Nearly two dozen Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department recruits on a training run were injured Wednesday, five critically, when the group was struck by an SUV being driven on the wrong side of a road in the South Whittier area, just blocks from the training academy.

The motorist, described only as a 22-year-old man, was taken into custody by authorities near the scene of the crash, which was reported about 6:30 a.m. in the 10600 block of Mills Avenue. The SUV wound up crashing into a light pole, which was knocked to the ground by the impact.

There was no immediate word on whether the driver was impaired at the time of the crash.

Paramedics set up a triage area at the scene, and transported the injured for hospital treatment, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Fire officials said five of the sheriff’s recruits were listed in critical condition, four suffered “moderate” injuries, and 13 suffered minor injuries. The driver of the SUV also suffered minor injuries and was taken to a hospital for treatment.

The crash scene is near the sheriff’s STARS Explorer Academy, which is in the 11500 block of Colima Road. Neighbors told reporters at the scene that recruits often run in groups through the neighborhoods near the academy. Sheriff Alex Villanueva told the Los Angeles Times the cadets typically run in group formation on streets with road guards and following a vehicle.

Law enforcement agencies across the Southland quickly began sending words of support to the sheriff’s department in response to the tragedy.

“We are praying for the LASD recruits involved in today’s accident in Whittier,” the Pomona Police Department tweeted.

The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, the union that represents deputies, said it was monitoring the unfolding situation.

“We appreciate your thoughts and prayers for the injured cadets and their families,” the union tweeted.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger issued a statement saying, “I am shocked to hear that a driver plowed into a group of young sheriff’s academy cadets during their morning training run. These individuals represent the future of law enforcement, they have incredible courage and my utmost respect for wanting to serve their communities. I’m tracking this incident closely — it’s senseless and tragic. From the bottom of my heart, I am hoping no one was seriously hurt.”

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