Group Sees Kansas Legislature's Harassment Policy as Weak
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Legislature should have an independent, outside attorney review sexual harassment complaints, require annual training even for lobbyists, ban gifts to interns and create a "non-fraternization policy," a Missouri-based foundation recommended Friday. The Women's Foundation outlined more than two dozen proposals ahead of a Statehouse news conference with state Senate President Susan Wagle. The foundation promotes gender equity, and top lawmakers, led by Wagle, turned to the group's attorneys last month to review the Legislature's existing policy, which hasn't changed since 1994. The foundation is also proposing that the Legislature ban secret settlements of sexual harassment claims, prohibit arbitration in sexual harassment cases and annually report data about the genders of interns, legislative leaders and members of committees, state boards and commissions. It says the sexual harassment policy should be reviewed each year. Wendy Doyle, the foundation's president and CEO, said the Legislature lacks the policies and "coordinated approach" necessary to prevent sexual harassment. She said those "significant gaps" also prevent the Legislature from responding effectively when sexual harassment occurs. "These significant gaps must be addressed to ensure a safe, respectful and inclusive work environment for staff, interns and everyone who works in the state Capitol," Doyle said. "This is not a partisan issue, and it is not unique to Kansas." The foundation also recommended having more women as legislative leaders. The foundation has designed a long-term program to increase the number of women who are appointed to local boards and commissions in hopes, she said, of creating a pipeline for women in politics. Wagle, a Wichita Republican, is the only woman among the Legislature's top eight leaders, positions filled by elections among fellow lawmakers. She is the first female Senate president; no woman has served as House speaker. Legislative leaders initiated the sexual harassment policy review after the ex-chief of staff for a former Democratic leader said publicly that a lawmaker once asked her for sex in 2015 and that female college-student interns regularly served as after-hour designated drivers for intoxicated lawmakers in 2016. "Over the years, I do know of complaints that were serious that were taken to our HR department and were dealt with immediately," Wagle said during the news conference without being more specific. Wagle has previously described Legislative Administrative Services as the human resources department for lawmakers. The Legislature's current policy says harassment complaints are brought first to an employee's supervisor or Legislative Administrative Services. The policy does not require an independent review of a complaint, and it does not mandate regular training about sexual harassment for lawmakers. It also says complaints are to be handled as discreetly as possible, and it does not limit interactions between interns and others. Wagle and fellow legislative leaders were scheduled to meet Friday afternoon to review the proposals.
Topeka Chief: Officer Names Will Be Disclosed After Probe
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The interim police chief in Topeka says the names of the two officers involved in the fatal shooting of Dominique White will be disclosed when an internal police investigation is complete. Interim Chief Bill Cochran told the Topeka Capital-Journal that he expects the investigation to conclude by the end of next week. Both officers have been on paid leave since the Sept. 28 shooting. The shooting of the 30-year-old black man has led to protests. Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay announced Wednesday that he would not file criminal charges, declaring use of force reasonable based in part on body camera footage. An attorney for White's family says police did not need to use deadly force. Gillian Cassell-Stiga says the body camera footage shows White was running from police.
UPDATE: FBI Joins Investigation into Wichita 'Swatting' Shooting
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The latest on an officer shooting and killing a man while investigating a false report (all times local):
Police in Wichita say a prankster who lured police to a home in a "swatting" incident is responsible for a fatal officer-involved shooting. A 28-year-old man was fatally shot by an officer Thursday. Relatives have identified him as Andrew Finch. Deputy Police Chief Troy Livingston said at a news conference Friday that a prankster called 911 claiming to be an occupant of the home, saying he had shot his father and was holding his mother and a sibling hostage. When police showed up, Finch went to the front door. Livingston says that when Finch reached toward his waistband, an officer feared he had a gun and shot him. Livingston says Finch was unarmed and no one in the house was hurt. The practice of making a false report to get a SWAT team to a location is known as "swatting." It is most common among online gamers, but relatives say Finch was not a gamer.
The FBI is investigating the fatal police-involved shooting of a man in Wichita. A supervisor at the FBI office in Kansas City, Missouri, confirmed Friday that agents have been asked to join the investigation into the death of 28-year-old Andrew Finch. She declined further comment. Authorities are investigating whether the shooting on Thursday stemmed from someone making up a false report to get a SWAT team to descend upon Finch's home. The practice known as "swatting" is more common among online gamers. Police say they were misled by a call indicating a homicide and hostage situation at the home. Finch was shot by an officer when he opened the door of the family home. His mother told the Wichita Eagle that her son was unarmed. A spokeswoman says a company that runs online gaming tournaments is assisting authorities. UMG Gaming operates online gaming tournaments, including one for the Call of Duty game.
Kansas law makes some false calls to police a felony that can be punished up to 13 months in prison for a first-time offender. Authorities are investigating whether the shooting of a 28-year-old Wichita man by a police officer Thursday stemmed from someone making up a false report to get a SWAT team to descend upon a home. The practice is known as "swatting." In Kansas, it is a misdemeanor to make a false call for emergency, fire or police services. It's a felony to use an electronic device or software to conceal the caller's identity. It's a more severe felony if the call falsely claims to be about violent crime or an immediate danger to a person. While a 13-month prison sentence is possible, the presumed sentence is probation.
A spokeswoman says a company that runs online gaming tournaments is assisting authorities as they investigate the fatal shooting by a police officer of a Kansas man. UMG Gaming operates online gaming tournaments, including one for the Call of Duty game. UMG Vice President Shannon Gerritzen said in an email that the company is "doing everything we can to assist the authorities." Authorities are investigating whether the shooting of 28-year-old Andrew Finch in Wichita stemmed from someone making up a false report to get a SWAT team to descend upon a home. The practice known as "swatting" is more common among online gamers. Police have said they were called to Finch's home Thursday by a false report of a homicide and hostage situation and an officer shot him.
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating whether a deadly police shooting in Wichita stemmed from someone making up a false report to get a SWAT team to descend upon a home in a prank common in the online gaming industry known as "swatting." Deputy Police Chief Troy Livingston said the shooting happened Thursday while an officer was responding to a report that a father had been shot in the head and that the shooter was holding his mother, brother and sister hostage, The Wichita Eagle reports. Livingston said a 28-year-old man was shot as he came to the front door. Livingston said that when officers got inside the house, they didn't find anyone with gunshot wounds. Livingston didn't say what caused the officer to shoot the man or whether he was armed. Police don't think the man fired at officers, but the incident is still under investigation, he said. The man died at a hospital. The man hasn't been identified by police. But Madeline Finch identified the victim as her nephew, Andrew Finch. She said the family was "saddened" but declined to comment further. Livingston says police are investigating whether the call that led to the shooting was a prank. Officer Paul Cruz told The Associated Press that more information would be released at a news conference, which has been moved to 4 p.m., and that he couldn't comment. The officer who fired the shot — a seven-year veteran of the police department — will be placed on administrative paid leave, which is department policy. Several people inside the home are being interviewed. Swatting is believed to be more common among the online gaming community. The FBI estimates that roughly 400 cases of swatting occur annually, with some using caller ID spoofing to disguise their number. In January, three families in Florida had to evacuate their homes in Florida after a detective received an anonymous email claiming bombs had been placed at the address. A 20-year-old Maryland man was shot in the face with rubber bullets by police in 2015 after a fake hostage situation was reported at his home. Representative Katherine Clark, a Massachusetts Democrat, introduced an anti-swatting bill in 2015 — then was herself the victim of swatting. Armed officers in 2016 responded to an anonymous call claiming an active shooter was at Clark's home.
Mom Says Son 'Murdered' by Wichita Police
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The mother of a Kansas man killed by police responding to a false report of a homicide and hostage situation says her son was "murdered." Lisa Finch told The Wichita Eagle that her son, Andrew Finch, was unarmed when he opened the door to the family's home Thursday night after hearing something. She said he screamed and was shot. She said the family then was forced outside barefoot in freezing cold and that her granddaughter was forced to step over her dying uncle. Police are investigating whether the call that led police to the home was a so-called "swatting" prank in which someone makes up a false report to get a SWAT team to descend upon a home. It's more common among online gamers, although Lisa Finch says he didn't play video games.
Kansas Congressional Candidate Sees Action During Police Ride-Along
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas congressional candidate who joked about seeing "some action" on a police ride-along promptly found herself ducking for cover. The Wichita Eagle reports that Democratic 4th District candidate Laura Lombard said she was riding with Officer James Wannow on Wednesday morning when she became part of a police response to a high-speed chase in which shots were fired. The chase involved a man reported to be stealing mail in a stolen vehicle. Since she was in the car, they pulled over onto a side street, just to be safe. Lombard said the officer told her to "get down" after the dispatcher said that shots had been fired. Lombard, a businesswoman, said Wannow ended up doing traffic control. Since they were some distance away, she did not see the arrest.
Woman Dies in Lawrence Shooting that May Have Been Accidental
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Police in Lawrence are investigating the fatal shooting of a woman, though indications are that it may have been accidental. Police say 30-year-old Lei Ala A. Turner was killed Wednesday night at an apartment. She died of a single gunshot wound to the chest. Investigators say they have identified a suspect and are trying to find him, even though initial indications are that the shooting was an accident. Authorities have not elaborated on the evidence indicating the shooting may have been accidental.
Wichita Police: Man Wounded After Firing Shots at Officers During Pursuit
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A suspect is hospitalized but expected to survive after being shot in the jaw by police in Wichita. Deputy Police Chief Troy Livingston says a man shot at officers responding to a disturbance call at a business on Wednesday. Police returned fire. Officers were not struck by gunfire and the man took off in a stolen car. Police say he shot at another officer during the chase and swerved the car at an officer deploying stop sticks. The chase ended with a crash and the suspect was apprehended. He is hospitalized in fair but stable condition. A woman who was with the man is in custody. Police say one officer suffered a hand injury, but it isn't yet clear how. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is assisting in the investigation.
Police Investigate Body Found in Kansas River
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas City, Kansas police are investigating a body found in the Kansas River. Officer Zac Blair in a statement said that a water pollution staffer found the body Thursday morning near James and Third streets. The Kansas City Star reported that fire department crews helped retrieve it from the river. Blair told the newspaper that police think the body belongs to a male but said the identity and cause of death is unclear. He said the body appeared to have been on the riverbank for a while.
Authorities Search for Suspects in 2 Separate Kansas City Killings
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities are asking for help finding two suspects in two separate Kansas City killings. KMBC-TV reports that prosecutors have issued arrest warrants for Malik Chapple and Deric Canady. Both men are 21. Chapple is charged with second-degree murder, robbery, child endangerment and two counts of armed criminal action in the death of 25-year-old Travis Mills. Court records say Mills had bought $750 of marijuana in Colorado and decided to sell it to Chapple earlier this month in an apartment parking lot. Chapple is accused of bringing a toddler to the drug deal and shooting Mills after a struggle. Authorities said Canady is wanted in the November 2016 shooting death of Greican Davidson. Canady is charged with second-degree murder, unlawful use of a weapon and two counts of armed criminal action.
As Deep Freeze Takes Hold of U.S., People Urged to Help Most Vulnerable, Take Care of Pets
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — As a deep freeze sets in across half the country, officials are urging people to help those most vulnerable, especially the homeless and the elderly. Forecasters are warning people to be wary of hypothermia and frostbite from the arctic blast that's gripping a large swath from the Midwest to the Northeast. The prolonged, dangerous cold weather has sent advocates for the homeless scrambling to get people off the streets and to bring in extra beds for them. The Ohio Department of Aging says older people are at increased risk from such severe cold, from medication side effects to falling risks. The department is encouraging people to check on family members, friends and neighbors. Animal advocates are urging people to remember their pets and not to leave them outside.
Survey Asks Child Advocates About Treatment of Gay Couples
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State auditors have found that less than a quarter of the court-appointed advocates for foster children surveyed say prospective same-sex parents are treated differently than heterosexual couples. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that auditors also found that about 37 percent of those surveyed were aware of a child who was moved from or denied a placement in an LGBT home. In the report released earlier this month, auditors said the results couldn't be taken as a sample of all guardians ad litem because the total response rate was only 34 percent. The auditors also noted that many didn't answer the question about how same-sex couples are treated. Former Kansas Department for Children and Families Secretary Phyllis Gilmore said the survey clearly encouraged "only those who believe an issue exists" to respond.
Wichita Man Sentenced in 2015 Sexual Assault of Runaways
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man who was convicted of sexually assaulting two runaway girls in 2015 has been sentenced to more than 27 years in prison. The Wichita Eagle reports that 40-year-old Jordan Lewis was sentenced Dec. 21 in Sedgwick County District Court. He was found guilty on several charges, including aggravated indecent liberties with a child and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. Prosecutors say Lewis offered a ride in November 2015 to two teenage girls who'd run away from a group home before he pulled a gun on them. Prosecutors say he drove the girls to a house, where he and another man sexually assaulted them. Court records show 54-year-old Roderick Martin is also charged in the case. His trial on aggravated human trafficking and rape charges is set for February.
Police: Missouri Suspect Shot Wife, Then Ran Her Over
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man has been charged with fatally shooting his estranged wife and running her over with a car. Thirty-five-year-old Howard Tyrone Neely, of Kansas City, was charged Thursday with second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the Dec. 16 killing of Joegina Davis. Bond is set at $250,000. No attorney is listed for him in online court records. Court records say a witness told police he was driving on a south Kansas City road when he saw Davis in the street. The witness said Davis told him that Neely shot and ran her over. She died at a hospital. Relatives told police Neely had abused Davis in the past. Prosecutors say a shell casing recovered from a September shooting in Kansas City, Kansas, linked Neely to both crimes.
Report: African-American Babies at Higher Risk of Death
LAWERENCE, Kan. (AP) — A new report from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment is raising concerns about the mortality rate for African-American babies. The health department report found that the overall infant mortality rate of 5.9 per 1,000 live births in 2016 was unchanged from the year before and in line with the national average. But the Lawrence Journal-World reports that the death rate for African-American babies was 15.2 per 1,000 live births — nearly three times higher than the mortality rate for white or Hispanic infants. KDHE spokesman Jerry Kratochvil says the agency is unable to explain the disparity, but it is consistent with national patterns.
Kansas Delays Launch of New System for Driver's Licenses
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is delaying the launch of a new computer system for issuing driver's licenses. The Department of Revenue announced Wednesday what it called a slight delay for the KanLicense system that was supposed to launch January 2. The announcement came less than two weeks after a state audit raised questions about whether the system would be ready. The new system would replace a decades-old system and initially was to be deployed early in 2012. The department said the latest delay will be "only a matter of days or weeks" and that driver's licenses offices will remain open. Revenue Secretary Sam Williams said testing showed that the system needed a little more work. He also said launching it as planned would require hundreds of employees to work on New Year's Day.
NAACP Branch Opposes Weapons Screening Effort at Westport
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City's NAACP branch says it opposes a weapon-screening effort in the Westport bar and entertainment district that involves privatizing some sidewalks in the area. The Kansas City Star reports that the civil rights organization plans to formally announce its opposition at a news conference today (FRI). Last week, the city council voted in favor of a pair of ordinances that would allow the city to relinquish its ownership of sidewalks along the district's main corridors to the Westport Community Improvement District. The action will allow metal detection checkpoints on weekend nights starting in the spring. Opponents worry the approach could lead to discrimination and sets a bad precedent of giving away public assets to private interests. NAACP officials say the ordinances may "increase civil rights violations, and increase racial tension."
Unclaimed Lottery Ticket Worth $7.3 Million Purchased from KC Store
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Lottery is looking for the winner of a $7.3 million Lotto jackpot. The lottery announced Thursday that the winning ticket was purchased from the Brooklyn Mart in Kansas City. It contains the number combination of 5, 11, 14, 30, 33 and 34. The jackpot number was drawn on Wednesday. Lotto is a twice-weekly game with a jackpot that starts at $1 million and grows until someone wins. The winner has until June 25 to claim the prize.