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Headlines for Thursday, July 11, 2019

Kansas Governor Drops Extension of Food Assistance to Some

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Governor Laura Kelly has dropped a policy that extended food assistance to thousands of Kansas adults even though they failed to meet a work requirement. Kelly acted Thursday in response to a threat from Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt to file a lawsuit over the policy change. Top Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature argued that the policy change made in May violated a 2015 law imposing work requirements and other restrictions on food and cash assistance recipients. Kelly said she believes her administration's policy was "legally defensible" but engaging in a lengthy court battle was not worth the cost to taxpayers. The state extended food assistance this month to 5,500 adults due to lose it. Kelly's administration had planned to help them again in August and September.

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Kansas Supreme Court Justice Johnson to Retire in September

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Supreme Court justice whose votes in death penalty cases made him a political target plans to retire from the bench September 8.  The decision announced Wednesday by Justice Lee Johnson will give Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly her first appointment to the seven-member high court. It will not require Kansas Senate confirmation.  Johnson was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2007 by Democratic Governor Kathleen Sebelius after serving six years on the state Court of Appeals.  He and other justices drew criticism for overturning death sentences in several capital murder cases.  In 2014, a group formed by victims' friends and family sought to oust Johnson in a statewide yes-or-no vote on whether he would stay on the court. The vote to retain him was less than 53 percent.

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Kansas AG Gives Governor Until Friday to Drop Welfare Plan

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas's top prosecutor is threatening to go to court if Democratic Governor Laura Kelly doesn't drop a policy that allows some adults without children to receive welfare even if they don't meet work requirements.  The Wichita Eagle reports that Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt has given Kelly a deadline of Friday to act.  Kelly has stood by the policy and her office plans a news conference Thursday to address the issue. She has long been critical of the state's restrictions on welfare, which lawmakers placed into law under former Republican Governor Sam Brownback.  The policy at issue represents an attempt to minimize welfare restrictions through agency action after unsuccessful attempts by Democrats to make changes through the legislative process.

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1 Shot Dead, 2nd in Critical Condition After Kansas City Deli Shooting

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a woman who was wounded in a double shooting at a Kansas City, Kansas, deli was initially reported as dead but is alive. The Kansas City Star reports that the shooting Wednesday at the Edwards Original Corner Market & Deli left one man dead. Police initially said the woman also had died but said Thursday she is in very critical condition and unresponsive. Police arrested a suspect after a standoff at the deli and took him to a hospital with a gunshot wound. A brother told The Star that the deceased man was market owner Dennis Edwards. Ellis Nave identified his niece, Lachelle Day, as the second shooting victim and said she had been dating the suspect. It's unclear why police initially reported that the woman had died.

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Kansas Police Chief Concerned About Police Shooting Investigations

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas police chief testified in a newly released deposition that he was so concerned about the fairness of internal department probes of police shootings in Wichita that he removed the high-ranking officers overseeing them and detectives conducting them. Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay acknowledged investigators asked leading questions that could have prompted officers to claim the shootings were in self-defense. He also testified that detectives working on the internal probes got involved in the related criminal investigations and were "potentially contaminating" those investigations. Excerpts of the chief's May 24 deposition were included in a court filing this week in a lawsuit filed by the family of Andrew Finch. The unarmed Wichita man was killed by police in 2017 when a dispute over an online video game sparked a hoax call.

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Man Killed in Hit-and-Run Crash on Kansas Highway

NORTON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man has been killed in a hit-and-run crash on a Kansas highway.  The Kansas Highway Patrol says 22-year-old Tyler Kuhn, of Norton, was struck Tuesday night while walking across U.S. 36 in Norton County.  He was pronounced dead at the scene. The patrol reported provided no information about the vehicle that hit him.

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Woman Charged with Dragging Deputy While Fleeing Stop

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A woman has been charged with dragging a Kansas sheriff's deputy while fleeing after being stopped.  KFDI reports that 45-year-old Melissa Heinzman was arrested Tuesday night. She is charged with aggravated battery of a law enforcement officer, failure to stop at an accident and other charges.  Heinzman was accused of dragging a Sedgwick County sheriff's deputy about 100 feet (30.5 meters) during a June 23rd traffic stop. The deputy wasn't seriously hurt.  Her bond is set at $250,000.

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Woman Upset by Wait Time Charged with Firing Gun Outside Missouri DMV Office

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 34-year-old Missouri woman is charged with first-degree making a terrorist threat and unlawful use of a weapon after firing a gun outside a Department of Motor Vehicles office, apparently because she was upset about the long wait in line.  Vanessa Richey of Kansas City was charged Tuesday. She has no listed attorney.  Witnesses told authorities that Richey complained about the wait time Tuesday morning, calling it "ridiculous." Officer Darin Snapp says DMV staff asked Richey to leave because she was being "loud and obnoxious." He says the woman then said she was going to get a gun.  Snapp says an off-duty officer who heard a gunshot approached the woman and ordered her to put the gun down. No one was hurt.

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Drivers Get Surprise Windfall from Broken Toll Machine

MULVANE, Kan. (AP) — Some drivers got a surprise windfall when a malfunctioning toll machine spat out coins instead of accepting money near a Kansas casino.  The Wichita Eagle reports that Kansas Turnpike Authority spokeswoman Rachel Bell says the agency learned Tuesday morning about the problem with the machine at the Mulvane exit.  The agency inadvertently divulged details about the mishap when it sent a text alert to its public subscribers. The note said there was "NO WAY" to know the exact dollar amount that was taken.  KTA says the message was meant to be internal but made it out into the public realm after someone newly responsible for disseminating messages sent it to the wrong group of subscribers.  Bell wasn't immediately sure how many customers used the machine while it was being generous.

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Big Rig Spills Pig Intestines on Kansas City Highway

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A tractor-trailer hauling pig intestine has dumped its load across a downtown highway in Kansas City, Missouri. The Missouri Department of Transportation tweeted that at least three lanes of westbound Interstate 670 were closed Thursday because of the spill, and that an emergency response truck with a snow plow blade was sent to the scene to help clean up the mess. Transportation officials urged drivers to, "Find an alternate snout. Sorry, alternate route."

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Moderate Republican in Kansas House Resigning, Citing Health Issues

TORONTO, Kan. (AP) — A moderate Republican legislator from southeast Kansas plans to resign Saturday for health reasons.  State Rep. Larry Hibbard of Toronto told The Hutchinson News that he has chronic hives and has to "get rid of some stress." Hibbard said he already had planned not to seek re-election next year.  Hibbard is a rancher who won his House seat easily in 2012 but faced a serious Republican primary challenge in 2018.  He voted in 2017 to reverse past income tax cuts championed by former Republican Governor Sam Brownback. He supported GOP tax relief legislation this year but voted to sustain Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly's veto of one of the measures.  Hibbard also supported a plan Kelly favored to expand Medicaid.  Republican precinct committee members in Hibbard's district will name his replacement.

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Report: Kansas Harvest Forecast at 330 Million Bushels

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A government report is forecasting that growers in Kansas will harvest 330 million bushels of wheat this season. The latest estimate released Thursday by the National Agricultural Statistics Service is based on crop conditions July 1 and comes as wheat harvest is well under way in the state. Its forecast anticipated that the crop will be 19% larger than it was a year ago even though farmers are harvesting fewer acres this year. Kansas growers are expected to harvest wheat from 6.6 million acres, down 10% from a year ago. The larger crop is expected because average yields in the state are estimated to run about 50 bushels per acre, up 12 bushels per acre compared to last year.

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Man Accused in Motel Killing Pleads No Contest to Robbery

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — One of three men charged in a fatal shooting at a Lawrence motel has pleaded no contest to robbery. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 20-year-old Shawn Smith, of Kansas City, Missouri, entered the plea Thursday in Douglas County District Court. He initially was charged with first-degree felony murder and several other counts in the killing of 23-year-old Cameron Hooks, of Lenexa, and the wounding of two other men. The shooting happened in September 2017 while two groups of friends drank and smoked pot at a Motel 6. Each friend group accused the other of trying to rob them first, sparking the shooting. Two other co-defendants from Kansas City, Kansas, previously were convicted of voluntary manslaughter and other charges in the case. Smith's sentencing is set for Aug. 14.

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NTSB: Pilot Had Engine Problems Before Fatal Grain Bin Crash

BUTLER, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say a pilot killed when his small plane crashed into a western Missouri grain bin had experienced engine problems. The National Transportation Safety Board said in its preliminary report that 80-year-old John McConnell Jr.'s right engine became stuck at full power as he descended toward an airport in the Kansas City suburb of Olathe, Kansas. He told air traffic controllers that he was turning off the engine and changed his destination to a closer airport in Butler, which is about 55 miles north of Kansas City. McConnell then warned "she's going down" and advised that he would attempt to land on a highway. He was the only person aboard the eight-seat Cessna 425 when it hit the grain bin. The flight began in Vero Beach, Florida.

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Company Settles Lawsuits over Missouri Duck Boat that Sank

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A company that owns a duck boat that sank on a Missouri lake last summer, killing 17 people, said that it has settled or is in the process of settling more than half of the lawsuits it faces.  KYTV reports that Ripley Entertainment made the disclosure in documents filed this month in federal court. The settled lawsuits include many stemming from the deaths of nine members of an Indiana family.  Ripley Entertainment said in a statement that the settlements demonstrate the company's "continuing commitment to work with the victims and families." The company says it won't discuss details of the settlements out of "respect for the privacy of the families."  The company suspended operation of the boats after the sinking. Three of its employees face federal charges, including the captain.

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Kansas City, Kansas, Police Chief Plans to Retire September 11

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The police chief in Kansas City, Kansas, plans to retire September 11 after 4½ years on the job amid questions about his conduct and a lawsuit over an officer's alleged sexual assault.  Chief Terry Zeigler announced his plans on social media Wednesday. He has been with the department nearly three decades.  Officials with the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, praised Zeigler's service.  But the Kansas Bureau of Investigation this year examined whether Zeigler "double dipped" by taking time off to work on a house he leased from the Unified Government. The KBI turned its findings over to the district attorney in May.  And activists demanded Zeigler's firing in June after a federal lawsuit alleged a former police cadet was dismissed for reporting an officer's sexual assault.

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Former Kansas Congressman Tim Huelskamp Resigns as Leader of Think Tank

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Former western Kansas Congressman Tim Huelskamp has resigned as the leader of an Illinois-based group that dismisses climate change and promotes free-market policies.  The Heartland Institute announced Huelskamp's departure last month from his job as the conservative think tank's president and chief executive officer. The board chose communications director Jim Lakely as interim president. The institute's co-founder, Joseph Bast, said in a statement that the board also elected other new officers and approved several new hires.  The statement provided no reason for Huelskamp's departure, and neither Lakely nor Bast returned email messages from The Associated Press.  Efforts to reach Huelskamp were unsuccessful. He served three terms in the U.S. House before losing the August 2016 Republican primary to now-U.S. Representative Roger Marshall, a Republican and physician from Great Bend.

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Keystone Pipeline Opponents Again Seek to Block Construction

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Opponents of the Keystone XL oil pipeline asked a judge to again block construction of the $8 billion project after President Donald Trump issued it a new permit.  Attorneys for environmental groups made the request Wednesday in a lawsuit before U.S. District Judge Brian Morris in Montana. They say Trump's permit was illegal.  The 1,184-mile pipeline proposed by TC Energy would carry crude oil from Canada to Nebraska.  Opponents contend it would make climate change worse by increasing fossil fuel consumption.  Morris temporarily blocked construction last year, saying officials had not fully considered oil spills and other impacts. That ruling was upheld on appeal, only to have Trump issue a new permit in March.  Government attorneys say that permit is not subject to environmental laws. They want the lawsuit dismissed.

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Ex-Police Captain Who Pushed Ref Loses Policing License

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Wichita police captain who was caught on video shoving a teenage referee during a youth basketball game in a nearby town has lost has law enforcement officer license. Newly released documents show that Kevin Mears' certification was revoked last month by the Kansas Commission on Peace Officers' Standards and Training. The Wichita Eagle reports that the revocation order says that Mears "used profanity" last year after his son was hurt and went onto the court without being summoned to retrieve him. That led to a technical foul. The order says Mears, who was off-duty, then pushed the referee and "flipped off the crowd." Mears lost his job several months after the video of the confrontation was posted to Facebook. Mears initially was convicted of misdemeanor battery and disorderly conduct. But on appeal, he was found not guilty of battery.

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Oklahoma Favored to Win 5th Straight Big 12 Title

IRVING, Texas (AP) — Oklahoma is the favorite to win another Big 12 football title, according to the conference's preseason media poll released Wednesday.  The Sooners have won the league the last four years and 12 Big 12 championships overall. Oklahoma also made the College Football Playoff three of the past four seasons.  Texas was picked second by media covering the league. The top two teams will meet in the conference championship game on December 7. The Longhorns lost to the Sooners in the title matchup in 2018.  Iowa State, TCU and Oklahoma State round out the top five picks.  The Big 12 will have four new head coaches in 2019 with Les Miles at Kansas, Chris Klieman at Kansas State, Matt Wells at Texas Tech and Neal Brown at West Virginia.  K-State and KU were picked to finish in 9th and 10th place respectively among the 10 teams in the conference.

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