A driver who killed a 16-year-old boy crossing the street in East Long Beach more than two years ago pleaded no contest to vehicular manslaughter Tuesday as part of a deal with prosecutors — something the victim’s parents have vocally opposed, saying it’s too lenient.

As part of the deal, Kevin Chris Dahl will be sentenced to six months in county jail, 30 days of community service and two years of formal probation, after which he’ll have the opportunity to reduce the conviction to a misdemeanor. If he’d gone to trial and been convicted, Dahl could have faced a maximum of six years in prison.

The victim’s parents, surrounded by dozens of loved ones in court, expressed their disappointment with the prosecutor’s decision to offer what they said was an “extremely light” sentence to Dahl, who they said had shown no remorse for crashing into and killing Aiden Gossage on the night of Sept. 4, 2021.

“You have expressed through your lawyer that you have been victimized,” Lily Gossage, Aiden’s mother said toward Dahl in court. “You blamed the streets, you blamed the lights, you blamed Aiden.”

“Did you forget that it was you driving that night?”

Lily Gossage wipes a tear as she gives her statement in court, talking about her son, 16-year-old Aiden Gossage, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

Family and friends speaking in court Tuesday all shared similar sentiments, blaming Dahl for changing their lives for the worse. But they also hoped he’d someday learn from the situation to “try and become a better person.”

Dahl barely looked at the people who spoke until Greg Gossage, Aiden’s father, stepped up to the podium.

“I have been in court over 200 times,” said Greg Gossage, who has worked in the Long Beach Police Department crime lab for 25 years and has testified as an expert witness in many trials. “I’ve never been here in this position, and it hurts.”

Greg Gossage explained in court that on the night of the collision, he had fallen asleep but was awakened around 1 a.m. by police knocking on his door.

The father said he knew his colleagues could only be at his door for two reasons: either Aiden had committed a crime or something bad had happened to him.

As he desperately hoped it was the former, he noticed a man he didn’t recognize with his fellow officers. A tag on the stranger’s white jacket reading “coroner” confirmed Greg Gossage’s worst fears.

For weeks, the elder Gossage visited the crash site, trying to figure out how this could have happened to his son. He’d walk the area for hours, testing different clothes for visibility, measuring the speed of traffic, and studying all the markings left behind by the officers investigating his son’s case.

Although Dahl was initially arrested on suspicion of DUI, the toxicology results didn’t conclusively prove he was under the influence, so Greg Gossage began to wonder why the driver failed to avoid hitting his son.

“I wanted to understand as a father how my son was killed,” Greg Gossage said. “What I learned in those three weeks is that a lot of people don’t take driving seriously.”

But no matter how much he measured and reviewed his calculations, Greg Gossage said, he knew it wasn’t going to bring his son back. He added that he was disappointed with how the case was handled.

“I’m sure Mr. Dahl didn’t intend to kill my son,” Greg Gossage said. “But his negligence did it.”

He said he hoped the court would require Dahl to take driving classes as part of his sentencing.

Greg Gossage speaks during a court hearing in Compton, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

Aiden’s brother, Luke, reminisced about times the two spent with family and friends. He recalled how resilient his older brother was and how adored he was at school.

Now 16, the age Aiden was when he died, Luke said it made him sad to think his older brother would never get to grow older.

“Today will be the first time I talk to you, and if I’m lucky, it will be the last time I see your face,” Luke said, addressing Dahl. “There’s nothing you could ever give to fix what you’ve done.”

The case against Dahl had been winding slowly toward a trial after a judge last year found there was enough evidence against him to bring the case to court.

Police originally alleged Dahl was under the influence during the crash, but after Dahl refused to complete DUI testing at the scene, police drew his blood, which did not prove he was intoxicated, according to a detective’s testimony.

Still, prosecutors argued Dahl was grossly negligent because he had been speeding and not paying attention to the road when his car struck Aiden.

At a 2023 preliminary hearing, prosecutors contended that Dahl was driving anywhere between 10 and 20 miles over the speed limit at the time of the crash.

An LBPD detective testified during the hearing that witnesses said that after the crash Dahl seemed “frozen with fear,” smelled of alcohol, and claimed that Aiden had come out of nowhere.

When police arrived, Dahl allegedly told officers that he had taken a Suboxone pill, which is used to treat narcotic dependency, at about 5 p.m. and had a margarita with dinner around 7 p.m. He also claimed that he wasn’t distracted while driving and that he was looking straight ahead.

Dahl’s attorney, Bryan Schroeder, argued that Dahl should have been charged with a misdemeanor, not a felony, and that the intersection he was driving through had a dangerous bend in the road before the crosswalk, which could obscure a driver’s view.

In addition, Schroeder also placed blame on Aiden, saying that he didn’t press the button for the LED crosswalk lights and was wearing dark clothing, so Dahl was unable to see him. He added that the car’s skid marks also proved that Dahl didn’t see Aiden until it was too late to avoid him.

Dahl’s sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 16.