Justine Kussman (Hermsmeier), 39, of rural Jansen, is facing felony charges after leading an officer with the Fairbury Police Department on a high-speed chase through the City of Fairbury in a stolen vehicle.
Chief of Police Chad Sprunk explained that the speeds involved in this case were life-threatening, reaching upwards of 60 miles per hour through the city’s streets. The chase began around 7 a.m. on Thursday.
“An officer with the Fairbury Police Department was northbound on H Street approaching 6th and H,” said Sprunk. “The officer observed a white Monte Carlo eastbound on Sixth Street at a high rate of speed go through the stop sign without even slowing down. The officer estimated the speed at approximately 60 miles per hour.”
Sprunk reiterated the danger posed by the speeds in this case.
“If she would have even hit the officer at the intersection, it would have killed him,” said Sprunk. “It was just a very, very high rate of speed.”
The officer observed three small children walking at the intersection, believed to be going to school. After observing the vehicle, the officer activated his lights and sirens in an attempt to get the vehicle to stop.
“The vehicle was gone,” Sprunk said. “The Monte Carlo went to the intersection of Sixth and K Street and took a right-hand turn without stopping at the stop sign. When the officer got to the intersection, he observed the vehicle stopped partially in both lanes of traffic. The officer and the vehicle both were southbound with speeds roughly between 60 and 70 miles per hour. The vehicle stopped on the south viaduct, partially on the roadway, partially on the shoulder.”
Sprunk explained that the officer contacted dispatch when he was informed that there was a shoplifting incident reported at Maatsch Food Shop on 14th Street. The perpetrator was reported as a female by the name of Justine. She was observed leaving Maatsch Food Shop in a white Monte Carlo, which was later discovered to be a stolen vehicle.
“We assumed it was the same person,” said Sprunk. “The officer ordered the female out of the car and placed her in handcuffs—she was transported to the Jefferson County Jail. The vehicle that she was driving came back to somebody other than Kussman. We contacted the owner to see if he knew where his vehicle was. After a short time he stated it was gone. Nobody else was supposed to have that vehicle, so the vehicle was stolen from Jansen.”
Kussman was booked on charges of felony willful reckless driving, a class 4 felony, felony flight to avoid arrest, a class 4 felony, felony possession of stolen property, a class 3 felony, shoplifting and other traffic infractions, Sprunk explained. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office is conducting an investigation into the stolen vehicle.
Kussman was transported from the Jefferson County Jail to the Nebraska Correctional Center in York, where she awaits a bond to be set in this case.