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Headlines for Thursday, May 23, 2019

Here's the latest Kansas and regional news from the Associated Press compiled by KPR staff.

Tornadoes Tear Across Southeast Kansas and Southwest Missouri

JOPLIN, Mo. - Three people were killed in southwest Missouri, near Golden City after a tornado moved across the region late last  (WED) night, The Joplin Globe reports a tornado tracked from Ottawa County, Oklahoma, into Baxter Springs and Galena, Kansas, and then into Carl Junction, and Golden City, Missouri before a large tornado touched down in Missouri’s capital of Jefferson City late last (WED) night around 11:45 p.m. A spokesman for the Missouri Highway Patrol says the bodies of 86-year-old Kenneth Harris and his 83-year-old wife, Opal, were killed in the storm just west of Golden City and 56-year-old Betty Berg was killed when her mobile home was destroyed near Golden City. At least 20 people were taken to local hospitals. In addition to tornadoes, Wednesday night’s storms brought more severe weather to the region including flash flooding, destructive hail and wind gusts over 70 mph. Since Monday, there have been nearly 100 tornado reports across the region and the National Weather Service says the threat of severe weather and flash flooding will continue today (THUR) and Friday. Over 30 tornadoes were reported in the region Wednesday.

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Kansas and Missouri Clean up After Severe Storms

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Parts of Missouri and Kansas are cleaning up from severe storms that churned up tornadoes and caused renewed flooding concerns. River levels rose to near or above flood stage Wednesday along rivers and creeks throughout the region. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that about 50 levees will be overtopped. Earlier rounds of flooding caused dozens of levee breaches. Heavy rains caused flooding on Wednesday that closed highways in 17 Kansas counties, along with more than 330 Missouri roads. Amtrak also suspended train service Wednesday and Thursday along a route between St. Louis and Kansas City because of flood-related delays.
 
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Kansas Sheriff Urges Riverside Residents to Leave

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A sheriff is urging people living along a river in far southeast Kansas to voluntarily evacuate their homes because of concerns about flooding. Cherokee County Sheriff David Groves issued the call Thursday as state officials expressed concern about heavy rains causing more flooding through the Memorial Day weekend. Groves issued his warning for people living near the Spring River. It runs on the east side of the towns of Riverton and Baxter Springs. Part of U.S. 166 west of Baxter Springs was closed by flooding Thursday afternoon. State officials said flooding was especially serious in southeast Kansas but that they expected problems further north and west. The concerns prompted Gov. Laura Kelly to issue a public warning for people to avoid floodwaters and to watch weather reports.

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Bill Targets Vaccine Misinformation Amid Measles Outbreak

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Republican U.S. Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas is partnering with two Midwestern Democrats to fight the spread of misinformation about vaccines in the face of measles outbreaks across the nation. The Kansas City Star reports Roberts introduced legislation Thursday to instruct Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to award competitive grants for public information campaigns aimed at combating the anti-vaccine movement. The bill does not specify a dollar figure, but would enable the CDC to steer money toward them. The Kansas senator called a lack of confidence in vaccines as one of the top public health threats in a video released by his office Thursday. Co-sponsors on the legislation are Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan and Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, both Democrats.

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Kansas Agrees to Pay $1.03 Million for Wrongful Conviction

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has agreed to pay $1.03 million to a man who spent nearly 16 years in prison after being wrongly convicted of the 1999 rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl. Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced in a news release Thursday Kansas resolved the second lawsuit under the mistaken conviction statute enacted last year. Floyd Scott Bledsoe filed his compensation claim in July 2018. Shawnee County District Judge Richard Anderson approved the settlement and granted a certificate of innocence. Bledsoe also is entitled to state health care benefits for two years. Another lingering claim is for Floyd Bledsoe, who was wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for nearly 16 years for the 1999 rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl — a crime that his brother admitted doing in a suicide note.

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Lawsuit: Kansas Cadet Fired After Alleging Sexual Battery

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ A lawsuit alleges a Kansas police cadet was fired after pressing sexual battery charges against her supervisor. The lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Kansas contends the Kansas City, Kansas, cadet delayed reporting the abuse for fear of retaliation and found that fear justified when Police Chief Terry Zeigler fired her for ``exaggerated cause'' following the criminal prosecution of her attacker. The Kansas City Star reports police officer Steven Rios was sentenced in December to a year's probation for misdemeanor battery of a young cadet whom he supervised. The Kansas City, Kansas, police department says it disputes the allegations and declined to comment on the reason for the cadet's departure because it was a personnel matter. The accused officer took a plea deal and retired from the department. 

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Kansas Governor Laura Kelly Taps Idaho Prison Official as Secretary of Corrections

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has selected an Idaho prison official as her new secretary of corrections. The governor said in a news release today (THUR) that she had picked Jefferey Zmuda, the deputy director of the Idaho Department of Correction. He starts July 1. Kelly says this is a critical time of change and recovery for the Kansas Department of Corrections. She says Zmuda has agreed to take on the challenge of restoring the corrections system and improving morale across all facilities. Zmuda previously served as chief of prisons in Idaho where he oversaw prison operations for the nine state-run facilities. Kelly commended Acting Secretary of Corrections Roger Werholtz, saying he shared problems that had been concealed for eight years at Kansas facilities. His last day will be May 31. 

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Police Kill Shooter After Overnight Standoff in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a man who was firing gunshots has been shot and killed by police. Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay said officers responding to a report of an "explosion" at around 1:55 a.m. Thursday at a south Wichita apartment heard gunshots. KFDI-FM reports nearby apartments were evacuated. No injuries were reported. Ramsay says a man who was alone in the apartment was in a "mental health crisis." Ramsey says SWAT tried calling and texting the shooter inside the apartment without success until just before 6 a.m. He says two officers fired multiple shots and killed the suspect. The suspect had multiple guns, at least a rifle and a handgun. About 30 gunshots were reported altogether. An armored police vehicle was struck four times.

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Flooding at Cheney Lake Thwarts Memorial Day Plans

CHENEY, Kan. (AP) — Hundreds of people are changing their Memorial Day plans due to flooding at Cheney Lake. Cheney Park Ranger Mitchell Schwartz tells KSNW-TV he has cancelled more than 300 reservations. He says on a typical Memorial Day they might have 40,000 people at the lake, but this one is going to be a little different. Historic flooding at the park has forced all but two campsites to be closed. Visitors are still able to visit the lake, but park rangers advise the public to not get in the water. Hutchinson resident Danielle Hunt says her family and friends usually spend Memorial Day weekend at Cheney Lake. She's changing her plans this year due to road closures and flooding.

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Trump Awards Medals to Public Safety Officers, Including 2 in Kansas

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fourteen public safety officers were awarded the Medal of Valor by President Donald Trump on Wednesday, including eight who responded to a shooting at a southern California polling place. Other recipients included Fire Captain Dustin Moore and firefighter and paramedic Andrew Freisner of the fire department in Lenexa, Kansas, who risked their lives to rescue a family from inside a burning apartment building on April 24, 2017. They climbed a ladder to the second floor, went inside and rescued an unconscious adult, two young children and the family dog. Two awards also were given to the families of fallen officers in Tennessee and Texas. 

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Kansas Clinic Returns to Court over Telemedicine Abortions

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A clinic in Kansas stopped providing telemedicine abortions months ago because it concluded that the legal climate remains uncertain despite a judge's order saying the state couldn't stop them. The Trust Women Foundation was back in state court Wednesday for a hearing on its request for another order to prevent the state from enforcing laws on its books barring clinics from providing pregnancy-ending medications to patients without a doctor physically present. The foundation operates a clinic in Wichita and filed a lawsuit in January after it couldn't get written assurances from state and local officials that they wouldn't enforce bans on telemedicine abortions. A judge previously ruled in December that no ban can be enforced. The clinic started offering telemedicine abortions in October but stopped at the end of December.

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New Law Enforcement Unit to Crack Down on Cybercrime

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The state of Kansas will create a law enforcement unit designed to combat an increase in computer crime in the state. The director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the state attorney general say online criminal activity is rapidly increasing in Kansas. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the FBI's internet crime center said losses by Kansas victims of cybercrime increased from about $4 million in 2015 to $17 million in 2018. The state budget recently signed by Governor Laura Kelly includes $1 million for the new investigative group. KBI Director Kirk Thompson said the money will allow the agency to assign six agents, a supervisor and a crime analyst to the unit. The KBI agents also will collaborate on computer-oriented cases with the attorney general's office. 

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Salina Man Found Not Guilty in Animal Abuse Case

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A 41-year-old Salina man has been found not guilty of animal abuse charges stemming from the seizure of 189 animals. A Saline County jury deliberated less than an hour after a five-day trial of Matthew Fullen before returning the verdict Tuesday. The Salina Journal reports the animals were seized in April 2018 from a pasture in Assaria. Investigators alleged the cows, horses, bulls, dogs, cats and rabbits were neglected or starving. Fullen and his mother, Beverly Fullen, were initially arrested 165 misdemeanor counts and four felony counts of cruelty to animals. Matthew Fullen was tried on five counts of animal abuse. Beverly Fullen's trial is scheduled for June 17.

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17-Year-Old Kansas Student Earns Diplomas from High School and Harvard University 

ULYSSES, Kan. (AP) _ A 17-year-old Kansas student will collect diplomas from high school and Harvard University this month. Braxton Moral received his high school degree from Ulysses High School Sunday. He will graduate with a bachelor's degree from Harvard on May 30. The Hutchinson News reports Moral's parents are likely to miss both graduations because his mom, Julie Moral, had kidney transplant surgery at the University of Kansas Medical Center last week after being on a wait list for nearly a year. The teen majored in government and minored in English through Harvard's extension program. He took classes online during the school year and on the Harvard campus during summers. Some Harvard classes substituted for high school class credits. Moral now plans to attend law school but he hasn't yet chosen a school.  
 

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