A high-speed chase that started near Gothenburg on Monday morning, June 4, ended about 90 minutes later near Hershey, when the suspect, Luke Lefever, 30, was shot and wounded.
The chase began around 8:30 a.m. and ended shortly before 10 a.m. about two miles northeast of Hershey near a farmhouse.
Lefever’s medical condition was not officially categorized, but he was taken by ambulance to Great Plains Health and then flown to an unnamed Omaha hospital. Court and prison records show he has a long criminal history in Custer County. He was a suspected dealer who was bringing drugs rrom the Front Range area into the west central Nebraska area — Kearney to North Platte and Broken Bow — according to sources who asked to remain anonymous.
State troopers, police and sheriff’s deputies from both Dawson and Lincoln counties were involved in the chase, which started when Lefever’s vehicle was seen northwest of Gothenburg, Reeves said.
A Dawson County deputy sheriff found the suspicious vehicle and called for help at 8:27 a.m., according to the police report.
A Gothenburg police officer arrived and he and the deputy allegedly struggled with Lefever in an effort to apprehend him, but he got away and ran, Reeves said.
Lefever confronted another rural resident not far away, stole a UTV and took off across rural property, with officers in pursuit, according to the report.
Lefever allegedly drove the UTV to another rural home, where he upgraded vehicles. He stole a 2003 Chevrolet pickup with a utility trailer attached, Reeves said.
Near the initial stages of the pursuit by Dawson County Sheriff’s deputies, shots were fired, Nebraska State Patrol spokesman Cody Thomas said.
Lefever continued to flee and soon headed west on I-80. As he entered Lincoln County, the Nebraska State Patrol and the Lincoln County Sheriff’s office picked up the pursuit.
Reeves said Lefever eventually left I-80 and continued his flight on rural roads, making his way into North Platte on State Farm Road. He turned north on U.S. Highway 83.
At the intersection, a Nebraska State Trooper who was reportedly on the tail end of the chase drove into a the side of a northbound car.
The suspect sped on through North Platte around 9:15 a.m., witnesses said.
Reeves said officers lost sight of the pickup for a short time, but found it again heading west of North Platte on U.S. Highway 30.
When Lefever was about a mile east of Hershey, he allegedly left U.S. 30 on Parkway Rd., then drove north two miles to Suburban Rd.
Reeves said the pickup drove across private property for a short time and then tried to get back up on the road, but as he did so, he tried to ram a law enforcement vehicle.
Then, he backed in the direction of other officers.
That was apparently enough for the authorities.
Officers fired shots at the pickup as it drove off across a field. Reeves said the pickup slowly came to a stop.
Shots were fired by multiple law enforcement officers, including a Nebraska State Trooper, Thomas said.
Officers approached with caution, and when they got close enough, they saw that the suspect was wounded multiple times. He was said to be bleeding badly, with gunshot wounds to his legs and shoulder.
An ambulance was summoned. He was taken by ambulance to Great Plains Health and then flown to an unnamed Omaha hospital, Reeves said.
Reeves said fire departments from Hershey, Sutherland and North Platte also responded to the scene of the shooting, as is the custom when police summon an ambulance.
Thomas said a state trooper who fired shots has been placed on administrative leave, in accordance with policy, while the incident is investigated.
Reeves said a thorough investigation is being conducted by the State Patrol, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and the North Platte Police Department, at the direction of the Lincoln County Attorney. The Lincoln County Attorney’s office declined to answer any questions Thursday about the chase and subsequent investigation.
A North Platte police spokesman has said that the trailer was empty and not badly damaged in the chase, but has not responded to other questions.
By state law, a grand jury investigation would be required only if the county coroner determines that Lefever died while being apprehended.
Lincoln County Attorney Rebecca Harling is the Lincoln County coroner.
A 2009 Ford Fusion driven by Amanda Hoven, 34, of North Platte drove into the intersection of State Farm and U.S. 83 when the light turned green.
State Trooper Robert Golden of Overton, coming from the east, t-boned Hoven’s car.
Hoven had been waiting at the light, headed north. When the light turned green, she drove into the intersection, according the accident report from the North Platte police.
Golden was westbound on State Farm Road, traveling with lights and sirens activated, according to the report.
When the light for north and south traffic turned green, Golden slowed but did not stop. He could not avoid crashing into Hoven’s passenger side doors, the report said.
Hoven told police that several other patrol vehicles had just passed through the intersection, and she heard sirens, which she thought were from the previous patrol vehicles. She said she did not see Golden coming.
According to the report, witnesses nearby told police they heard lights and sirens from Golden’s patrol vehicle well before Hoven entered the intersection.
Three children were riding with Hoven, ages 8-16, and were possibly injured, the accident report said. One of them had a visible injury, but none of them were transported to the hospital.
One of Hoven’s family members told the Bulletin that the pursuit cars turned the wrong way at the intersection, and officers lost track of Lefever for awhile.
Lefever: Lengthy criminal record
This was not the first time Luke E. Lefever tried to run from the law.
In 2010, Lefever tried to outrun the authorities in Custer County.
In August that year, he was charged with willful reckless driving and flight to avoid arrest, as well as possession of a stolen firearm and possession of methamphetamine in Custer County, according to the Custer County Chief newspaper.
The Custer County charges, although they were reduced, led to a three-year prison sentence that began in 2011.
Custer County district court records show more than 30 cases against Lefever over a span of 16 years. His criminal record includes three stints in the Nebraska Penitentiary during the years 2007-14.
This report is continually updated as more information is available. It was last updated on Saturday. -Editor.