L.A. police show shooting skill. Photo by George Brich.

The Weekly Rant: LAPD Launches Witch Hunt in Accident

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When I first saw the story about an accident involving 75 police cadets and a driver, I was shocked and wished everyone involved a speedy recovery. But the way the story has been presented — and the developments since it first broke — have me a little more than disturbed.

This week, a young man on his way to work swerved into a group of police cadets jogging along Telegraph Rd. Twenty-five of those cadets ended up in the hospital with injuries ranging from an amputated limb to minor abrasions. But what started out as a seemingly innocent, albeit, tragic accident, the headlines and police officials seem to have already declared the driver a mass murderer. 

Headlines from KTLA 5 and the OC Register assert he “plowed” into the group. “Plowed” is a pretty strong word and one I wouldn’t use in the case of an accident. It’s intentional. You plow into someone on the bumper cars. The police plow into crazy drivers as a pit maneuver to end police chases. Plowed is active. Plowed is guilty. 

Even the L.A. Times buried information from a resident named Antwan Ramirez at the bottom of their story on the accident. Ramirez claims that traffic danger at the intersection of the crash increases in the early hours with people rushing to work. They also waited until the very end of their piece to bring up another key point. 

“Imagine that you have a group of 15 or 30 people all running and they can’t all fit on the sidewalk, they’re going to spill over into the middle of the street and that makes them a target … It’s tragic stuff.” — Antwan Ramirez

“Ramirez said he’s been a resident for 23 years,’ the Times article reads. “And [he] said the area where the cadets were running is dangerous because they were “filled with parked cars.”

The piece ends with a quote from Ramirez: “‘Imagine that you have a group of 15 or 30 people all running and they can’t all fit on the sidewalk, they’re going to spill over into the middle of the street and that makes them a target … It’s tragic stuff.’”

As if overzealous headlines weren’t enough, the police have already put their martyr robes on. 

In his usual “yippee ki-yay” way of handling things, Sheriff Alex Villanueva has already rounded up a posse to bring the dubious outlaw in on 75 counts of attempted murder. The most ridiculous thing I’ve heard since Donald Trump was in office — I more or less tuned him out after he was voted out. 

They went and arrested the 22-year-old suspect, Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez, with multiple officers in tow, dressed all in tactical gear and hoisting a battering ram — you know, just in case the kid who was already cooperating with them decided to get frisky. 

“They went and arrested the 22-year-old suspect, Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez, with multiple officers in tow, dressed all in tactical gear and hoisting a battering ram — you know, just in case the kid who was already cooperating with them decided to get frisky. “

Villanueva’s henchmen then hauled Gutierrez off to the pokey while they scrambled to gather more “evidence” against him. You see, in California, the police are required to provide the D.A.’s office with sufficient evidence to warrant an arrest — and they need to do this within 48 hours of arresting him. 

Gutierrez was arrested on Wednesday and released on Friday due to lack of evidence against him. 

You’d think the police would know what counts as sufficient evidence and what doesn’t. Which makes me think that they’re just using their power to harass this kid. If they didn’t know they lacked the evidence to arrest him, then I have to wonder how good of a job they’re going to do on this investigation. Clearly they’re not competent. 

Reports also claimed that there were two black-and-white vehicles escorting the joggers. The two black-and-whites can be seen clearly in the video. But the same footage shows the two vehicles coming up from behind the group of runners. One would think that two police vehicles should lead the group instead of lag behind it. 

To the victims in this horrible incident, I wish you a speedy and easy recovery. To the suspect, I wish you a fair and just investigation. To Villanueva, I wish you were gone already.

I’ve already found too many issues with what little evidence we know of thus far. The suspect has cooperated and, according to reports, has law enforcement in his own family. Seeking charges of attempted murder seems pretty lofty, even for Villanueva. Maybe he just wanted to end his less-than-stellar career with an equally contemptuous bang. 

To the victims in this horrible incident, I wish you a speedy and easy recovery. To the suspect, I wish you a fair and just investigation. To Villanueva, I wish you were gone already.

Los Angeleno