Omaha fire and police union leaders say they're satisfied — for the most part — that a woman who pulled a gun in an ambulance was sentenced Friday to 11 years in prison.
Justine Dubois, 24, must serve 9½ years before she is eligible for release, under the term handed down by Douglas County District Judge Marlon Polk. She had faced up to 125 years in prison.
Steve LeClair, president of the Omaha firefighters union, called the sentence “not insignificant” and said he was glad Dubois will do time for her crimes.
Dubois, arrested July 1 after stealing a car, pulled out a Smith & Wesson .357 revolver in the back of an ambulance. The gun went off during a struggle with the firefighter-paramedic who was treating her.
In a plea bargain, Dubois pleaded no contest to making terroristic threats, use of a weapon to commit a felony, possession of a gun by a prohibited person and theft.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine noted the mandatory minimum sentences — five years for gun use and three years for being a felon in possession of a gun.
Unlike other prison terms, those sentences are not cut in half. That means Dubois must serve the full eight years, plus half of the three years she was given for terroristic threats and theft.
“For the risk she put on those EMTs, we had hoped for a stronger sentence,” Kleine said. “We're glad we were able to get convictions that resulted in the mandatory minimums.”
Sgt. John Wells, president of the Omaha police union, said without the mandatory minimums the sentence “would be a slap on the wrist.”
A paramedic in the ambulance, Brock Borhart, suffered superficial wounds when Dubois' gun went off.
As part of the plea deal, prosecutors required Dubois to give an account of how the gun ended up in the back of the ambulance.
The rescue squad was called after Dubois faked a seizure while being arrested for stealing a car.
She told prosecutors that a female officer began to pat her down. As the officer got near her waistband, she shifted and complained that her bra was itching and sticking into her skin.
The officer began to pat down Dubois in her chest area — and discovered marijuana in her bra.
Dubois said the officer did not return to her waistband.
Dubois pulled out the gun while riding to a hospital. Borhart grabbed for it and it fired, causing wounds to his abdomen and striking Dubois in the leg.
Prosecutors dropped the assault charge against Dubois after consulting with the two firefighters in the ambulance and interim Fire Chief Bernie Kanger.
To prove assault, prosecutors would have had to show that Dubois intended to shoot Borhart. However, the gun went off during a struggle, and Dubois shot herself in the leg.
In essence, prosecutors would have had to argue that Dubois intended to shoot herself in the leg.
LeClair was disappointed that the assault charge was dropped.
“From my perspective,” he said, “she's not doing a single day for shooting my guy in the gut and endangering the lives of that entire medic crew.”