UPDATED: Sheriff: Gunman, 3 Others, Killed After Shootings in Hesston; 14 Injured
Multiple news sources are reporting that Cedric Larry Ford, a painter at Excel Industries in Hesston, Kansas, is the suspected gunman who's accused of opening fire on co-workers before he was fatally shot. Ford was reportedly served with a protection-from-abuse order shortly before the fatal shootings. He's suspected of killing three people and injuring 14 others before the rampage ended. Authorities have ended a standoff at Ford's home in Newton. Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton said authorities believed the roommate of the suspect was inside the home. A spokeswoman for the city of Newton said the standoff ended and no one else was found in the home. The injured include 10 people who were reported to be in critical condition late Thursday.
Kansas Supreme Court Strikes Down 2014 Law on Property Taxes
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has struck down a law that shielded some residents from property tax hikes. The high court ruled Wednesday that the law unconstitutionally granted preferential treatment to "a discrete group of taxpayers." The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that nearly two dozen counties across the state asked the court last year to consider the constitutionality of the state law, which was passed by the Legislature in 2014 and imposed a two-year moratorium on increases in tax valuation for citizens who requested, and won, a valuation appeal. The state's high court sided with the counties on a 5-2 vote and found that the law was a violation of the Kansas Constitution's guarantee of "uniform and equal" property valuation and taxation.
Kansas Among States Suing Obama Administration over Affordable Care Act
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Kansas has joined 5 other states in filing a new lawsuit against the Obama administration over the Affordable Care Act. The complaint that Texas, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Indiana, Nebraska and Kansas filed Wednesday takes issue with the Health Insurance Providers Fee that states are required to pay to health insurers to cover federal subsidies. The lawsuit says language in the Affordable Care Act failed to provide clear notice that states would have to pay the fee. The suit seeks an injunction against the rule that states are responsible for the fee and asks for states to be refunded for what they've already paid. The suit says the fee is projected to allow the federal government to collect between $13 billion and $15 billion from states over the next decade.
Kansas Governor Says He'd Vote for Trump as GOP Nominee
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says he'd vote for Donald Trump for president if the billionaire New York businessman wins the Republican nomination. Brownback said Thursday that he believes Marco Rubio still can win the GOP presidential nomination. Brownback endorsed the Florida senator last week. But the governor said he will back Trump if Trump wins the nomination, as opposed to either of the two main Democratic candidates. Brownback said: "I'll support the Republican nominee over Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton." Kansas Republicans are holding their presidential caucuses March 5. Many longtime GOP activists are split between supporting Rubio and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, but believe Trump also has significant support.
Governor Knocks Plan to Single Out Wyandotte County Prior to STAR Bonds Fix
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is criticizing a legislative effort to block his administration's effort to lure the American Royal horse and livestock exhibition out of Kansas City, Missouri. But the Republican governor said Thursday that he's willing to work with lawmakers to overhaul a program in which the state authorizes bonds backed by sales tax revenues to help finance economic development projects. Brownback said the so-called STAR bonds program is "loose." Legislators included a provision in budget legislation that blocks Brownback's administration from issuing such debt for any Wyandotte County project through June 2017 unless lawmakers tighten up the STAR bonds program. The governor said it's inappropriate to single out a single county. A recent Department of Commerce report showed a site in Wyandotte County for an American Royal development.
Brownback Aide: Kansas Ethics Commission Rejects Complaint
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Governor Sam Brownback's spokeswoman says the Kansas ethics commission is not acting on a top Democrat's complaint against the governor's re-election campaign. Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said the commission notified the campaign of its decision Wednesday. The commission emerged from a 20-minute closed session Wednesday without saying anything about the complaint filed last month by Kansas Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley. The Topeka Democrat accused Brownback's 2014 re-election campaign of violating state law by using its funds to pay lawyers more than $167,000 last year. A federal grand jury last year investigated three loans to the campaign in 2013 and 2014 totaling $1.5 million from Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer. The U.S. attorney's office said in June there would be no criminal charges.
Adoptive Parents Charged with Child Torture, Other Abuse
NEWTON, Kan. (AP) — The head of a south-central Kansas home for the aging and his wife have been charged in a new criminal complaint with abusing three children they adopted from Peru. A revised complaint filed Thursday in Harvey County District Court charges Jim and Paige Nachtigal, of North Newton, each with 12 counts including child abuse and aggravated battery. They had previously been charged with three counts of child abuse. The new complaint adds two counts of child abuse that alleges James Nachtigal tortured the two 11-year-olds and his wife is charged with helping him. Seven aggravated battery counts were also added. Their defense attorneys did not return phone messages. Harvey County Attorney David Yoder says he has been advised that the defense plans to try to seal the entire court files.
Transgender Activist Sues Kansas over Birth Certificate
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A transgender activist is suing the Kansas Department of Health and Environment over its refusal to update her gender on her birth certificate. The Wichita Eagle reports that Topeka resident Stephanie Mott filed the suit alleging that KDHE denied her request to amend her birth certificate to list her gender as female. The Transgender Law Center says the department has made that type of change to birth certificates in the past, but stopped doing so shortly after Governor Sam Brownback took office in 2012. A KDHE spokeswoman says the agency does not comment on pending litigation. Mott says it's important that her birth certificate reflects her authentic self.
Group Aligned with Big Tobacco Tops Kansas Lobbyist Spending
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A group affiliated with Big Tobacco spent more than all other organizations lobbying the Kansas state government last year, followed by an organization that opposed efforts to expand state liquor laws. A report released Wednesday shows that lobbyists spent a total of $1.74 million last year to curry favor with state lawmakers. That's far higher than the nearly $1.2 million they spent in 2014 and more than the previous record of $1.4 million set in 2010. Altria Client Services LLC, whose clients include Phillip Morris, led all organizations with just over $223,000 in spending. The Kansas Association for Responsible Liquor Laws, which fought efforts to expand sales of liquor, wine and full-strength beer to grocery and convenience stores, spent nearly $185,000 on that campaign.
Kansas Senate Measure Allows Prize-Linked Savings Accounts
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has approved a measure that allows for so-called "prize-linked savings accounts." Prize-linked accounts are already legal in 16 other states and offer raffle-like winnings to a certain number of depositors during a certain time period. Depending on how a program is set up, random winners could receive a few hundred dollars, or even a few thousand, while not risking any of their principal deposit. The current legislation would leave setting up the accounts to individual banks and credit unions, and would call on the state bank commissioner and credit union administrator to set the rules, while following some general guidelines under state law. The Wichita Eagle reports that the legislation approved by the Senate 40-0 on Tuesday now heads to the House.
Lawrence Discusses Affordable Housing Legislation
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence city commissioners say they will respond to state legislation that would prohibit local governments from requiring that a portion of new housing construction be set aside as affordable housing. The measure passed the Kansas Senate on Tuesday. Lawrence city commissioners discussed the bill after a resident asked why the city hadn't testified in opposition. Senator Rob Olson, an Olathe Republican, said that the Kansas Association of Realtors asked that the bill be passed because of discussions in Lawrence about enabling some housing in new subdivisions to be sold at a reduced price. Interim City Manager Diane Stoddard says there has been no official proposal in Lawrence, although such a policy was mentioned in talks last year about affordable housing.
Eisenhower's Great-Grandson to be Kansas Aviation Director
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The great-grandson of President Dwight D. Eisenhower will serve as Kansas' next aviation director. The Kansas Department of Transportation says Merrill Eisenhower Atwater of Basehor will become the agency's new director. The Lawrence Journal-World reports he will work with the Federal Aviation Administration and other aviation groups, as well as overseeing the transportation department's aviation programs. Atwater replaces Tiffany Brown, who went to work for the FAA in Denver. President Eisenhower spent his boyhood in Abilene, where his presidential library is located.
Competency Ruling Sought for Woman Accused in Teen's Death
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A competency hearing is being sought for a Kansas City, Kansas, woman who was running for public office when she was accused of hitting four high-schoolers with her car and killing one of them. The Kansas City Star reports that Tamika Pledger is charged in Wyandotte County with involuntary manslaughter in the death of 17-year-old Tierra Smith. The teen died about a week after the January 2015 crash. At the time, Pledger was running for the board that governs the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas. Court documents say Pledger sped to the area after receiving a call from her daughter about a fight that was about to occur. The charges don't allege that she intentionally hit the group, but that she was driving recklessly.
Wichita State to Break Ground on Food Truck Plaza on Campus
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State University is breaking ground next month on a food truck plaza. The Wichita Eagle reports that the plaza will be built on the edge of the new Innovation Campus development, adjacent to a planned pond. Plans call for it to be completed by June. A news release from the university says it will have four vendor stalls where food trucks can easily set up. It also will have new lighting, sidewalks and seating areas. A contract with the university's vending company prohibits other food businesses from setting up on campus. But the release says the ground that the Innovation Campus is being built on isn't covered by the contract. The release says most of Wichita's food trucks have agreed to take turns setting up at the park.
Woman, 93, Dies in Accident at Manhattan Church
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A 93-year-old woman has died after a sport utility vehicle struck her in a church parking lot in Manhattan. A report from Riley County police says Ruby Johnson fell Tuesday and was struck by the SUV's front tire. The Manhattan Mercury reports that she was rushed to a hospital where she was pronounced dead a short time later.
2 Die in Crash Near Sabetha
SABETHA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say two people have died in a crash near the northeast Kansas town of Sabetha. The Kansas Highway Patrol says a truck has slammed into the side of a sport utility vehicle that entered into U.S. 75 on Wednesday without halting at a stop sign. Killed was the truck's 80-year-old driver, James F. Hunter, of Council Bluffs, Iowa, and the SUV's 47-year-old driver, Douglas L. Rehfeld, of Overland Park. The patrol says a woman in the truck was taken to a hospital with injuries.
Ex-Teacher Pleads Guilty in Sexual Relations Case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Wichita high school music teacher has pleaded guilty to attempted unlawful sexual relations with a student. The Wichita Eagle reports that Alan Martens entered his plea Monday. He had been charged with two counts of unlawful sexual relations. Dan Dillon, spokesman for the Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office, said that one of the charges was amended as part of a plea agreement and the other charge was dismissed. Prosecutors say Martens exchanged text messages that were sexual in nature with a female student at Wichita Heights High School. It's illegal in Kansas for teachers to have sexual relationships with students, even if the student is old enough to give legal consent. The age of consent in Kansas is 16. Court records say the student was at least 16. Martens's sentencing hearing is scheduled for April.
Police Say Missouri Teen Shot by Officers Left Suicide Note
BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say a teenager who was fatally shot by police in a Kansas City suburb had left a suicide note inside a home where he told police someone was trying to break in. Blue Springs police say they got a call shortly before 5 am Wednesday about a possible burglary in progress. When they arrived officers found a person matching the suspect description holding a knife. Police say the 16-year-old boy charged at officers with a knife and was fatally shot. They say the suicide note in the home indicated he planned to create a confrontation with police and had made the initial 911 call. The Missouri State Highway Patrol says the teen's name is not being released because he is a juvenile.
Report: 2015 Kansas Crops Valued at $6.48B
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A new government report forecasts the 2015 value of field and other crops in Kansas at $6.48 billion. The National Agricultural Statistics Service said Wednesday that its estimate for the state is down less than 1 percent from 2014. The agency said it anticipates the value of the state's corn production at $2.18 billion. That is up 2 percent from the previous marketing year. It projected the Kansas corn price at $3.75 per bushel. The value of winter wheat production in Kansas trailed behind at $1.56 billion, up 4 percent from the previous marketing year. The average wheat price is projected to average $4.85 per bushel.
Driver Fleeing in U-Haul Truck Crashes into Missouri Church
RAYTOWN, Mo. (AP) — Police say a man held a sword to the necks of two people at a Missouri gas station before leading officers on a slow-speed chase that ended when the U-Haul he was driving crashed into a suburban Kansas City church. Raytown police received a report at 4:19 am Thursday of a man brandishing a sword. He fled in a U-Haul and led officers on a 40-minute chase that ended when he crashed into a Raytown church. Police say the man got out of the truck and was shot with a stun gun after failing to comply with officers' orders. He was found carrying 20 weapons, including knives, a sword and a blowgun. Police say a woman and four children found in the cab of the truck were family members.
Kansas Man Dies Following House Fire
WELLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — A 74-year-old south-central Kansas man has died, almost a week after he was caught in a structure fire. Wellington Fire Chief Tim Hay says Wayne Bradford died Wednesday. He says Bradford had been hospitalized in Wichita since last Thursday when the fire broke out in a detached garage. KSN reports (http://bit.ly/1VHsMk8) that the cause of the fire is under investigation. Wellington is a town of about 8,000 residents located about 35 miles south of Wichita.
Man Pleads No Contest in Kidnapping, Sex Assault
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Delphos man has pleaded no contest to five felony counts in connection to the robbery and sexual assault of a convenience store employee and the kidnapping of a female customer at a Salina Wal-Mart. The Salina Journal reports that 31-year-old Jerrid W. Logan entered his plea Tuesday. He was charged with kidnapping, aggravated assault, robbery, attempted rape and aggravated criminal sodomy. Logan was accused of approaching a woman in July and leading her into a Wal-Mart at knifepoint. Authorities say she pulled away and Logan punched the woman before fleeing. Later that day, prosecutors say Logan entered a convenience store and took a female clerk, at knifepoint, into a back room. Authorities say Logan took money that the clerk offered and then sexually assaulted her. He is scheduled to be sentenced May 2.
Man No Longer Police Officer After Appearance in Racially Charged Video
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — A white Missouri man is no longer a police officer after appearing in a racially charged music video wearing his uniform and carrying a "cops lives matter" sign. St. Joseph police spokesman Captain Jeff Wilson said in an email Thursday that patrolman Zackary Craft no longer works for the city. Wilson's email directed questions to the city attorney's office. City attorney Bryan Carter says the city cannot comment on personnel matters. Wilson said earlier that the department didn't condone the video, called "Before This Bomb Blows Up (Racism Goes Both Ways)." Craft's attorney, Morgan Roach, didn't immediately comment. He said earlier that Craft allowed himself to be filmed "without knowing the words, content, or context" and was "appalled" when he saw the white suburban Kansas City rapper's video.
Kansas Judge Refuses to Lower Bond for Former Cowboys RB
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge has refused to lower the bond for a former Dallas Cowboys running back accused of hitting three people with a car while leaving a party earlier this week in his hometown. Joseph Randle is being held on $100,000 bond for four counts of aggravated battery and one count each of criminal threat, criminal damage to property and possessing marijuana. Police say the 24-year-old backed into three people with his car early Sunday, then returned to the Wichita home he'd been asked to leave and forced his way inside. Randle asked a Sedgwick County judge Wednesday to lower his bond to $5,000, but the judge refused because Randle hadn't hired a lawyer or filled out an application for a court-appointed attorney. The Cowboys released Randle last year.
Royals Agree to Terms with 11 Players, Leaving 6 Unsigned
SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals have agreed to terms with 11 players, including backup infielders Cheslor Cuthbert and Raul Mondesi Jr., leaving six unsigned players in spring training. The World Series champions announced the moves Thursday. Cuthbert will make $509,425 while in the major leagues this season. Relief pitcher Scott Alexander will make $508,800, and hard-throwing pitcher Miguel Almonte and speedy utility man Terrance Gore will make $508,500 apiece. Mondesi will make $507,500, along with outfielders Jorge Bonifacio, Brett Eibner, Jose Martinez and Bubba Starling, and pitchers Alec Mills and Kyle Zimmer — one of the club's top prospects. The remaining unsigned players are left-handers Brian Flynn and Matt Strahm, infielders Christian Colon and Ramon Torres and outfielders Reymond Fuentes and Paulo Orlando.