The president of Omaha's fire union said Thursday that firefighters and paramedics should be included in a state law that makes it a felony to assault a police officer.
“The law needs to be changed,” Steve LeClair said, “to ensure that firefighters have the same level of protection under the law that police officers do.”
Under Nebraska law, it's a felony to assault a police officer, corrections officer or health and human services worker. Firefighters are not included.
LeClair made his case in response to a plea agreement this week by an Omaha woman accused of pulling a gun on a paramedic.
Justine Dubois, 24, pleaded no contest Wednesday to making terroristic threats, use of a weapon to commit a felony, possession of a gun by a prohibited person and theft by receiving.
In return for her plea, prosecutors dropped four charges, including a second-degree assault count.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine and prosecutor Jim Masteller said they ran the potential plea bargain past the two firefighters who were involved and the Omaha fire chief.
All were fine with the plea agreement, which has Dubois facing a minimum of eight years in prison to a maximum of 125 years in prison.
An assault conviction would have had Dubois facing another possible 20 years in prison.
One of the sticking points on the assault charge: proving that Dubois intended to injure the firefighter, a requirement under the law.
Masteller noted that after Dubois pulled out the gun and said she wasn't going to jail, a struggle ensued.
When the firefighter wrestled for the gun, Dubois shot herself in the thigh and a bullet brushed past the firefighter. The firefighter suffered gunpowder burns to his abdomen and was not hit by the bullet.
Masteller said it would have been difficult to counter any defense argument that the gun went off accidentally during the struggle. And he said it would have been even more difficult to argue that Dubois intentionally shot herself in the thigh.