now his future remains uncertain.
“He has bleeding on the brain,” said Carol Lynch, a family friend of Arias’. “He does have a pulmonary embolism. They think he was thrown at least 20 feet in the air.”
The suspect has been identified as 22-year-old Nicholas Gutierrez of Diamond Bar. He was arrested on Wednesday but returned home Thursday night after being released.
“The only reason he has been released is because investigators and the DA’s office are deciding how many felony charges will be filed against him,” explains Alison Triessl, KTLA’s legal analyst.
Triessl says authorities need more time to prove there is enough evidence to charge Gutierrez with attempted murder.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva says California Highway Patrol investigators have developed probable cause that Gutierrez intentionally ran over the cadets.
“[Investigators] went through an exhaustive interview process with everyone involved, with the video surveillance statements from the recruits, the physical evidence they had, and what they got from the suspect himself. And they were able to form the opinion that this was a deliberate act,” said Villanueva.
Gutierrez’s attorney, Alexandra Kazarian, released a statement saying in part:
“Nicholas comes from a proud law enforcement family and the injuries to these recruits is beyond heartbreaking… As many have asked, we want to emphasize that Nicholas was on his way to work, and had no drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of this tragic accident.”
“You can bet defense attorneys are going to argue that he had a medical or mental health condition and was incapable of forming specific intent to kill somebody,” said Triessl.
“He is just an amazing dad and is so worried about his wife and the family right now,” said Lynch.
She says Arias also suffered several cracked ribs, a broken leg, internal bleeding and a badly injured foot.
“He had a long surgery last night for his foot and he will be having another surgery tomorrow morning,” said Lynch. “And during that surgery, they’ll determine whether they need to amputate his foot or not.”
“They’re just such a close-knit family and the love they have for each other is immense,” said Lynch.
The investigation remains ongoing and authorities are still trying to determine why Gutierrez swerved into the recruits.
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help the Arias Family.