An L.A. County sheriff’s deputy recruit struck by a wrong-way driver while out on a training run died Friday night after spending the last eight months in the hospital.
Alejandro Martinez, 27, died shortly before 7 p.m. at UCLA Ronald Reagan hospital surrounded by his family, friends, Sheriff Robert Luna, and other department members, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
He had been out during an academy training run last year on the morning of Nov. 16 when an SUV veered into the wrong lane and crashed into the formation.
“Our condolences go out to Alejandro’s family, friends, and academy classmates. He will forever live in our hearts & never be forgotten,” the sheriff’s statement said.
Martinez grew up in South Central L.A. and later graduated from Cal State Northridge. He had dedicated his life to public service, joining the Army National Guard and later applying to become a deputy sheriff.
He was one of 76 recruits who started the training program at the Sheriff’s Training Academy and Regional Services Center last year, on Sept. 22. They would spend 22 weeks there, before graduating and launching their careers in law enforcement.
They made up Class 464.
In the academy, Martinez was part of the flag detail, a position of honor, according to the young man’s drill instructor, Victor Rodriguez. The recruits would march into the staff office each morning, recover the flags and would then raise them up for the day.
When the class did their peer evaluations, Martinez didn’t get any bad ones. They were all positive, Rodriguez said.
“He was a great recruit,” Rodriguez said. “He wasn’t one to draw attention to himself, which spoke volumes. He had this maturity, this life experience. He was an example of a recruit for other ones that are new to this type of career, new to this structure.”
On the morning of Nov. 16 — eights weeks into the academy — the recruits were on a four-mile training run. They were running in formation around 6:30 a.m., accompanied by six instructors and two black-and-white radio cars. They were a mile into their run when those at the front of the group spotted a Honda CR-V approaching.
The SUV veered to the wrong side of the road and into the group. The runners at the front were able to get out of the way before the SUV struck others and crashed into a lamppost.
The driver, Nicholas Gutierrez, was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder of peace officers but was released the day after the crash. Gutierrez’s lawyer said he fell asleep at the wheel on his way to work.
Twenty-five recruits were injured, five of them critically, with head trauma and broken bones. Martinez suffered brain swelling, compound femur fractures, a collapsed lung and damage to multiple organs and was placed on a ventilator following the crash.
The weekend after, former Sheriff Alex Villanueva swore Martinez in as a full deputy.
“All [Martinez] ever wanted to do was be a deputy sheriff,” said Capt. Pat Macdonald, who leads the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s training bureau. “He dedicated his life to serving the country and more specifically his community.”
After Martinez’s death, around 1 a.m., a procession escorted his body to the coroner’s office. Along with the Sheriff’s Department there were other law enforcement agencies, including the California Highway Patrol and the UCLA Police Department.
“We’ve had many close calls in the last eight months and we’ve had a lot of weekends where we’ve kind of been ready in the event that his health takes a turn for the worse,” Macdonald said. “When this actually happened, I think that’s when it all kind of set in, of how horrific this incident was.”