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Headlines for Friday, January 2, 2014

Topeka Reports Fewest Slayings in Almost 10 Years 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Topeka has recorded the lowest number of homicides in nearly a decade with seven reported in 2014. That's the fewest slayings since 2005, which also had seven. Kansas Bureau of Investigation records show 11 homicides occurred in 2013. Killings in 2014 include the fatal shooting of Topeka police Corporal Jason Harwood, who was shot while making a car stop September 7. Ross Preston Lane was charged with capital murder for the 15-year police veteran's death. 


Topeka Holds Benefit for Slain Corporal's Family

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Topeka police are sponsoring a benefit for a police corporal killed in the line of duty. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports a `Zumbathon' is scheduled for January 17 at Washburn University's Lee Arena for Corporal Jason Harwood's family.  Harwood was making a car stop September 7 when he was shot. Attendees at the fundraiser will participate in a Zumba-style, dance-inspired workout. A $5 minimum donation is suggested. The money will pay for Harwood's family to travel to Washington, D.C. for a workshop to support families who have experienced similar tragedies.


4 Topeka Officers Cleared in December 13 Shooting

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Four Topeka police officers have been cleared of criminal wrongdoing in the deadly shooting of a suspect. Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor said Friday that the officers acted in self-defense on Dec. 13 when they fatally shot 19-year-old Joseph Michael Rodriguez of Topeka. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Rodriguez was armed with a handgun and a knife after an attempted carjacking that left a woman with knife wounds to her face. Witnesses said Rodriguez stood in a street and began pointing the gun at bystanders and police. One witness said Rodriguez began screaming at police, urging them to shoot him. Officers initially fired twice, wounding Rodriguez. Police and witnesses said officers fired the fatal shots when Rodriguez refused orders to drop his weapon and again pointed his pistol.


Fire Reported in Downtown Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Fire crews are fighting a fire in downtown Topeka. Fire Marshal Michael Martin says at least four businesses have been damaged in the fire, which began about 2 a.m. Friday. When firefighters arrived they saw smoke and heavy fire coming from the roof HHB BBQ. Other businesses damaged were Clayton Financial Services, Jersey Mike's Subs and Kansas and Classic Bean. No injuries have been reported. Two blocks of South Kansas Avenue are expected to be closed for several hours.


University of Kansas to Study Prairie Chickens

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ The University of Kansas has a $2.1 million contract to study the lesser prairie chicken. The university will work with the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies to track the federally threatened species in hopes of conserving the birds' habitat. A conservation plan by the association calls for voluntary cooperation from industries in Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Kansas. Kansas has the largest prairie chicken population of those states. The university's Kansas Biological Survey will monitor the location and costs of projects that impact the animal's habitat for five years. The plan is to encourage industries to build in clusters rather than spreading over a lot of territory. Kansas Biological Survey research associate Mike Houts says fewer prairie chickens means changes to shortgrass and shrubland habitats. 


Kansas Plans First Veterans Court Program

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Veterans court programs have sprung up in 40 states since 2008, an alternative to jail for some veterans who get into trouble. Kansas may be next. The Kansas City Star reports that planning has begun for a veterans court in Johnson County, and a committee ordered by the Kansas Supreme Court will propose standards and study costs. About 250 veterans court programs exist nationwide, specifically for those whose drug habits, injuries or stress related to military service may have contributed to civilian trouble with the law. On the Missouri side of the Kansas City area, about 80 veterans are enrolled in treatment instead of being jailed. Kansas is home to three large military posts and about 220,000 veterans.


Ex-CEO of Western KS Utility Pleads in Theft Case

SCOTT CITY, Kan. (AP) - The former CEO of a western Kansas electric utility will be sentenced in February after pleading no contest in a theft case involving the theft of nearly $188,000. Earl Norman Steffens entered the plea last week to charges of felony theft. He is scheduled to be sentenced Febuary 17. Prosecutors said he stole from Lane-Scott Electric by filing false documents to claim company bonuses he was not entitled to. As part of the plea agreement, a second felony theft charge was dropped and prosecutors agreed to recommend probation. Steffens is free on $30,000 bond. Steffens was director of Lane-Scott Electric Cooperative and a wholly owned subsidiary, High Line Services, for more than five years.


Experts Predict Rebound of Wichita Jet Sales 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - An expected rebound in the small- and medium-sized business jet market this year could be good news for Wichita, where the aircraft is built. While it's been predicted a number of times in the past five years, experts say signs like increasing consumer confidence and low oil prices point to probable growth in the small to mid-size business jet industry in 2015. The Wichita Eagle reports one analyst is forecasting sales to grow to nearly 800 in 2015. Another expects orders to increase to around 770 jets. Bombardier Learjet and Textron Aviation, which includes Cessna Aircraft and Beechcraft Corporation, manufacture business aircraft in Wichita.


KCK Police Investigate Man's Death as Homicide 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating the death of a Kansas City, Kansas, man as a homicide. Police said Friday in a news release that the victim has been identified as Michael A. Robinson. The body of the 53-year-old man was found on New Year's Day. The release doesn't say how he was killed or offer any other details. Police are urging anyone with information to come forward.


Cutting of Saline County Jobs Ignites Feud

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A decision to eliminate four Saline County administrative positions is leading to angry words between a county commissioner and other county officials. The Saline County Commission voted last week to eliminate the county administrator job, as well as directors of planning and zoning, road and bridge and the county health department. The current chairman of the county planning and zoning commission alleged Wednesday that Commissioner John Price led the effort to eliminate the jobs because of a personal vendetta. Clayton Short says the department needs professional leadership and can't be run by volunteers. The Salina Journal reports that Price denied the allegations. He says the county can run properly without the four administrators and called the planning and zoning director the least necessary administrator in the county.


Sac and Fox Casino Reduces Hours During Renovation

POWHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The Sac and Fox Casino in northeast Kansas will reduce its late-night hours for the next few weeks while renovation work is underway. The gaming area of the casino will close from 2 am to 8 am on weekdays, starting Monday. General Manager Bruce McClure says late night hours will continue on weekends. The casino near Powhattan is expected to resume normal hours in about five weeks. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the work will include removing wallpaper and painting the walls, replacing some lighting and cleaning the carpets and ceiling. Some slot machines will be relocated and a wall will be built near the player's club area to create a focal point for contests and promotional events.


1 Dead, 1 Injured in Fire in Hays 

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — A fire at a Hays apartment left one person dead and another injured. Hays officials say the fire was reported about 6:30 pm Thursday. KAKE-TV reports that firefighters and police pulled two women from the apartment. A 56-year-old woman later died. The condition of the other victim, a 58-year-old woman, was not released. The fire caused heavy damage to one apartment and three other units suffered smoke damage. Hays fire and police officials and the Kansas State Fire Marshal's Office are investigating to determine a cause.


Report Shows Improved Midwest Economic Outlook

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - A monthly report shows an improved economic outlook over the next three to six months for nine Midwestern and Plains states. A survey report issued Friday says the overall Mid-America Business Conditions Index jumped to 54.4 in December from 51.3 in November. The survey results from supply managers are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests economic growth, while a score below that suggests decline. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey, and he says drops in grain and fuel prices have helped companies with close ties to consumers.


Suspect in Custody Following Fatal Shooting in Winfield

WINFIELD, Kan. (AP) _ Winfield police say a suspect is in custody after a fatal shooting at a bar early New Year's Day. Police Chief Danny Parker says a man in his 30s was shot after arguing with the suspect at the Hot Shotz bar in Winfield. Parker says witnesses told investigators the two  men were arguing when one of them took out a gun and fired three to four shots. The suspect was later arrested at a home in Winfield. No names have been released. A witness told KWCH-TV that about 150 people were in the bar when the shooting happened and it was ``chaos'' after shots rang out. The last murder in Winfield was six years ago.


Kansas State Prepares to Battle UCLA in Alamo Bowl

SAN ANTONIO, Tex. (AP) — Two nationally-ranked teams will face off in the Alamo Bowl today, as the 11th-ranked Kansas State Wildcats battle the 14th-ranked UCLA Bruins. K-State's Curry Sexton needs 45 more yards to join Tyler Lockett with more than 1,000 yards receiving. The Bruins have shut down receivers from USC and Colorado this year. The teams have split their two previous encounters, the most recent coming in 2010 when Kansas State came away with a 31-22 home victory over the Bruins.


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