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A homeless man accused of theft, burglary and a string of other offenses who authorities say is originally from Columbus pleaded not guilty to the allegations before Judge Robert Steinke Friday morning in Platte County District Court.

Justin R. Dittmer, 35, pleaded not guilty alongside Platte County Public Defender Tim Matas to theft by receiving property in the amount of $5,000-plus, a Class IIA felony; operating a motor vehicle to avoid arrest, a Class IV felony; driving while revoked stemming from a DUI/refusal to submit to testing, a Class IIA felony; burglary, a Class IIA felony; obstructing government operations and first-degree criminal trespassing, both Class I misdemeanors.

The IIA felonies carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, the Class IV felony 2 years in prison and Class I misdemeanors not more than a year in prison. The charges stem from the defendant allegedly leading law enforcement on a chase in a stolen vehicle before barricading himself for hours in a local home.

Officers at approximately 12:42 p.m. on Dec. 3, 2018, attempted to stop a white 2009 Chevrolet Impala believed to be stolen from Fremont, as previously reported by The Telegram. Court record show the situation developed into a pursuit, causing the vehicle to skid off the road and crash in the area of Third Avenue and Air Vista Drive. Dittmer allegedly fled the scene on foot and broke into a home located in the 2800 block of Third Avenue.

Columbus police reported that the property was soon surrounded and that officers held their position with the assumption that the suspect was armed and dangerous.

Because of that assumption, released information from the department says that CPD requested the assistance of the Nebraska State Patrol (NSP) SWAT team. A search warrant was obtained to enter the home and with the assistance of the NSP SWAT team, Dittmer was subsequently arrested, charged and taken to jail.

Dittmer is scheduled for a jury trial at 9 a.m. on April 1.

In other district court news:

*Eric M. Behrens, 37, of Monroe, pleaded not guilty to possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person, a Class III felony; operating a motor vehicle to avoid arrest, a Class IV felony; possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony, a Class III felony; and child abuse, a Class IIIA felony.

Behrens was arrested in December 2018 after allegedly fleeing from police in his vehicle and then drawing a knife when confronted by law enforcement prior to being shot with a Taser. While evading police, Behrens reportedly had a minor passenger in the vehicle, court records show. Behrens is scheduled for a jury trial at 9 a.m. on April 1.

*Jose M. Ramon, 38, of Columbus, pleaded not guilty to charges of stalking and violating a protection order, second offense. He is scheduled for a jury trial at 9 a.m. on April 1.

*Carmen R. Gil-Lopez, 49, of Hastings, pleaded not guilty to charges of theft by shoplifting, third offense; and being in possession of a controlled substance. She is scheduled for a jury trial at 9 a.m. April 1.

*Vicente Castro-Rosas, 37, of Omaha, pleaded not guilty to the lone charge of being in possession of a controlled substance. He is scheduled for a jury trial at 9 a.m. on April 1.

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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