A judge on Monday ruled there is enough evidence for a Lakewood man to stand trial for vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence in connection to the crash that killed a 16-year-old Millikan High School student in 2021.
Compton Superior Court Judge Teresa P. Magno, after reviewing evidence presented during a nearly two-hour-long preliminary hearing, said Kevin Dahl, 34, would be held to answer for his alleged crime.
Dahl is accused of crashing into Millikan High School student Aiden Gossage as he crossed Los Coyotes Diagonal at Deborah Street on the night of Sept. 4, 2021. Despite life-saving efforts by emergency personnel and bystanders, Gossage died.
Prosecutors contend that Dahl, who pleaded not guilty to vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence in September, was driving under the influence of alcohol and speeding the night of the crash.
LBPD Detective Joseph Johnson testified on Monday that bystanders told officers that following the crash, Dahl seemed “frozen with fear,” smelled of alcohol, and claimed that Gossage had come out of nowhere.
At the scene, Dahl allegedly told officers that he had taken one of his Suboxone pills, which is used to treat narcotic dependency, at about 5 p.m. and then had a margarita with dinner at around 7 p.m. He also claimed that he wasn’t distracted while driving and that he was looking straight ahead.
Dahl, according to police, showed signs of being intoxicated, such as having a flushed face and red eyes, so they conducted a field sobriety test.
After failing part of the test, Dahl refused to continue further testing and instead opted to have his blood drawn, according to police. However, after further testing, police were not able to prove Dahl was driving under the influence.
Investigators, however, said that Dahl was speeding, driving somewhere between 50 to 60 miles per hour, 10 to 20 more miles per hour than the speed limit, when he struck Gossage just after 9 p.m.
Video played in court showed Gossage standing on a crosswalk at the corner of Los Coyotes Diagonal and Deborah Street as several cars drive by.
When the road appears to be clear, Gossage begins to cross Los Coyotes Diagonal through the northbound lanes. When he reaches the southbound lanes, a car suddenly appears on screen and strikes Gossage, pushing them both off-screen.
Dahl’s attorney, Bryan Schroeder, argued for the case to be dismissed or at least reduced to a misdemeanor, saying that it couldn’t be gross negligence, only ordinary negligence, because the intersection is dangerous due to a bend in the road leading up to it that can obscure a driver’s view.
Schroeder further emphasized this by stating that Long Beach also knew the intersection was dangerous, leading to the installation of pedestrian LED lights, which, according to Johnson, are not put up at every intersection around the city.
In addition, Schroeder also placed blame on Gossage, saying that he failed to press the LED lights, which, along with the dark clothing he was wearing that night, led to Dahl not being able to see him. He added that the car’s skid marks also proved that Dahl didn’t see Gossage until it was too late to avoid him.
“This was a terrible accident,” according to Schroeder, who said Dahl may have been speeding, but that it was something a lot of people do at that intersection. “In this situation, the victim didn’t use this device.”
District Attorney Samantha Borghi countered, saying that whether Dahl knew it was a dangerous intersection or he wasn’t familiar with the roadway, he should have been careful, not speeding and been more aware of the signage around him.
Borghi also argued that there isn’t any law saying Gossage had to activate the pedestrian LED lights before crossing the street and that the streetlights, along with Dahl’s car’s headlights, should have been enough for Dahl to have seen Gossage and to avoid him.
Ultimately, Judge Magno denied Schroeder’s motions, saying that the lack of evasive movement by Dahl suggested that he may have not been looking forward while driving and that evidence pointed to speed as a possible factor in the crash.
“The fact that he was speeding … isn’t that gross negligence?” Magno asked Schroeder.
Dahl, who has been free on $100,000 bail since Sept. 5, 2021, after being taken into custody at the scene of the crash, will remain out on bond. He is due back in court on May 1 for arraignment.
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