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Headlines for Thursday, December 14, 2017

Here's a look at area headlines from the Associated Press

Off-Duty Officer Cleared in Costco Self-Defense Shooting

LENEXA, Kan. (AP) - The Johnson County District Attorney says an off-duty police officer who shot and killed an armed man who was threatening customers at the Costco in Lenexa will not face any charges. District Attorney Steve Howe said Wednesday that Kansas City, Kansas, police Captain Michael Howell saved innocent lives during the confrontation on November 26. Ronald Hunt entered the store with a gun and was threatening to shoot customers. While store employees and customers were being evacuated, Howell identified himself as a police officer and told Hunt to drop the weapon. Investigators say Hunt ignored the commands and threatened Howell, who shot him. No one else in the store was injured. Howe said Howell acted in self-defense and in defense of others, which is allowed by Kansas law.

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Kansas DCF Secretary to Review Foster Care Programs

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The new leader at the Kansas Department for Children and Families has promised a thorough review of the state's foster care system. Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel was hired on December 1 to lead the agency. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Meier-Hummel met on Tuesday with a legislative task force studying weaknesses in the state's foster care system. The meeting touched on several issues, including how to better prevent deaths of children in contact with the agency. Task force members say the agency needs to improve how it tracks children who've left their assigned foster homes without permission. The agency has said it's searching for nearly 80 children considered absent without leave. Meier-Hummel says the agency has "really great staff attending to this need." She also emphasized improving public transparency and says she'll review internal and contracting operations.

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Father of Topeka Man Fatally Shot by Police to View Footage

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A city of Topeka spokeswoman says the father of a black man fatally shot by police will view body camera footage from the incident Friday. City spokeswoman Molly Hadfield says a family attorney is scheduled to join Kelly White in viewing the footage from the Sept. 28 shooting of 30-year-old Dominique White. A state court judge last week named Kelly White special administrator for his son's estate. The city had said Kansas law allowed only an administrator or Dominique White's young children, as his heirs, to view the footage absent a court order. Dominique White was shot near an east Topeka park. The two officers involved have not been identified. Lawrence police finished their investigation Topeka police two weeks ago. Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay is reviewing the case.

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Kansas State University Officials Say Food Supply Threatened

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The president of Kansas State University has told Congress that the country is unprepared to deal with its food supply that he says is threatened by both terrorism and natural plant and animal diseases. The Wichita Eagle reports that university President Richard Myers was invited to testify Wednesday by Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas. He says there's an urgent need to protect the country's food supply from "naturally occurring and intentionally developed and delivered biological threats." Myers also said the university needs federal funding to continue research on four emerging animal diseases. The university has been using its own biological isolation labs to research the diseases in anticipation of the opening of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. Roberts says Myers's recommendations should be written in Congress's next farm bill.

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Lawrence Teen Wants to Withdraw Plea in Grandmother's Death

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence teenager who pleaded guilty to killing his grandmother wants to withdraw that plea. Eighteen-year-old Jaered Long was scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday for second-degree murder in the December 2015 death of 67-year-old Deborah Bretthauer. Instead, Long's attorney, Forrest Lowry, told the Douglas County court that his client wanted to withdraw his plea. The Lawrence Journal-World reports  a hearing was scheduled for February 20 to consider the request, or to sentence Long if the request is denied. Authorities said Bretthauer was stabbed dozens of times with a knife while she was in bed in her Lawrence apartment. One of Long's therapists previously testified that she asked Bretthauer to consider residential treatment for her grandson's worsening abusive and threatening behavior but Bretthauer didn't agree to the plan.

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Former Sheriff's Deputy Pleads to Child Sex Charges 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former Coffey County deputy has pleaded no contest to multiple child sex charges. Matthew Vander Linden entered the plea Thursday. He was charged with two counts each of aggravated indecent liberties with a child and criminal sodomy. As part of the plea deal, a charge of unlawful sexual relations was dropped. Prosecutors say Vander Linden had sexual intercourse with a 15-year-old in November 2016. He was arrested and was fired in December 2016. Sentencing is scheduled February 1.

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$10,000 Reward Offered in Wichita Pizza Hut Driver's Death 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Pizza Hut is offering a $10,000 reward for information in the death of one of their drivers last month in Wichita. The company announced the reward Thursday, seeking tips in the November 26 killing of Hasan Rahman. His body was found in the trunk of his car in east Wichita. Police say he was shot to death. Rahman delivered Pizza Hut orders the previous night but didn't return to the restaurant. Investigators say they currently have few clues or leads in his death. Crime Stoppers has also offered a $2,500 reward in the case. Rahman moved to the United States from Bangladesh seven years ago and married three years ago.

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University of Kansas Given $2 Million Gift from Graduate

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A University of Kansas graduate is giving the school $2 million to endow a scholarship in the School of Law and a research fund in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The university announced the gift from William Bradley Jr. to the KU Endowment on Wednesday. The money will provide $1 million for the Bradley Family Scholarship for law school students. The other $1 million will endow the Bradley Family Research Excellence Fund, which will provide awards to faculty in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences whose research involves undergraduates. Bradley earned a bachelor's degree in English in 1977 and a law degree in 1980. He eventually became the third-largest individual shareholder in NIC Inc., an Olathe-based information service provider for federal and state governments. He is retired.

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Man Convicted of Murder in Kansas Gun Store Robbery Attempt

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) _ A third man has been convicted in the killing of suburban Kansas City gun shop owner during an attempted robbery in 2015.  22-year-old Nicquan Midgyett, of Kansas City, Missouri, pleaded guilty yesterday (WED) to first-degree murder and several related charges. Sentencing is set for March 8.  Forty-four-year-old gun store owner Jon Bieker was shot and killed during the January 2015 robbery attempt. Three of the robbers, including Midgyett, were wounded during the incident. Two other defendants, Hakeem Malik and Londro Patterson, have been sentenced to life in prison. 

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Inspection Finds Bed Bugs in Wichita City Hall

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Officials are working to rid Wichita's City Hall of bed bugs. The Wichita Eagle reports that the bugs have been found on the building's fifth floor which houses some Wichita police offices, including their public relations and public records divisions. City spokesman Van Williams said in a statement that a treatment plan has been developed to get rid of the bugs. He says the goal is to provide a safe environment for employees and citizens. The wingless insects feed off human and animal blood.

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Police Investigating 3 Deaths in KCK Fire as Homicides

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ Authorities are investigating the deaths of three people found in the rubble of a burned Kansas City, Kansas, home as homicides. Police announced the homicide investigation Wednesday. The early Tuesday fire initially was labeled as suspicious. Firefighters searching the single-story home found two bodies at that time. A third body was found later in the day as firefighters sifted through the house. The names of the victims have not been released. A police spokesman says the coroner is working to identify the remains. 

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Kansas Officers Employ Pit Bull Police Dog

STAFFORD, Kan. (AP) — Police in central Kansas have a new drug detective: a pit bull that was rescued by a Texas organization and trained for law enforcement work. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Stafford Police Department recently employed Kano, a 55-pound pit bull puppy. He completed his first drug bust on Monday. The department believes Kano is the first pit bull to work in such a role in Kansas. Kano trained with Universal K9, a San Antonio-based organization that rescues pit bulls and trains them for police work. The organization partnered with the Animal Farm Foundation to start a grant program to train rescue pit bulls to locate narcotics or explosives. Officer Mason Paden is Kano's handler. He says the breed is "misunderstood," and he hopes to change people's perception of the breed.

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Kansas Woman Plans to Change Plea in $5 Million Embezzlement

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A southeast Kansas woman accused of embezzling more than $5 million from a now-defunct credit union has notified the court she plans to change her plea. The federal court filing Wedneday comes just weeks before Nita Rae Nirschl was scheduled to go to trial on January 30. The Parsons woman is accused in an 81-count federal indictment of embezzlement and money laundering. The crimes allegedly took place while Nirschl worked for the Parsons Pittsburg Credit Union based in Parsons. Federal prosecutors say that after an audit found the credit union was insolvent, it was placed in conservatorship and ultimately liquidated in March 2014. A change-of-plea hearing was scheduled for 9:45 a.m. Monday before U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten in Wichita. 

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GE Aviation Plant in Cowley County Will Add Jet Engine Work

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — GE Aviation plans to add new jet engine work to its Strother Field plant in Cowley County. Company spokesman Rick Kennedy said starting in January, GE's CF34-8E jet engine will be built at the plant halfway between Winfield and Arkansas City. He says the new work will stabilize the employee count at the plant, which employs about 720 people. The Wichita Eagle reports the Strother plant currently overhauls GE's CF34 family of jet engines. They also assemble the company's new Passport engine, which is expected to enter service next year. Kennedy said GE decided to move the engine assembly work to Strother because its plant in Durham, North Carolina, needed room to assemble the company's new Leap jet engines that are used on Boeing's new 737 Max aircraft.

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Grizzly Crime Solved: Candy Factory's Stolen Bear Found

ABILENE, Kan. (AP) — Police say a sweet tip led to the recovery of a bear statue that was stolen from outside a candy factory in central Kansas a year ago. Abilene Police Department assistant chief Jason Wilkins says the Russell Stover Candies sculpture, depicting a sitting teddy bear covered in chocolate, was found Wednesday in a Salina home following a tip from someone apparently unconnected to its theft. Detective Karmen Kupper says a suspect has been identified but hasn't been arrested. Wilkins tells The Wichita Eagle that early leads in the November 2016 theft from the company's Abilene factory didn't pan out and that the bear investigation had "become a running joke." Kupper describes the 150-pound, 4-foot tall sculpture as a "huge landmark" and a popular backdrop for pictures.

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