() — Three of the law enforcement recruits injured in a horrific car crash last Wednesday remain in critical condition and at least one recruit is in a fight for his life.
Alejandro Martinez has suffered setbacks and is now in “grave condition,” the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said in a news release Sunday afternoon.
Martinez was one of 75 recruits jogging in South Whittier, California when a wrong-way driver accelerated to about 40 mph and plowed into the group. The crash injured 25 recruits, five of them critically.
The driver, identified as 22-year-old Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez, was released from custody Thursday after authorities determined they didn’t have enough evidence to charge him at the time.
Gutierrez suffered minor injuries and says the collision was an accident after he fell asleep at the wheel. He has been cooperating with the investigation.
“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,” Gutierrez’s defense attorney, Alexandra Kazarian, said in a statement.
Kazarian did not elaborate but reiterated claims made by Gutierrez that facial injuries he suffered came at the hands of recruits pummeling him after the incident.
Officials found marijuana in the SUV at the time of the crash but Gutierrez passed a field sobriety test, sources told the Los Angeles Times.
Gutierrez could still face charges as the investigation remains ongoing. The Los Angeles County Sheriff previously told that the evidence suggested this was not an accident.
“With the video surveillance, statements from the recruits, the physical evidence they had and what they got from the suspect himself, they were able to form the opinion that this was a deliberate act,” LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Thursday.
Despite that, authorities say more evidence is needed before they can file charges.
In the meantime, the tragedy continues to weigh heavily on those at the training academy.
“It’s just a terrible situation,” said Larry Blackwell, a retired LA County sheriff. “You put your life on the line when you’re in that career and here you are at the very beginning and now there’s a possibility we may have people lose their lives.”
The California Highway Patrol is leading the crash investigation. Neither CHP nor the LA County Sheriff’s department provided an update on the investigation Monday.