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Friday, January 21, 2022

UNF student pleads guilty in Dahlem's death, awaits sentence

A University of North Florida student pleaded guilty Thursday to the killing of a Gainesville Police officer.

Austin J. Wright's guilty plea was in regard to a charge of aggravated manslaughter of a law enforcement officer.

Lt. Corey Dahlem was hit by a fast-moving pickup truck April 3. It happened on West University Avenue after the celebration for the Gators basketball team's win of the NCAA National Championship.

Larry Turner, one of Wright's lawyers, said the judges' sentencing guidelines for the charge are between about 9 years and 30 years.

"From the very beginning, Austin has accepted full responsibility," Turner said.

Turner said they will ask the judge, Peter K. Sieg, to go below the minimum guidelines at the sentencing Dec. 12.

Spencer Mann, spokesman for the State Attorney's Office that covers Alachua County, said the office and Wright's defense counsel will present what each side thinks is a fair sentence.

Mann said the judge would probably make his decision after the presentations.

According to a Florida Highway Patrol report released earlier in the year, Wright was driving a Toyota Tacoma with three other passengers.

He had a blood alcohol level of .270, according to the report. The legal limit is .08.

While witnesses in the report said the truck's lights were on and the area was lit, the truck's speed has been debated.

One witness said the truck was moving at 70 mph, while another estimated the speed at 40 mph.

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"Austin feels terrible," Turner said. "He knows he caused great harm to a fine family."

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