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Headlines for Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Area news headlines from the Associated Press

Colyer Taps Tracey Mann for Kansas Lieutenant Governor

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer has picked Tracey Mann to serve as the state's next lieutenant governor. The new Republican governor announced his appointment of the 41-year-old Mann during a Kansas Livestock Association dinner in Topeka. A swearing-in ceremony is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon at the Statehouse. Mann is a commercial real estate broker and farmer from Salina. He said in a statement he's "extremely grateful for the opportunity." Colyer was the state's longest-serving lieutenant governor but became governor January 31 when former GOP Governor Sam Brownback stepped down to take an ambassador's post. Mann will be on the gubernatorial ticket when Colyer seeks a full, four-year term this year.

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Kansas Chemist Gets Another Stay of Removal

Updated:

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) —  An attorney for a chemistry instructor who is fighting deportation to Bangladesh says her office is considering all possible options to get him released from a Hawaii detention center and home to his wife and children in Kansas. Rekha Sharma-Crawford said Tuesday that immigration officials could voluntarily return Syed Ahmed Jamal to the mainland U.S., but if they don't, her firm will ask a federal judge to order his return. Jamal was detained in Hawaii after being removed from a plane late Monday that was flying him back to Bangladesh. Sharma-Crawford says he was put on the plane early Monday without his attorneys' knowledge before a federal immigration panel issued a second stay. Jamal, whose wife and three children are U.S. citizens, has lived in Kansas for 30 years. His supporters have been fighting deportation since he was arrested at his Lawrence home on January 24.

(earlier version)

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys for a Kansas chemistry instructor who is fighting deportation to Bangladesh say he is currently being held at a Honolulu detention center.  Immigration officials put 55-year-old Syed Ahmed Jamal on a flight to his native land on Monday before a federal immigration board issued a new stay of deportation.  Sharma-Crawford Attorneys at Law posted on its Facebook page that Jamal was taken off the plane when it stopped in Honolulu to refuel.  It was not immediately clear what happens next for Jamal, who has lived in Kansas for 30 years. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested him at his home in Lawrence on January 24.  Jamal's wife and three children are U.S. citizens.

(earlier version)

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - A federal immigration board has granted a new stay of removal for a Lawrence chemist who is battling efforts to deport him to Bangladesh.  That ruling came yesterday (MON) afternoon, hours after a federal immigration judge dissolved a temporary stay he had issued last week for 55-year-old Syed Ahmed Jamal, who was arrested in late January in Lawrence.  Jamal's attorneys quickly filed a new motion for a stay with the Board of Immigration Appeals in Virginia, which granted it late.  The chemist and adjunct professor overstayed his visa remained in the country illegally.  But he's lived in the U.S. for more than 30 years. He and his wife have three U.S. native children.  They live in Lawrence.  His arrest and possible deportation sparked protests and criticism, including from Missouri Congressman Emanuel Cleaver.  Immigration officials have not explained why they decided to arrest him on January 24.

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Kansas Governor Backs Bill to Open Records on Child Deaths

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer and the state's top child welfare official are backing legislation to require disclosure of some records when a child dies of abuse or neglect.  Colyer and Department for Children and Families Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel announced yesterday (MON) that they're supporting a bill introduced last week in the Kansas House.  The bill would require the department to release a child's age, gender and date of death upon receiving an open records request. It also would have to release a summary of its reports of child abuse or neglect and its findings about those reports.  Kansas has had several high-profile cases in recent years of children who died in abusive homes. Colyer said under the bill, the public would learn what steps the state took to protect a child.

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Governor Wants to Stop Diverting Kansas Highway Funds

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer has joined the chorus of calls to stop using state highway funding for other purposes.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the state has spent more than $3.3 billion meant for highways on other areas of state government during the past 20 years.  As a result, the state is currently delaying nearly two dozen projects to repair or expand highways.  Colyer told lawmakers last week that the state "must end the highway funding sweeps and build an effective plan that promotes economic development and strengthens our transportation network."  Colyer didn't offer a concrete proposal or timeline for ending the transfer of money from highways to other areas. But his spokeswoman said Friday that the governor is calling for a transportation task force to identify the best option.

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Proposed Bill Would Open Access to Police Body Camera Video
 
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee is considering a bill to improve access to audio and video recordings from police body and vehicle cameras. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the bill would require law enforcement to produce within 24 hours recordings to the person on the videos, close family members and attorneys. Currently, state law requires that police provide the recordings to the subject, their parents if the person is a minor, that person's attorney, or the person's heir, if the subject died. The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday heard testimony from relatives of Dominique White, who was fatally shot by Topeka police in September. The family tried for 11 weeks to see police video, before law enforcement allowed only White's father to see it. Several law enforcement organizations spoke against the bill.

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Kansas State School Board Approves Education Funding Audit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas State Board of Education has approved an audit of how state funds are distributed to public schools following questions about the allocation of some dollars. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the board accepted a recommendation Tuesday from Education Commissioner Randy Watson. The review is expected to start within two months and will examine whether funds are distributed in keeping with the state's school funding law. A legislative audit said in December that a calculation used for decades to distribute transportation funds to school districts wasn't authorized by state law. It said the state spent an additional $45 million over the past five years because of the calculation. The board agreed to the broader audit after rejecting a push by some legislators to suspend Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis.

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Kansas Lawmakers Begin Modifying Drunk Driving Laws

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are overhauling the state's drunk driving laws to crack down on offenders and replace a defunct law that allowed police to compel suspects to blood alcohol testing. The U.S. Supreme Court determined a warrantless breath test is permissible, but police would need to obtain a warrant to conduct a blood test. TheTopeka Capital-Journal reports that the Senate Judiciary Committee is considering bills to clarify how officers should handle cases in which a suspect refuses testing. The bills also propose lowering penalties in certain cases where suspects refuse testing. Democratic Senator David Haley says the bill aims to "compel" suspected drunk drivers to take a test while protecting privacy. Republican Senator Rick Wilborn chairs the committee. He says he hasn't decided when he'll schedule a vote or any further debate.

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Some Kansas Residents Upset with New ID Requirements
 
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Some Kansas residents are expressing frustration over the state's strict requirements for a new form of driver's license.  The licenses adopted by the state last year are intended to comply with the federal "Real ID" law. The law requires state-issued driver's licenses and identification cards to meet specific standards in order to be used for conducting official business with the government.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 78-year-old Gretchen Underwood said Friday she hasn't been able to get her Real ID license because none of her documents meet the new requirements.  The Kansas Department of Revenue says people must show a valid passport or birth certificate, either an official non-laminated card or a recent pay stub or tax document bearing the person's full Social Security number, and proof of Kansas residency.
 
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Lawsuit: Sexual Misconduct Culture Among Kansas Police

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — A woman in southeast Kansas is accusing a city, its police chief and a former police officer of failing to protect her from a sexual assault. The Wichita Eagle reports that the lawsuit filed Monday accuses the city of Pittsburg of tolerating an atmosphere of sexual misconduct and undue familiarity within its police department. The lawsuit says 22-year-old Jesse Edward Loren Davis arrested the woman in August after a domestic disturbance and asked her to flash him and allow him to inappropriately touch her. She alleges she agreed to his advances out of fear. The lawsuit also alleges that Davis patrolled the city and transported detainees despite not being fully certified. Davis has been arrested and charged with aggravated sexual battery and official misconduct. City officials declined to comment on the lawsuit but say their priority is citizens' safety.

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Kansas Bill Opens Doors to Poultry Operations

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas bill receiving widespread support would allow the expansion of confined chicken growing operations within proximity to residential areas. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Senate bill was endorsed Monday by two of the state's largest agriculture industry organizations, Kansas State University faculty and county development groups. The proposed legislation would set boundaries on concentration of chicken houses and the number of birds at each site in order to improve recruitment of companies interested in making investments in new production facilities. Agriculture leaders say that Kansas has a modest poultry footprint while surrounding states have embraced poultry farming. The bill follows community backlash last year to Tyson Foods' proposal to build a $320 million poultry complex near Tonganoxie. The company pulled out of its incentive-laden deal after public outcry.

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Cause of Fire that Killed 5 in Pratt Ruled Undetermined

PRATT, Kan. (AP) _ Investigators have been unable to determine the cause of a fire that killed a mother and her four children in Pratt.  The State Fire Marshal's Office says the cause of the January 25 blaze has been classified as undetermined.  The fire started in the basement of the home but investigators don't know how.  They did note that no fire alarms were found in the house.  A 22-year-old mother died in the hospital, two days after her children died in the fire.  The four children ranged in age from a few months to 6 years.  The victims were identified as 22-year-old Charee Wheatley and her children: Reece, Timmy, River and Harley.  The Fire Marshal's Office says their investigators spent three days on the scene, examining evidence, sifting through debris and interviewing witnesses.

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Missouri-Kansas Economic Border Scuffle Continues

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A health care operator's recent deal to move from Missouri to Kansas has reignited criticism of the economic border issue that has seen both states dish out millions to dozens of companies to move across the state line. The Kansas City Star reports that Kansas is giving HCA Midwest Health about $3 million in tax breaks to move its headquarters 4 miles from Kansas City to Overland Park. Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer works for the hospital chain. His spokesman says the deal was done before Colyer replaced the former governor and he didn't know it was in the works. Critics of the border war say that trying to lure companies across the state line drains the tax base of both states while not creating any new net jobs.

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Child Care Worker Charged with Second Assault at Kansas YMCA

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A child care worker has been charged with sexually assaulting a second child at a YMCA in Wichita. The Wichita Eagle reports that Caleb Gaston was charged Monday with aggravated indecent liberties with a 3-year-old girl. He had been free on bond on charges that he raped a 4-year-old girl on Jan. 29 when the younger child was identified as a possible victim of a Jan. 24 assault. Gaston was arrested again last week and is jailed on $1 million bond. Gaston's attorney, Steve Ariagno, said in an email that Gaston "denies any and all allegations of wrongdoing." As part of the investigation, authorities are reviewing YMCA camera footage. Plymouth Congregational Church said in a statement that Gaston was terminated in October from its preschool after an inappropriate touching complaint.

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Farmers Trained on Using Herbicide Blamed for Crop Damage

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Tens of thousands of soybean and cotton farmers across the country are getting free -- but mandatory -- training on how to properly use a weed killer blamed for drifting and damaging crops in neighboring fields.  The federal government mandated the training last fall in a deal with agribusiness giants Monsanto, BASF and DuPont.  All three make special formulations of dicamba for use on new soybean and cotton varieties that are genetically engineered to resist the herbicide, using seed technology commercialized by Monsanto.  The products are increasingly popular because they give farmers a new weapon against aggressive weeds that have become resistant to other herbicides. But many farmers who didn't use dicamba last year reported damage to their crops and blamed nearby farms that did use it.

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Inmate Admits to Stabbing, Injuring Corrections Officer

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas inmate has pleaded guilty to stabbing and injuring a corrections officer.  Twenty-seven-year-old Allen Thomas Schroeder Jr. pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree attempted murder and conspiracy to commit second-degree attempted murder in the April attack on Shawnee County corrections officer Lacy Noll.  She alleges Schroeder became angry after she threatened to write him up for screaming and inciting a riot. Witnesses testify that Schroeder sharpened a broken drawer handle to stab Noll. She says she was struck on her face, back and shoulder.  Sentencing is set for March 7. As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend a sentence of 25 years, to be served after his current 16-month sentence for an unrelated attempted aggravated battery case.

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Kansas Woman Alleges State Investigators Owe Her Hundreds

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A 72-year-old woman in northeast Kansas says she paid her neighbor $700 in cash for yard services, but when authorities arrested the man they seized her money and kept it.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Suzanne James alleges the Kansas Bureau of Investigation balked at returning her money unless she went to its headquarters for questioning, which she refused to do.  James says she paid $700 in cash to her neighbor, 42-year-old Chad Wendlandt, to mow her lawn and provide tree care services while she was out of town last summer. But Wendlandt was arrested by the KBI on charges of bond violation before he could do the work.   The KBI says it acted appropriately and that the matter is no longer its responsibility. The bureau says Wendlandt's case concluded when he was sentenced to prison in December for drug crimes.

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Multi-State Crime Suspect Now to Face Mississippi Charges

BRANDON, Miss. (AP) - A man convicted in Kansas now faces trial in Mississippi over a series of shootings and killings.  Rankin County District Attorney Michael Guest said Monday that authorities have returned Alex Deaton to Mississippi and aim for a summer trial on murder, drive-by shooting and motor vehicle theft indictments.  Deaton is accused of strangling his girlfriend, stealing her SUV, and shooting a jogger in 2017. He's also indicted for killing a woman near Philadelphia, Mississippi.  Police say Deaton then carjacked a New Mexico couple, fled to Kansas, shot a store clerk and stole the clerk's car.  Deaton pleaded guilty in July in Kansas to attempted first-degree murder and aggravated robbery. He was sentenced there in October to nearly 13 years in prison.  He faces a possible life sentence if convicted in Mississippi.

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Alcohol Factor in Topeka Man Killing Brother and Himself

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Tests found a high level of alcohol in the blood of a Kansas man who fatally shot his brother and then himself last year. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports an autopsy found the blood alcohol level of 29-year-old Shawn Jacobs to be 0.34, more than four times the legal limit in Kansas. No other drugs were found in his system. Shawnee County District Coroner Charles Glenn said Jacobs committed suicide by shooting himself in the head on Sept. 28. Topeka police say Jacobs shot his brother, 36-year-old Robert Raymond Jacobs Jr., after they argued when both their vehicles got stuck in the mud while on a fishing trip near the Kansas River near Topeka.

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18-Year-Old Man Killed in Shooting at Wichita Home

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Wichita police say a 17-year-old is in custody after a Wichita man was shot to death at his home.  Police say three or four people armed with guns went to the home Sunday night and one of them got into a fight with a person in the home.  The person at the home, an 18-year-old male, was shot. He was later pronounced dead at a Wichita hospital. His name hasn't been released.  The 17-year-old boy was arrested early Monday and booked into juvenile detention on suspicion of murder and other charges.

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St. Louis Area Leader Comes to Shawnee Mission Schools

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) _ The outgoing head of a suburban St. Louis school district has been picked to lead the third largest Kansas school system.  The Shawnee Mission School District announced the selection of Mike Fulton as superintendent Monday. He comes to the nearly 28,000-student suburban Kansas City district from Pattonville Public Schools, where he previously announced he wouldn't seek a contract extension.  Fulton replaces Jim Hinson, who was just 54 when he announced in April that he was retiring to spend more time with his family. Hinson became a lightning rod in part because of his support of former Gov. Sam Brownback's 2015 plan to replace the school finance formula with block grants. That policy later was ruled unconstitutional.  The district is expected to play a role as lawmakers craft a new school finance formula.

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Runner from Liberal Wins International Pancake Day Race 

LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — Liberal has reclaimed the title as winner of the annual International Pancake Day Race. KNSS reports a Liberal woman, Gaby Covarrubias, ran the Shrove Tuesday 415-yard race with a time of 1:08.85. That was about 2.5 seconds faster than Katie Godof, who ran a similar race in Olney, England with a time of 1:11.4. Contestants must carry a pancake in a frying pan and flip it at the beginning and end of the race. The Shrove Tuesday pancake race began in Olney in the 15th century. In 1950, Liberal challenged Olney to an international competition. It was the first win for Liberal since 2015. The Kansas town now leads the series 38-29. Last year, a winner couldn't be determined because of a technical glitch in Olney.

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