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Headlines for Friday, June 21, 2019

President Trump Approves Disaster Funds for Parts of Kansas

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has approved a disaster declaration covering more than half of Kansas's 105 counties. The federal assistance approved Thursday will provide service and funds to help recovery from severe weather that began on April 28 and included tornadoes and flooding. The declaration provides funding for emergency work, repair and replacement of damaged facilities and mitigation of hazards. Kansas received 10.26 inches of rain in May, more than double the 30-year average of 4.12 inches. And an EF-4 tornado that hit May 28 caused substantial damage in parts of Douglas and Leavenworth counties.


Ex-Senate Leader to Help Lead Kansas Governor's Tax Study

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has named former state Senate President Steve Morris as co-chairman of a council she is creating to review the state's tax laws.  The Democratic governor said Thursday that Morris will lead her Council on Tax Reform along with former state Sen. Janis Lee.  Morris is a moderate Hugoton Republican who was Senate president from 2005 through 2012.  He lost his Senate seat in a primary-election purge in 2012 by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback's conservative allies. Morris and Brownback had been at odds over income tax cuts championed by Brownback.  Lee is a Kensington Democrat who served in the Senate from 1989 through 2010.  Kelly said she would appoint a tax study group after vetoing two tax relief bills pushed by Republican lawmakers.


Judge: Videos Don't Clear Officers in Topeka Suspect's Death

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that videos from white officers' body cameras do not show conclusively that a black suspect reached for a gun in a pocket of his shorts before Topeka police shot him to death in September 2017. U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree said this week that the video footage was "equivocal, at best" in a ruling that allows attorneys for suspect Dominique White's family to question two officers. White's father filed a civil rights lawsuit in June 2018 on behalf of himself and White's four young children against the city, Officers Michael Cruse and Justin Mackey and five unnamed officers. The family contends that White's shooting wasn't legally justified. The city has asked to have the lawsuit settled in its favor and dismissed before a trial, arguing that the officers' use of deadly force was reasonable, so that neither they nor the city can be sued for damages. The local district attorney declared the shooting justified, and an internal police review said the officers followed department procedures.

"But, a reasonable jury could conclude that Mr. White momentarily lost his balance after spinning out of Officer Cruse's grasp, then moved his hand consistent with a running motion, but did not reach for his pocket," Crabtree wrote in his decision.

Police were responding to reports of gunfire near a park when they confronted the 30-year-old White. He was armed and just months out of prison after being prosecuted for burglary and illegal gun possession. Officers shot him as he fled. Attorneys for the city and the officers argued that Cruse and Mackey did not need to be questioned by the White family's lawyers because the body camera footage showed that White reached for a gun in a pocket. But Crabtree disagreed, saying in his decision that "the videos alone" from Cruse and Mackey's body cameras do not establish that White reached for a gun. The judge said he would have to rely on Cruse's and Mackey's statements to reach that conclusion.

"The court has viewed both videos multiple times and finds the videos equivocal, at best, on whether Mr. White reached for his gun," Crabtree wrote.

The judge also said lawyers for the White family could seek information from the city about statements Cruse and Mackey made about their decisions to fire their weapons.


Heavy May Rain and Flooding Delaying Kansas Wheat Harvest

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — This spring's heavy rain and flooding has sharply delayed Kansas' wheat harvest, which is usually in full swing by mid-June. The wheat harvest generally starts between early and mid-June and wraps up by mid-July. But the Kansas Wheat Commission says only 1% of the state's wheat crop had been harvested as of Sunday. Typically, about 12% of the crop is harvested by that point, and last year 20% had been harvested by mid-June, The Wichita Eagle reported . The state received 10.26 inches of rain in May, which was more than double the 30-year average of 4.12 inches. It was the wettest May ever recorded in Kansas. Also, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says only 21 percent of Kansas' wheat crop is mature, compared with almost 60 percent at this time last year. The wet fields make it difficult and unwise to harvest, said Jeff Seiler, agriculture and natural resources extension agent for Sedgwick County. He said taking heavy machinery into wet fields could hurt future harvests. Soybean farmers in Kansas harvested last year's crop in damp fields, which caused deeper ruts in the soil and could affect the growth of this year's crop, he said. Marsha Boswell, a spokeswoman for the Wheat Commission, said it is too early to tabulate the potential yield and quality of this year's crop. Scott Van Allen, a wheat farmer near Clearwater, said he would be finished harvesting his crop in a typical year but he hadn't even started as of this week. He said he's hoping for several consecutive days of windy, warm weather to dry up the fields.

"A day or two of dry weather doesn't help us much," Van Allen said. "That still leaves a lot of harvest left to finish."


Man Who Surrendered After Standoff Charged in Mother's Death

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 43-year-old Topeka man is charged with first-degree murder in the death of his mother. Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay announced Thursday that David Wood Jr. is charged in the death of 69-year-old Kyong "Carol" Wood. He is also charged with felony interference with law enforcement. Investigators say the victim was found dead Sunday inside her home. Kagay says she died from blunt force trauma. David Wood was arrested after a nearly five-hour standoff. He surrendered when police fired tear gas into the house. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Wood is being held in the Shawnee County Jail and on $1 million bond.


Salina Police Investigate Unauthorized Cash Withdrawals

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Salina police are investigating a widespread bank card fraud in the area. Since Sunday, police have received 147 reports of compromised bank cards, all from Sunflower Bank Customers or people who used a Sunflower ATM machine. KSAL reports Salina Detective Sgt. David Villanueva says the reports started Sunday, when four people reported unauthorized cash withdrawals from their bank accounts. He says the thieves have stolen PIN codes and use those to withdraw the cash. The total amount of losses has not been released but investigators say some people lost thousands of dollars. Authorities say withdrawals using the stolen numbers have been reported in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and in Kansas City, Missouri.


1 Man Hospitalized, Another in Custody After Police Standoff

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say one man is hospitalized and another is in custody after a standoff with police ended in an exchange of gunfire.  Police received a report about 3 a.m. Thursday that a man had been shot. The Hutchinson News reported that police identified 21-year-old Brendon Jones and an 18-year-old as suspects and located them in a home about four hours later.  Police Chief Jeffrey Hooper says police negotiated with the men by telephone, and the 18-year-old surrendered about 11:15 a.m. Hooper says Jones came out about 15 minutes later, but began shooting at police. Police returned fire and shot Jones multiple times. Jones was airlifted to a hospital in Wichita. His condition wasn't immediately available.


Couple Charged After 5-Year-Old Weighs Only 28 Pounds

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — Johnson County authorities say a couple is charged with child abuse and endangerment after they brought a 5-year-old boy to a hospital weighing only 28 pounds.  The Kansas City Star reports 28-year-old Elizabeth Francis and 35-year-old John Carter, of Shawnee, are each charged with abuse of a child and aggravated endangerment of a child.  Court documents say investigators were called to Children's Mercy Hospital in December. Doctors said the boy suffered malnutrition from starvation, a distended stomach and a perforated bowel caused by blunt force trauma. He also had bruises on most of his body.  He was taken into protective custody after hospital staff told investigators the child had lost 10 pounds since he had been to the hospital in September.  Francis and Carter are each jailed on $100,000 bond.


Worker Killed in Tree Cutting Accident near Silver Lake

SILVER LAKE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a 31-year-old Topeka man died while trimming trees.  The Shawnee County Sheriff's Office says Cory Harr died Thursday near Silver Lake in northwest Shawnee County.  WIBW reports Harr worked for Capital City Tree Care. He did not live at the scene of the accident.  Further details about the circumstances of Harr's death weren't immediately available.


Australian Photographer Killed in Kansas Crash

ANTHONY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a photographer from Australia died in a crash in southern Kansas.  The Kansas Highway Patrol says 36-year-old Dale Sharpe, of Tugun, in Queensland, died in the crash Thursday in Harper County.  Sharpe hit a deer on Kansas 42, disabling his car. When the vehicle's engine began billowing smoke, Sharpe got out of the car and went into a nearby ditch to wait for help.  The patrol says a driver trying to avoid hitting Shaper's vehicle steered his car into the ditch, hitting the photographer.  Sharpe died at Harper County Community hospital. The other driver was not hurt.


Kansas Woman Sentenced to 5 Years for Child Porn on Phone

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 24-year-old Kansas woman has been sentenced to five years in federal prison for having child pornography on her phone.  Kayla Michelle Simpson, of Junction City, was sentenced Thursday for possessing child pornography.  U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said in a news release that law enforcement officers seized Simpson's phone in September 2016.  Prosecutors say the phone contained images of Simpson having sex with a juvenile female.  The Wichita Eagle reports Simpson was previously convicted of a child sex crime in Geary County. State prison records show she was convicted in 2015 of indecent solicitation of a child. She was in prison after an April 2017 probation violation then was paroled in February 2018.


Nurse Charged with Raping Patient at Hospital in Independence, Missouri

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — The prosecutor in Jackson County, Missouri, says a nurse has been charged with raping a patient at a hospital in Independence.  The prosecutor said Wednesday that 35-year-old Chukwuemeka Emmanuel, of Overland Park, Kansas, is charged with first-degree rape.  Emmanuel was a "float nurse" employed by Parallon. Centerpoint Medical Center officials said in a statement that he had been fired.  The Kansas City Star reports Independence police received a report of a sexual assault at the hospital on June 15.  Court records say the woman told police Emmanuel raped her after she asked him to help clean her because her catheter was leaking.  The hospital said the patient was being given pain medication at the time of the alleged rape.  A warrant has been issued for Emmanuel, who is not in custody.


Kansas Senator Jerry Moran Votes to Block Arm Sales to Saudi Arabia

WASHINGTON (AP) — Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran has broken with most other Republican senators in voting to block President Donald Trump's administration from selling arms to Saudi Arabia.  The Kansas City Star reports that Moran supported two resolutions Thursday disapproving of Trump's use of emergency authority to make the sales.  Moran was among seven Republicans to vote for the two measures. Fellow Kansas Republican Pat Roberts voted against them.  One resolution objected to arm sales based on the Saudi regime's involvement in a civil war in Yemen and evidence of a role in the murder of U.S.-based columnist Jamal Khashoggi.  Moran said the resolutions prevent Congress from being bypassed on arm sales.  Trump is expected to veto the measures. They passed 53-45, well short of the two-thirds majority necessary to override a veto.


2 More Duck Boat Workers Indicted in Sinking that Killed 17

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal grand jury has indicted two more employees of a company that owns a duck boat that sank on a Missouri lake last summer, killing 17 people.  The U.S. attorney's office says the Branson operation's general manager, 36-year-old Curtis Lanham, of Galena, was indicted on misconduct and neglect charges. The manager on duty, 76-year-old Charles Baltzell, of Kirbyville, also was charged.  The 47-count indictment was unsealed and made public Thursday by the Springfield grand jury following their initial court appearances.  The boat's captain, Kenneth Scott McKee, was indicted previously on charges alleging that he failed to properly asses the weather and failed to tell passengers to don flotation devices as conditions worsened.  The amphibious vehicle he was piloting sank at Table Rock Lake near Branson after it entered the lake despite severe weather warnings. Fourteen people survived.


Officials: Rain, High Reservoir Releases to Mean Wet Summer

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The continued threat of rain and higher-than-normal reservoir releases into the Missouri River will hamper the draining of flooded fields and delay repairs to many damaged levees.  Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Weather Service said Thursday during a news conference that although water levels on the river have dropped below flood stage in most places, rain over the next week could cause parts of the river to rise as much as 2 feet from Rulo, Nebraska, to where it meets the Mississippi River in St. Louis.  Increased reservoir releases are also keeping swamped land from drying out. The Corps reiterated Thursday that releases from Gavins Point Dam on the Nebraska-South Dakota border will remain at 75,000 cubic feet per second until next Thursday, when officials plan to drop that amount to 70,000 cubic feet per second. That's still about twice the normal amount for this time of year.


2 Mexican Nationals Sentenced in Kansas City Heroin Ring

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two Mexican nationals have been sentenced for their roles in a conspiracy that distributed more than 14 kilograms (30.86 pounds) of heroin in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Federal prosecutors say 46-year-old Julian Felix-Aguirre was sentenced Wednesday to 24 years and seven months in prison without parole. And 38-year-old Martin Missael Puerta-Navarro was sentenced to 14 years and eight months without parole. The two are among 26 people charged in the case, with 16 of them now sentenced. Prosecutors say the drug ring worked with the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico to establish stash houses, build hidden compartments in vehicles, and receive and sell black tar heroin. Court documents say 66-year-old Dennis McLallen, of Overland Park, Kansas, was the direct contact with Mexico-based drug suppliers. He is serving 15 years without parole.


Immunity Offer Extended to Man Accused in 1999 Oklahoma Slayings Case

VINITA, Okla. (AP) — Court paperwork shows immunity has been offered to a man charged with murder in the 1999 deaths of a northeast Oklahoma couple and the presumed deaths of the couple's teenage daughter and her friend. The June 14 filing says 67-year-old Ronnie Dean Busick was offered immunity in exchange for information in the case but that he isn't competent to detail his involvement or that of two men who are now dead. Defense Attorney Gregg Graves and Craig County District Attorney spokeswoman Michelle Lowry declined comment Friday. Busick's case was continued pending a mental evaluation . Busick was charged in 2018 in the December 30, 1999, deaths of Danny Freeman and his wife Kathy Freeman, whose bodies were found in their burning home near the Kansas border, and the disappearances of their 16-year-old daughter, Ashley Freeman, and her 16-year-old friend, Lauria Bible.


Wind Farm in Southwest Missouri / Southeast Kansas Approved

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — Construction is scheduled to begin this fall on a wind project in southwest Missouri and southeast Kansas.  Liberty Utilities-Empire District announced Thursday the Missouri Public Service Commission has approved the project, which the utility says is an investment of more than $1 billion.  The Joplin Globe reports the utility will place about 140 turbines in parts of Jasper, Barton, Lawrence and Dade counties in Missouri. Another 139 turbines will be erected in Neosho County, Kansas.  Construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.  Empire's original proposal called for a $1.5 billion project to generate 800 megawatts of wind energy and closing its coal-fired plant in Asbury more than 15 years early. During negotiations, the utility agreed to delay closing the coal-fired plant and to reduce the targeted production to 600 megawatts.


Missouri Faces Deadline to Decide on Abortion Clinic License

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The battle over Missouri's only abortion clinic is back in court Friday, the deadline a judge imposed for the state to decide whether to renew the clinic's license.  Missouri's health department allowed the St. Louis Planned Parenthood clinic's abortion license to lapse effective June 1. Rulings by St. Louis Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer allowed the clinic to temporarily remain open.  Stelzer also told the state it can't simply let the license lapse but must either renew it or deny it. He gave the health department until Friday to decide. That decision could be announced at the court hearing.  According to Planned Parenthood, no state has been without a functioning abortion clinic since 1974, the year after the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.


License of Ex-Trooper in Missouri Drowning Case Revoked Again

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former Missouri trooper who was convicted of a misdemeanor in the drowning death of a handcuffed Iowa man has lost another attempt to get his job back.  The Kansas City Star reports that the Missouri's Department of Public Safety again revoked Anthony Piercy's license to be an officer this week. Deputy director Kenny Jones wrote that "an individual in custody is entitled to safe treatment from his arresting officer." Jones' decision was in response to a judge reversing the initial revocation of Piercy's license last month because the agency didn't provide an adequate explanation.  Piercy was driving 20-year-old Brandon Ellingson, of Clive, Iowa, for a breath test at the Lake of the Ozarks in 2014 when Ellingson fell off the boat and slipped out of an improperly secured life vest.


Lee's Summit Board Approves Controversial Equity Training

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. (AP) — The Lee's Summit School Board has reversed an earlier decision and approved equity training for teachers and district staff.  The board voted 6-1 Wednesday to pay St. Louis-based Educational Equity Consultants $97,000 for one year of training, with an option for three more years.  The decision came a month after the board refused to approve spending for the training, prompting a frustrated Superintendent Dennis Carpenter to suggest the board consider buying out his contract. Carpenter, the first black superintendent in a largely-white district, had proposed the training to promote racial equity.  The Kansas City Star reported board members changed their minds after attending a two-day retreat during which members of the Missouri School Boards Association explained the training's procedures.  Carpenter's future with the district was not discussed Wednesday.


UMKC Accepts Invitation to Return to Summit League

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The University of Missouri-Kansas has accepted an invitation to return to the Summit League.  UMKC said Thursday it has notified the Western Athletic Conference of its intention to withdraw after the end of the upcoming academic year, its seventh in the league. The school will begin play in the Summit League in the 2020-21 academic year.  "We're thankful to the WAC and their commitment to Division I excellence. We accepted the invitation to return to the Summit League because, after careful review, we believe it will help us achieve our goals," UMKC Chancellor Mauli Agrawal said in a statement.  UMKC will give the Summit League 10 schools, joining Denver; Purdue University Fort Wayne; North Dakota; North Dakota State; Nebraska Omaha; Oral Roberts; South Dakota; South Dakota State and Western Illinois.  "We're thrilled to have the UMKC Roos back in the Summit League," Summit League Commissioner Tom Douple said. "We are looking forward to the 2020-21 season."


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