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Headlines for Friday, March 2, 2018

Area news headlines from the Associated Press

Kansas Senator Worried About Proposed Trump Tariffs

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Senator Pat Roberts says President Donald Trump's unexpected announcement about tariffs on imported steel and aluminum "is not going to go down well in farm country." The Wichita Eagle reports that Roberts and other Republican senators received no formal warning from the White House before Trump said Thursday he'd impose a 25 percent import tariff on steel and 10 percent on aluminum to boost U.S. manufacturers. Roberts says he and other Republicans from farming states and from the Senate Finance Committee have lobbied Trump hard in efforts to convince him that raising tariffs would negatively impact the rural and middle-class voters who supported his 2016 election. The senator fears a foreign backlash will hit U.S. agricultural exports.


In Kansas, Maligned 'Gut and Go' Tactic Gets Laws Enacted

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators expect to keep relying on a "gut and go" tactic to pass major bills even though they know the move sounds sketchy and looks underhanded. They acknowledge that it makes it harder for people outside the Statehouse to follow what's going on under the dome. The tactic strips out a bill's contents and replaces them with the contents of another bill that's often on a different subject. Senate President Susan Wagle says the tactic is crucial to allowing lawmakers to finish their work when they're supposed to remain in session only 90 days a year. But lawmakers in both parties have said making government more open is a top priority this year, and the gut and go is getting scrutiny. A House bill would ban the practice.


Wichita Child Tragedies Were a Factor in Official's Removal

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Recent tragedies involving children who reportedly had been abused was one of several factors in the decision to oust the agency's top official in Wichita, the department's new leader said. Gina Meier-Hummel, director of the Department of Children and Families, told agency workers in Wichita that she shared their concern "about recent tragedies involving children in your community, and understand on a very personal level the scrutiny the agency is under." She made the comment in a letter to employees on Tuesday to announce the departure of Wichita regional director Bill Gale. Two child-related cases involving Wichita children drew widespread attention and criticism recently. The agency received several reports that 3-year-old Evan Brewer was abused before his body was found encased in concrete at a Wichita home last year. And law enforcement agencies continue to search for 5-year-old Lucas Hernandez, who's been missing for nearly two weeks. His relatives say they had reported concerns that he was being abused to the department. Meier-Hummel told the Eagle Thursday that Gale's removal "was the result of having reviewed a number of situations and after having multiple discussions with staff and stakeholders," but she didn't mention any specific cases. Gale's ouster is part of Meier-Hummel's efforts to revamp the agency she took over in December after years of controversy and criticism from lawmakers, child advocates and the public. "If we need to replace people, we're replacing people," Gov. Jeff Colyer said Thursday. However, State Representative Tom Sawyer, a Democrat from Wichita, said he never heard complaints about Gale's leadership and suggested he was being made a scapegoat for the agency's problems. Meier-Hummel said Thursday several policy changes will be announced soon but she didn't elaborate. Some changes, such as legislation to require the release of more information when a child dies, have already been announced. The department also is asking the Legislature for a $16.5 million increase over two years for child welfare services. The money would fund 20 additional staff, eliminate the need for children waiting for foster care to sometimes sleep in offices, and pay for resources to help find children who have gone missing from foster care. A House committee is considering the funding requests.


Kansas Accidentally Sent Health Information of 11,000 People

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas agency says it inadvertently sent health-related personal information of about 11,000 people to its business partners.  The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services announced Thursday that it became aware on February 23 that an employee sent an unauthorized e-mail with the information.  The department says it has no evidence the information was misused or disclosed publicly. It says agreements prevent the partners from disseminating the information.
The e-mail included names, addresses, Social Security numbers, birth dates, gender, Medicaid identification numbers and participation in in-home services.  Agency spokeswoman Angela de Rocha says all consumers whose information was released will receive a letter of explanation.  The release has been reported to federal regulators. De Rocha says the agency will review its procedures to prevent a similar situation from occurring.


Missouri Man Charged with Kidnapping 2 Kansas Girls

COLUMBUS, Kan. (AP) — A Missouri man has been arrested on kidnapping charges after police found him with two Kansas girls at traffic stop.  The Morning Sun reports that 28-year-old Nathan Belcher was arrested Tuesday after coordinated efforts between investigators in Cherokee County, Kansas, and Jasper County, Missouri. He's being held in Jasper County on $10,000 bond.  A Kansas police officer stopped Belcher of Carl Junction, Missouri, early Sunday morning. Cherokee County Sheriff David Groves says the officer found in the car two girls ages 10 and 15 who weren't related to Belcher. He was released and the officer returned the girls to their parents.  Groves said Wednesday the investigation is ongoing, and that detectives are looking at Belcher's phone after obtaining a search warrant for digital evidence.  Jail records don't immediately list if Belcher has an attorney.


Kansas Collects $27 Million More in Taxes than Expected in February

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is reporting that it collected nearly $27 million more in taxes than anticipated in February.  The report Thursday from the state Department of Revenue was more good news for legislators as they face a Kansas Supreme Court mandate to increase spending on public schools. It was the ninth consecutive month that tax collections have exceeded expectations.  Revenue Secretary Sam Williams said the state's ongoing monthly revenue surpluses could be an indication of economic optimism.  The state reported collecting $373 million in taxes last month when its official projections predicted collections of $346 million. The monthly surplus was 7.7 percent.  Since the fiscal year began in July, the state has collected $4.3 billion in taxes. That's $275 million more than expected and a surplus of 6.8 percent.


Gun-Friendly Kansas Lawmakers Consider Some Small Limits

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are considering "red flag" proposals to allow judges to temporarily confiscate guns from people deemed a safety risk and a measure designed to ensure that fugitives and domestic abusers are prosecuted for illegal gun possession.  While work on such issues could be seen as a shift in the political climate of a Republican-leaning state that's been friendly to gun-rights groups and their initiatives, it would not be a big one. Proposals to ban bump stocks, limit the sale of semi-automatic weapons or keep concealed guns off college campuses aren't being seriously considered this year.  An illustration of what's changed and what hasn't is preliminary work by some House Republicans on a broad package of school-safety initiatives, begun after the Florida mass shooting. It's likely to focus on seeing that schools develop good safety plans and the state boosts its spending on mental health services.  Before the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, more than two dozen bills on gun issues were pending in the Legislature, reflecting a wide range of views. And concerns about school safety are greater now, as they are in other states.  The Kansas House unanimously passed a bill last month before the Florida shooting to make it illegal under state law for fugitives and people convicted of domestic violence to possess a gun, so that such cases could be prosecuted in state courts rather than federal ones. A Senate committee is expected to vote on it later this month.  But House members also passed a bill that would allow 18- 19- and 20-year-olds to obtain state permits to carry concealed guns; under a 2015 law, people 21 and older can carry concealed without a permit. Its future is less clear.


Fire Forces Evacuation of Kansas State Residence Hall

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University says a residence hall was temporarily evacuated after a fire. The school said in a news release that the fire was reported Friday morning fire at Wefald Hall and extinguished by the hall's suppression system. Evacuated students have been allowed to return to their rooms, although water damage is forcing 24 of them to be relocated. The only injury was to an employee who slipped on standing water. Five-hundred-and-forty students are housed in the coeducational hall, which was built in 2016 on the west side of the Manhattan campus. No other details were immediately released about the fire, including the cause.


Kansas Governor Establishes Task Force to Combat Drug Abuse

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer has signed an executive order creating a task force to combat opioid and methamphetamine abuse.  The task force created Thursday will be headed by the leaders of 16 state agencies and also will include medical and law enforcement personnel with expertise on substance abuse.  Colyer said that the opioid and meth epidemics are "very real" in Kansas. He noted that opioid overdoses in the state have climbed from 35 in 2000 to 159 in 2016. The governor is a surgeon and said: "I've had patients die. I've had patients see their lives ruined, and I've seen the recover as well."  The task force will examine other states' strategies to determine what works and what doesn't before laying out a plan of action for Kansas.


Plea Hearing Set in Kansas Possible Hate Crime Killing

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — The man charged in a possible hate crime killing in a suburban Kansas City bar is scheduled for a plea hearing next week.  Johnson County Court records show the hearing is scheduled Tuesday for 52-year-old Adam Purinton.  Purinton is charged with first-degree murder in the February 2017 shooting death of 32-year-old Srinivas Kuchibhotla at Austins Bar & Grill in Olathe.  In Johnson County, Purinton also is charged with two counts of attempted murder after two other men were injured during the shooting.  Federal prosecutors allege Purinton targeted Kuchibhotla and another Indian man because of their race or ethnicity. The third man was injured when he tried to help the victims.  Purinton also faces federal hate crime charges. He has pleaded not guilty in the federal case.


Wichita Women Will Pay Back Money from Faulty ATM

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita woman and her daughter will repay a bank after repeatedly withdrawing money from an ATM that was dispensing $100 bills rather $5 bills. Central National Bank sued Christina Ochoa and her mother, Christy Ochoa, after they withdrew more than $14,000 in January. The bank contended the women returned to the ATM more than 50 times after realizing the machine's malfunction. Most of the trips were in the middle of the night. The Wichita Eagle reports court records indicate the women have agreed to repay $12,643 plus interest, as well as costs. The women earlier told the newspaper they wanted $1,485 to make a "money cake" for a friend. They said they made repeated withdrawals because they couldn't get the exact number of $5 bills they needed and the bank was closed.


Police: It's a 'Blessing' That Girl Slept Through SUV Theft

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a 6-year-old girl has been found safe after the sport utility vehicle in which she was sleeping was stolen from a Wichita Laundromat. Police Lt. Travis Rakestraw says the girl's mom left her keys in the SUV's ignition when she went into the Lost Sock Laundromat around 7 p.m. Thursday. The Wichita Eagle reports that she realized 10 minutes later that the vehicle was gone. Authorities were working to issue an Amber Alert when the abandoned SUV was found around 8:45 p.m. and about 2 miles (3.22 kilometers) from the laundromat. The girl was still asleep in the back seat and reunited with her mother. Rakestraw says it's "a blessing" that the girl never knew she was in danger. Police are searching the vehicle for possible evidence.


Pair Charged in String of Robberies That Ends on Valentine's

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita pair has been charged in a string of armed robberies that started in November and ended on Valentine's Day. The Wichita Eagle reports that 20-year-old Savannah Cole and 28-year-old Kenneth Cade were indicted Tuesday in armed robberies of an Arby's restaurant, a Dollar General and two convenience stores. Police say that in all four robberies, Cole and Cade went into the stores, pulled handguns and took cash. They are accused of climbing over a counter to steal the register till in one case. The indictment says the pair used a Taurus semi-automatic handgun and Frontier .22-caliber revolver.


Man Convicted of Shooting, Wounding Topeka Detective

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A man has been convicted of shooting and wounding a Topeka police detective after a convenience store robbery. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that jurors found 30-year-old Christopher Harris guilty Thursday of attempted capital murder, aggravated robbery, aggravated assault and criminal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Detective Brian Hill spent 20 days in the hospital after he was wounded in November 2016 while trying to apprehend Harris and Jermaine Patton following the convenience store robbery. Hill retired in September and said at the time that the shooting "definitely" was a factor. Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay says Harris faces life in prison without parole for at least 25 years when he is sentenced May 3. Patton pleaded guilty in September to federal aiding and abetting charges.


Texas Man Arrested in Fatal Hit-and-Run in Kansas

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — A Texas man has been arrested in a hit-and-run accident that killed a man in Kansas in November.  Great Bend police say 58-year-old Rodney Campbell Jr., of Anderson County, Texas was arrested Thursday in Texas.  The Hays Post reports Campbell Jr. is accused of hitting 65-year-old James Zager with his car in November while Zager was walking across a street in Great Bend, Kansas.  The driver then fled the scene.  The Barton County District Court issued an arrest warrant for Campbell on Wednesday for failure to stop or remain at the scene of the accident.


Sheriff's Detective Charged with Misusing Public Funds

LARNED, Kan. (AP) — A former western Kansas sheriff's detective is charged with three felonies after an investigation into the theft of department funds.  Forty-three-year-old Jeffrey Allen King, of Larned, was charged Friday in Pawnee County with making a false information, misuse of public funds and felony theft of more than $20,000.  Ellis County attorney Thomas Drees, who is acting as the special prosecutor, said in a news release that the Pawnee County sheriff, who is King's brother, asked the KBI to investigate in December. The release says King was placed an administrate leave in December and resigned from the Pawnee County Sheriff's Office last week.  Authorities allege that the crimes occurred from January 2015 to October 2017.  King is scheduled to make his first appearance March 15.


Missouri Man Already Charged in 3 Deaths Indicted in 3 More

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A man already charged with killing three people in the Kansas City area has been indicted by a grand jury in three other killings. Jackson County prosecutors said Friday that 23-year-old Frederick Demond Scott of Kansas City was indicted in the deaths of three men who were shot in surprise attacks close to hiking and biking trails in south Kansas City. Scott was charged in August in the deaths of two men and a woman. The Kansas City Star reports all five of the male victims were shot, mostly from behind, in apparently unprovoked attacks. The one woman killed was homeless. She was found dead inside a tent in woods in nearby Grandview. The killings all happened within a year, from August 2016 to August 2017.


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