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Headlines for Monday, February 29, 2016

Kansas News Headlines From the Associated Press

Hesston Grieves for Workplace Shooting Victims

HESSTON, Kan. (AP) — Grieving residents of a south-central Kansas town parked riding lawnmowers decorated with American flags along the town's streets after a gunman killed three people and injured 14 in a workplace shooting incident Thursday. The Excel Industries factory has long been an economic hub for the community of 3,700. It draws nearly 1,000 workers from small towns around the region. The usually peaceful village was stunned on Thursday when, police say, 38-year-old Cedric L. Ford barged into the plant while about 300 people were working and opened fire. Investigators say Ford became enraged after he was served with a restraining order intended to keep him away from his ex-girlfriend. 


Woman Who Bought Guns Used in Hesston Shooting Released on Bond
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal magistrate judge set a $10,000 bond for the woman accused of buying the guns used in last week's mass shooting at the Excel Industries factory in Hesston. More than a dozen family members and friends of Sarah Hopkins came to her hearing Monday in U.S. District Court in Wichita, but refused to talk to the media. Hopkins was then released from custody on an unsecured bond. Her attorney, Douglas Adams, declined comment. Prosecutors did not seek her detention. The 28-year-old Newton woman is charged with knowingly transferring a firearm to a convicted felon. Prosecutors say she gave shooter Cedric Ford an AK-47 type semi-automatic rifle and a 40-caliber handgun. Four people, including Ford, were killed and 14 others were injured. Adams told the court he expected Hopkins would be indicted Tuesday. Her next hearing is March 9.


Kobach Endorses Trump in Kansas GOP Presidential Caucuses 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is endorsing Donald Trump for president. Kobach cited Trump's "aggressive" stance against illegal immigration in announcing his endorsement of the billionaire New York businessman's bid for the Republican nomination Monday. Kobach is a former law professor who gained a national reputation for helping states and cities draft laws cracking down on illegal immigration before being elected secretary of state in 2010. He is the first major Kansas elected official to endorse Trump ahead of the state's GOP presidential caucuses Saturday. Republican Governor Sam Brownback said last week that he'd vote for Trump if Trump were the GOP nominee, but the governor has endorsed Florida Senator Marco Rubio. State Treasurer Ron Estes also endorsed Rubio on Monday.


Democrats See Close Race in Kansas Between Clinton, Sanders 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic elected officials and party establishment figures like former Governor Kathleen Sebelius are working to see that Hillary Clinton wins Kansas's presidential caucuses. But they acknowledge that Clinton is in a tough race against Bernie Sanders. Party activists who gathered in Topeka for a recent two-day state convention described the support for Sanders as "organic." The Vermont senator's supporters say the nation needs a progressive political overhaul. Clinton's allies argue that the former U.S. secretary of state's experience and pragmatism are more likely to advance progressive goals on issues such as wages and health care. Both Democrats and Republicans in Kansas have presidential caucuses Saturday. In the GOP race, supporters of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz don't know whether they can prevent a Donald Trump victory.


Kansas Coalition Pushes for Criminal Justice Reform 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Lawyers, a prison rehabilitation organization and faith communities are creating a coalition to push for changes to the Kansas criminal justice system. Kansans for Smart Justice announced a series of measures that include reducing sentences for nonviolent drug offenders at a Statehouse news conference Monday. The American Civil Liberties Union is among 13 organizations seeking to educate the community about the prison system. Micah Kubic from the ACLU says the coalition will highlight trends including a rise in the state's prison population despite the falling crime rate. Benet Magnuson, a representative from the civil rights organization Kansas Appleseed, championed the full Senate's recent vote to overhaul the juvenile justice system. He says the adult system also would benefit from placing low-risk offenders in community-based programs instead of jails.


Legal Costs Soar for State and Districts in School Funding Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A long-running school finance case is proving costly for the state of Kansas and for the four school districts involved in the dispute. State Republican leaders argue money spent on the case could be used instead in classrooms. But an attorney for the Wichita school district argues the legal fees are small compared with the money on the line for the districts, which contend the state is not adequately funding schools. The Wichita Eagle reports the state has spent $1.4 million on outside legal counsel, and that doesn't include pay for eight attorneys in the attorney general's office who have worked on the case since 2010. The Wichita district has spent more than $1.6 million since 2010. The Kansas City, Kansas, Dodge City and Hutchinson districts also have spent thousands of dollars.


Companies Continue to Drill Despite Low Oil and Gas Prices

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Contracts with landowners are forcing a small number of companies to drill for oil and natural gas regardless of unfavorable market conditions. The Wichita Eagle reports that producers are required by contract to drill in a newly acquired lease within a few years in order to maintain the land lease. Kansas Independent Oil & Gas Association President Ed Cross says forcing producers to be picky about their leases keeps them thinking about the long-term success of their companies. But other producers are taking advantage of lows costs in hopes for future profit. Some, like Rod Andersen of Kansas Petroleum Resources of Wichita, are testing wells at discounted prices and leaving the good ones uncompleted until oil and gas prices turn up.


County Treasurers Complain About Toll Collection Measure

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — County treasurers are complaining about a bill that would help the Kansas Turnpike Authority collect fines. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the KTA would like the authority to place holds on vehicle registrations as a way to ensure revenue. Shawnee County Treasurer Larry Mah is among the treasurers who have said the plan would bog down local motor vehicle offices. Turnpike spokeswoman Rachel Bell says the bill is part of a larger turnpike modernization plan. At some stations, the state is transitioning to an open-tolling system, where cameras scan license plates as cars pass. Bills are sent to drivers who don't have an electronic toll collection device known as a K-TAG. Mah says he likes the open-toll plan, but revoking vehicle registration shifts the responsibility to motor vehicle offices.


Deaths of 2 People in Topeka Apartment Deemed 'Suspicious' 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating two deaths in a central Topeka apartment as "suspicious" in nature. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that police were notified Monday morning. Topeka police Lieutenant Colleen Stuart says foul play hasn't been ruled out as a cause of the deaths. The name of the victims weren't immediately released. It wasn't known how long the individuals had been dead. An animal control officer was seen carrying a small pet crate out of the building shortly after detectives and officers had arrived at the scene. A representative of the Shawnee County District Attorney's Office also came to the apartment complex.


Lawrence Considers Accepting Canned Food for Parking Fines

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence is considering allowing people to pay parking tickets with canned goods or monetary donations to food pantries. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that city commissioners are considering the issue Tuesday. Currently, the fines cost $3. The city had projected bringing in $545,202 to the parking fund from overtime parking violations in 2016. Staff projects that the city would receive $30,000 less annually in parking fines, assuming about 6 percent of parking violators participated in the alternative payment option. The money pays for three police officers and several other staff members. Options the council will consider include a pilot program. Alternatively, the program could be offered year-round with fines staying the same or increasing to $5 to offset the revenue loss.


Wichita Police Seek Tougher Regulations on Massage Parlors

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police have asked Wichita city officials to consider regulating massage businesses in hopes of reducing human trafficking. It is unclear how many massage businesses actually operate in Wichita or the state, because they are unregulated and don't require licensing. But Wichita police say they've had complaints since 2013 of some massage businesses that sell sexual acts and that some of these businesses are engaged in human trafficking. The Wichita Eagle reports that police say the move is aimed at keeping the community safe. But Charles O'Hara, a lawyer who has represented clients charged with human trafficking, said police are using the regulation as an excuse to try to outlaw those businesses.


Trust Gives $2 Million Gift to Nature Conservancy for Kansas Waterways

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Nature Conservancy of Kansas plans to use a $2 million gift to improve conservation of creeks and streams in the state. The gift from the David T. Beals III Charitable Trust is the largest gift the organization has ever received. Nature Conservancy officials say the money will be used to establish a statewide stream conservation program. The Nature Conservancy owns 46,000 acres in Kansas. It also leads conservation efforts in the Flint Hills, Red Hills and Cheyenne Bottoms. The organization plans to work with private landowners on techniques that limit livestock and crop runoff into streams. The group expects to hire a program manager for the initiative by this spring. 


NTSB Releases Details on 2014 Wichita Airport Crash

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The National Transportation Safety Board says an airplane that crashed at a Wichita airport in 2014 was in the air for only 26 seconds before plunging back to the ground. The Beechcraft King Air B200 crashed into a Flight Safety building at the Eisenhower National Airport, killing four people. The Wichita Eagle reports the NTSB's analysis precedes a final ruling on what caused the crash. The report says pilot Mark Goldstein, one of those who died, radioed that his left engine was malfunctioning before the impact. The report said investigators found no maintenance record discrepancies that would have affected the plane's performance. 


Lyon County Investigating Grass Fires as Arson

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Fire officials say they are investigating several fires in Lyon County as possible arsons. The Lyon County Sheriff's Office says it found 14 starting points to a fire Saturday night. The blaze started just north of Interstate 35 and stretched along the Interstate corridor to the Coffey County line. Authorities are looking for an early 1990s Chevrolet or GMC single or extended cab truck that was dark blue or black. It reportedly was driven by two white males in their mid-30s with full beards. The Lyon County Sheriff's Office, Emporia Fire Department and Reading Fire Department responded to the fires.


Fire Likely Caused by Cigarette Damages Hutchinson School Buses 

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Fire officials say seven Hutchinson school buses were damaged in a fire that apparently was started by a discarded cigarette. The fire was reported Saturday night just south of the Durham School Services in Hutchinson. A nearby tree row was on fire when emergency responders arrived. Battalion Chief Rex Albright says the buses, a storage trailer and a building's interior were damaged. Damage is estimated at $47,000. Firefighters doused the blaze within 15 minutes. No one was injured.


Mobile Home Fire Kills 41-Year-Old Great Bend Man

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man has died in western Kansas mobile home fire. The Great Bend Tribune reports that the victim has been identified as 41-year-old Lance Stevens, of Great Bend. Great Bend Fire Chief Mike Napolitano says a 19-year-old escaped through a window and went to a neighbor's house to call 911 on Friday morning. The teen said someone else was inside but the amount of fire hindered initial rescue efforts. Once firefighters were able to get inside, they found Stevens' body in the back bedroom. The cause of the fire has been ruled accidental. The trailer was a total loss.


Warm Temperatures Prompt Winter Wheat to Break Dormancy 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Unseasonably warm temperatures have prompted winter wheat to break dormancy early in Kansas. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that rain is needed to support growth and development of the crop. The agency rated winter wheat condition as 6 percent poor to very poor. About 35 percent is in fair shape, with 51 percent rated as good and 8 percent as excellent. Mild weather conditions have been good for calving season, which is about 24 percent complete in Kansas.


Kansas Teen, Missouri Man Die in Southeast Kansas Crash 

ARMA, Kan. (AP) — Two people have died in a crash near the southeast Kansas town of Arma. The Kansas Highway Patrol says the crash happened Sunday on U.S. 69 when a car crossed the center line and struck a pickup truck. Killed was the car's driver, 17-year-old Derek Curtis Brumbaugh, of Pittsburg, and the truck's driver, 56-year-old David Glen Kessler, of Kearney, Missouri. A 16-year-old passenger in the car also was injured.


Third Jackson County Sheriff's Employee Claims Harassment 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A third female Jackson County (Missouri) sheriff's office employee is alleging sexual harassment in a discrimination complaint. The Kansas City Star reports that the latest complaint comes from an administrative assistant. She's seeking more than $25,000 in damages. Her suit comes a year after the county made the first of two payouts totaling more than $150,000 to settle sexual harassment complaints from two former sheriff's department staffers. In the latest complaint, the woman says she was harassed by the two women who received the settlements and others. She says one of the women who later received a settlement falsely accused her of sexual assault. The county denied the latest allegations in a court filing this month. The allegations from the other two women were never specified because the county settled.


Royals Sign 6 Players to One-Year Contracts

SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Kansas City Royals' infielder Christian Colon, who drove in the go-ahead run in the clinching Game 5 of the World Series, and outfielder Paulo Orlando, who hit .248 in 86 games as a rookie, were among six Kansas City Royals players agreeing to terms Sunday for a one-year contract. Colon will receive $518,425, while Orlando will receive $514,250. Left-handed pitcher Brian Flynn, who threw only one inning last year because of an injury signed for $515,950. Outfielder Reymond Fuentes, who hit .152 in 23 games in 2013 with San Diego, signed for $508,450. Left-hander Matt Strahm and infielder Ramon Torres, who have never appeared in the majors, signed for the minimum $507,500. With these signings, all Royals on the 40-man roster are under contract for 2016.


KU Regains Top Spot in AP Men's College Basketball Poll 

The University of Kansas is back on top of the Associated Press men's college basketball poll. Villanova had been No. 1 the past three weeks. The Jayhawks are 25-4 and were No. 1 for two weeks in January. On Monday, they were a runaway choice, receiving 63 first-place votes from the 65-member national media panel. Michigan State is 24-5 and was No. 1 for a season-best four weeks. The Spartans drew the other two first-place votes. Villanova lost to Xavier last week and fell two spots to third. The Wildcats were followed in the top 10 by Virginia, Xavier, Oklahoma, Miami, North Carolina, Oregon and West Virginia. 


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