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Lincoln man sentenced to prison for attacking stranger downtown

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A five-time convicted felon who randomly attacked a 62-year-old man in downtown Lincoln last year has been sentenced to three to five years in prison. 

Gabriel A. Sterling, 36, told Lancaster County District Judge Kevin McManaman at his sentencing Thursday that he didn't remember the incident.


Gabriel A. Sterling

"But that still doesn't excuse anything. There's a reason I didn't remember and that's because I chose to use drugs," he said.

Sterling said he was sorry about his actions.

"He was out enjoying himself on a walk, minding his own business, and I had absolutely no reason to approach him," he said.

Deputy Lancaster County Attorney Jessica Murphy said Sterling, a five-time convicted felon, shows the dangers of drug use and how it can alter a person's state of mind "to the detriment of a stranger walking down the street who ends up assaulted."

At about 7:45 a.m. Feb. 5, 2021, police were called to 11th and N streets on an assault. A 62-year-old man told them a stranger had charged him and punched him repeatedly in the head and body.

He had been knocked unconscious and suffered significant injuries to his face from the beating and a gash on his elbow from falling to the ground that required a half dozen stitches.

Security video from a nearby apartment building caught the incident, and officers ultimately identified Sterling as the attacker.

McManaman said when he reviewed the video he was able to see the nature of the crime and the presence of significant violence. When Sterling hit the victim, the victim fell limp to the ground, he said.

"(He was) just a fellow out walking on the city streets of Lincoln, as far as I can tell. Which should be safe," the judge said. "People should be free from assault."

He said the safety of the community was important here, then gave his sentence, rejecting defense attorney Bill Chapin's argument for probation.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7237 or

On Twitter @LJSpilger



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