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Headlines for Friday, July 13, 2018

Kobach, Colyer Exchange Strong Criticisms During Debate

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — The last party-sponsored debate between GOP candidates for Kansas governor grew heated as Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Gov. Jeff Colyer spent much of the evening criticizing each other and audience members frequently booed. The debate Thursday night at Johnson County Community College highlighted how the campaign between the two leading candidates has become increasingly bitter with the primary less than a month away, The Kansas City Star reported . Colyer focused on Kobach's performance in a federal court lawsuit where he sought to defend previous proof-of-citizenship requirements for voters. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson ruled last month that Kansas cannot require documentary proof of U.S. citizenship to register to vote and struck down the law, which Kobach had championed. She also found Kobach in contempt of court for not complying with previous orders. He was fined $1,000 last year and faces more sanctions, including being required to attend classes on legal procedure. "Integrity is an issue for Republicans and there is only one candidate on this stage who has been fined by a federal judge for lying," Colyer said as Kobach's supporters booed. Kobach defended the law during his opening statement but didn't mention it had been found to be unconstitutional. During his closing statement, Kobach said he would be more than just "a steady hand on the tiller" in defending conservative social values. "We're going to have to fight for our values. We're going to have to fight like a third monkey trying to get on Noah's Ark. You understand me?" he said. The two also sparred over an art display at the University of Kansas that included an altered U.S. flag, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported . Colyer and Kobach had both demanded that the display be taken down and it was eventually moved from an outside exhibit to inside the Spencer Museum of Art. "I was appalled to see this happen," Colyer, who called the university's chancellor Wednesday to ask that the display be taken down. Kobach noted he demanded that the display be taken down four hours before Colyer did and said the compromise to move it was not enough. "You don't want a governor who declares a symbolic victory," Kobach said. The two other GOP candidates, Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer and Patrick Kucera, a Johnson County businessman and preacher, offered more low-key perspective during the debate. At one point, Selzer walked to the front of the stage, smiled and said, "I hope you see me as a calm and sensible business person." "If this is what politics is, it makes me want to jump off the stage," quipped Kucera, a Johnson County businessman and preacher mounting a long-shot bid for the nomination. Despite the testiness of the debate, all the candidates pledged to support the eventual winner of the August GOP primary.

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Guns a Hot Issue for Democrats in Kansas Governor's Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democrats running for Kansas governor are falling in line with the national gun-control movement stirring the party's liberal base. And they're doing it even if it means disavowing a loosening of gun laws in recent years that had played well in their gun-friendly state. The top three Democratic contenders ahead of the August 7 primary agree that Kansas has gone too far in allowing concealed guns on college campuses and letting people carry concealed weapons without requiring a state permit or mandating training. But one of them, state Senator Laura Kelly, voted for those policies while representing a Republican-leaning district in the Topeka area. She and many Republican lawmakers did so even after a mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012. She's been on the defensive about such votes in recent forums.

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Thompson Brings Democratic Star Power to Kansas House Race

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will bring the national spotlight to her first campaign event outside of New York when she and Sen. Bernie Sanders travel to Kansas to help Democrat James Thompson in a congressional race. The rally for Thompson on July 20 at the Orpheum Theatre in Wichita is billed as the first joint event for Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez since her stunning primary victory in New York. Thompson mounted a surprisingly close special election race last year that as emboldened Democrats eying a possible 2018 rematch in November in the heavily Republican district. Thompson faces Laura Lombard in the state's August 7 Democratic primary. Republican U.S. Rep. Ron Estes won a tougher-than-expected special election against Thompson for the Wichita-area seat formerly held by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

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Former Kansas State Trooper Sentenced for Excessive Force

OSWEGO, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas Highway Patrol trooper who admitted to kicking a handcuffed man has been sentenced to nine months in prison. James Carson, of Independence, was sentenced Thursday for violating the civil rights of a man he arrested in June 2013. U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said in a news release that Carson was taking a handcuffed man into the booking area of the Labette County jail when he kicked the man's legs out from underneath him. The kick caused them man to fall on his back on the floor. Carson admitted that he had no legitimate law enforcement reason for forcing the man to fall. At least five other law enforcement officials were present. As part of his plea agreement, Carson agreed to relinquish his law enforcement credentials.

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Man Sentenced to Life in Death of 3-Month-Old Baby

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A Manhattan man has been sentenced to life in prison for killing his ex-girlfriend's baby.  The Manhattan Mercury reports that 28-year-old Andrew Gibson must serve 25 years of his sentence for first-degree murder in the May 2016 death of 3-month-old Serenity Reich before becoming eligible for parole. He also was sentenced Thursday to three years for child abuse.  Gibson previously dated Serenity's mother, Ariel Reich-Wille. While she was out of town, Gibson volunteered to watch her two children, including Serenity, at his apartment.  While being interrogated, Gibson told investigators he pushed the infant's face into a mattress top. A medical examiner determined Serenity died from asphyxiation. The medical examiner also found bruises on the baby's scalp and upper back, as well as multiple rib fractures that had started to heal.

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Deadly House Fire Under Investigation in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say one person has died in a house fire in Topeka.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that firefighters responded early this (FRI) morning to the home where the body was found. The Topeka Fire Department wasn't immediately releasing the name, age or gender of the person who died. Topeka and state fire officials are investigating the blaze.

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Kansas Water Park Plans to Tear Down Slide on Which Boy Was Killed

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas water park plans to tear down a giant water slide on which a 10-year-old boy died in 2016.  The Kansas City Star reports an attorney representing an affiliate of Kansas City, Kansas, park operator Schlitterbahn said Thursday that the 17-story slide called Verruckt would start coming down about a week after Labor Day.  Attorney Melanie Morgan says the work is expected to take about three weeks. The Kansas City park posted a statement on its Facebook page saying it had received court approval to demolish the ride.  Caleb Schwab was killed in August 2016 while riding the waterslide. His death led to criminal charges against the company that built the slide and five individuals, including Schlitterbahn's co-owner.  Schlitterbahn says Caleb's death was a tragic accident.

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Subcontractor from Lawrence in Vicinity of Wisconsin Explosion

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A communications company is clarifying where its subcontractor was working when a natural gas explosion killed a Wisconsin firefighter this week.  Authorities say a crew ruptured a gas main in downtown Sun Prairie on Tuesday, leading to an explosion that devastated a half-block and killed firefighter Corry Barr.  Verizon Wireless said Thursday it had contracted with Lawrence, Kansas-based Bear Communications for a fiber project in Sun Prairie. Bear released a statement Thursday saying a subcontractor was working "on site" but gave no details.  A Bear spokesman says the subcontractor was working in the "vicinity" of the explosion. He says the workers were evacuated ahead of the blast. He declined any additional comment.  It's unclear whether the subcontractor was responsible for rupturing the line.

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Lawsuit: ADT Didn't Alert Officers to Alarms for Kansas Fire

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A lawsuit alleges that security services company ADT received alarms at a burning Topeka home with a woman inside but didn't alert authorities about the deadly fire. The Kansas City Star reports that the wrongful death lawsuit was filed Wednesday on behalf of Elizabeth Frost's child. Frost died of carbon monoxide poisoning from inhaling smoke and soot inside her burning home August 2016. The lawsuit says ADT received two alarms regarding the fire. But the lawsuit says the company didn't alert officers and cleared the incident about an hour before city employees noticed the fire and alerted responders, who pulled Frost's body from the home. The suit accuses ADT of negligence, fraud, deception and breaching the Kansas Consumer Protection Act. ADT has declined to comment to The Associated Press citing pending litigation.

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Kansas Suspends Day Care License in Colby

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says it has issued an emergency suspension order against a licensed day care home in Colby. The order Friday says the agency received information related to two separate incidents occurring on June 28 and July 12 at the Mighty Mites and Little Tikes home. The order does not specify the nature of those incidents. But day care operator Michelle Lippelmann says one of the incidents involved an altercation between her daughter and ex-boyfriend in her front yard. The other involved a since-fired employee and volunteer who had sent bare-chested pictures of themselves sent to a man when Lippelmann was not in the home. She says none of the 12 children in her care were in danger and she plans to appeal.

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Guards Charged with Killing Man Outside Missouri Bar

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two security guards have been charged with fatally shooting a man outside a Kansas City bar.  Thirty-seven-year-old Christopher Jones and 22-year-old Markell Pinkins were charged Wednesday with second-degree murder in the death of 45-year-old Kevin Thomas. No attorneys are listed for them.  Police say Thomas struck a parked vehicle across the street from the Yum Yum Bar & Grill in January while the guards were stationed at the door.  A witness said the guards repeatedly asked Thomas to turn off the car after a passenger exited Thomas' car and said Thomas was drunk. The witness said Thomas' car inched forward before the guards opened fire.  Police say the guards acknowledged lacking the authority to handle incidents off the bar's premises. A third guard is charged with hiding Jones' gun afterward.

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Ex-Kansas Sheriff's Lieutenant Sentenced for Stealing Cash

ABILENE, Kan. (AP) — A former sheriff's lieutenant was placed on two years of probation for stealing more than $22,000 in cash from the Dickinson County Sheriff's Office.  Forty-nine-year-old Gregory Swanson was sentenced for felony theft Wednesday after pleading guilty in April. He also admitted stealing more than $3,400 in money used by the Drug Enforcement Unit to buy narcotics.  The Salina Journal reports Swanson expressed remorse before being sentenced. He was ordered to serve five days in jail before his probation.  He resigned in May 2017 after serving in the sheriff's department for nearly five years. He also agreed to permanently forfeit his law enforcement credentials in Kansas and other states. He worked for 19 years in the Saline County Sheriff's office before moving to Dickinson County.

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Train Hits, Injures Person on Bridge East of Manhattan

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a train has struck and injured a person on a bridge just east of Manhattan.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that emergency crews responded just after 7 am. Wednesday to the railroad bridge over the Big Blue River in western Pottawatomie County. Sheriff Greg Riat says the injured person was receiving medical treatment but the extent of that person's injuries wasn't immediately known.  Riat says the Union Pacific Railroad is investigating. No other details were immediately released.

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Kris Kobach Wants Controversial Flag Display Out of KU Art Museum

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State and candidate for governor Kris Kobach is telling the University of Kansas to remove from the Spencer Museum of Art an art display featuring an altered American flag.  The display, which had flown on a flag pole on the Lawrence campus, was taken down Wednesday and moved to the museum after Kobach, Governor Jeff Colyer and other Republican political candidates complained that it was disrespectful.  Kansas Chancellor Doug Girod said in a statement that the display, which was part of a national art project called "Pledges of Allegiance," caused conversations on Wednesday that generated public safety concerns. He didn't elaborate.  Kobach, who is running against Colyer in the GOP primary, said Colyer's demand that the flag be taken down didn't solve the problem.

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Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill: DEA Failed as Opioids Flowed into Missouri

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill says federal drug enforcement officials didn't hold major drug distributors accountable while prescription opioids flowed into Missouri between 2012 and 2017.  McCaskill released a report Wednesday that she says found three major distributors reported wildly different numbers of suspicious shipments of opioids to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. She says the federal agency didn't use its authority to issue immediate suspension orders to stop the distributors from making questionable shipments.  The Kansas City Star reports that DEA spokesman Rusty Payne says the agency increased its drug diversion squads from 46 in 2012 to 77 currently to stem the opioid crisis. He says the agency started 1,500 cases and made nearly 2,000 arrests per year in opioid cases in the last seven years.

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Wichita Father of Boy Found Dead Admits to Hitting Another Child

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The father of a 5-year-old Kansas boy whose body was found months after he was reporting missing has pleaded guilty to hitting another child.  Thirty-four-year-old Jonathan Hernandez, of Wichita, was sentenced Wednesday to one year of probation and ordered to complete a parenting class after admitting to misdemeanor battery.  Prosecutors said in a news release that Hernandez struck his girlfriend's 6-year-old, causing redness and swelling on the boy's chest.  Emily Glass was Hernandez's live-in girlfriend, and police described her as the stepmother of Hernandez's son, Lucas. She reported Lucas missing in February and fatally shot herself last month after leading an investigator to Lucas' body in May. Prosecutors didn't charge her in Lucas' death but described her as a person of interest. Lucas' cause of death couldn't be determined.

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Westar Launches Efforts to Meet Green Energy Needs

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas utility company has launched a new program aiming to make it easier for large businesses to access affordable green energy.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Kansas Corporation Commission on Tuesday approved the Direct Renewable Participation Service by Westar Energy. The approval led to Westar announcing a day later that it has reached a 20-year agreement with a NextEra Energy Resources affiliate to purchase energy from a new 300-megawatt wind farm being developed in Nemaha County.  Westar officials say the program offers large commercial businesses a way to meet sustainability goals by accessing Kansas wind energy. Participating businesses will be able to claim part of the energy generated by the wind farm as their own.  The wind farm is expected to be operational by 2020.

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Woman Who Murdered Wichita Mother and Kidnapped Baby Sentenced

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Texas woman who killed a Wichita mother and kidnapped her newborn daughter has been sentenced to 55 years in prison. Thirty-six-year-old Yesenia Sesmas was sentenced Friday in Sedgwick County to 50 years for the November 2016 death of 27-year-old Laura Abarca-Nogueda. She was also sentenced to five years for kidnapping and 13 months for aggravated interference of parental custody, which will run concurrently. Sesmas will not be eligible for parole for 50 years. Sesmas was convicted last month of killing Abarca, a former co-worker, and taking the 6-day-old baby to Texas. The baby, Sophia Gonzales, was found safe a few days later with Sesmas in Dallas. She is being raised by her father and other relatives. Sesmas claimed during trial that the shooting was accidental.

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