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Headlines for Friday, March 23, 2018

Here's a look at area headlines from the Associated Press

Attorneys Present Opening Statements in Trial of Alleged Militia Members

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) —  A federal prosecutor says three militia members accused of plotting to bomb an apartment complex housing Somali immigrants were trying to murder as many Muslims as possible. In her opening statement Thursday at their trial, Risa Berkower told jurors that they described the Somalis as "cockroaches" and wanted to set off bombs that would kill them in Garden City, Kansas, about 220 miles west of Wichita. Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen have pleaded not guilty to several charges, including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction. Prosecutors say a militia member tipped off federal authorities after becoming alarmed by escalating talk of violence. The informant agreed to secretly record meetings of the small, self-styled "militia" group. Prosecutors replayed portions of that recording for jurors Thursday. Defense attorneys argue that what was heard on the wiretap was just talk by three men who got together to complain in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election. They also argue that none of the plot would have happened without an informant paid by the FBI. The trial is expected to last about six weeks. If the men are found guilty they could face life in prison.

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Kansas Appeals Planned Parenthood Case to US Supreme Court

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a federal appeals court ruling that prevents the state from cutting off Medicaid funds to a Planned Parenthood affiliate. Governor Jeff Colyer said Thursday that the state is seeking to reverse a 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision last month. Colyer is a strong abortion opponent. The appeals court's decision left in place a lower court's preliminary injunction blocking a move by Kansas in 2015 to end its contract with Planned Parenthood Great Plains. It was the fifth of six appeals courts to uphold patients' right to receive health care from their preferred qualified provider. Planned Parenthood Great Plains operates two health centers in Kansas. One in the Kansas City area performs abortions but Medicaid seldom covers such procedures. 

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Kansas Lawmakers Advance First Part of School Funding Fix

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers have advanced the first piece of a plan for complying with a Kansas Supreme Court ruling on public school funding. A special Senate committee on school finance approved a bill Thursday that would revise the state's formula for distributing more than $4 billion a year to local school districts. The measure goes next to the Senate and a debate there is expected next week. The bill's changes are designed to make the formula fairer to poor school districts. It eliminates several provisions that the Supreme Court said favored wealthier districts. The court ruled in October that parts of the funding formula were unfair and that the state isn't spending enough money overall on its schools. The Senate committee's bill does not significantly boost the state's overall spending.

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Kansas Senate Approves Bill on Police Body Camera Footage

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have taken a step toward greater transparency in law enforcement with the Senate passing a bill that would require departments to make body camera footage available more quickly. The vote Thursday was unanimous. The House passed a version last month. The bill would give law enforcement agencies up to 20 days to release requested footage and fast-track a process that can take months. But the quick access would be limited to the subjects of the footage, their attorney, and their legal guardian or next of kin. Even with the Senate's unanimous vote, the bill faced criticism. Democratic Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau of Wichita said the legislation doesn't go far enough still leaves police with too much discretion over determining policy on body camera use.

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Kansas Senate Votes to Allow Self-Service Beer Taps

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansans are closer to being allowed to be their own bartenders after the state Senate passed a bill that would legalize self-service beer taps for bars and clubs. The vote Thursday was 37-3 and sent the bill to the House. Kansas is among a handful of states where self-service beer taps are not legal. Critics worry that legalizing them would make it harder to prevent underage drinking or keep customers from becoming drunk. Kansas Licensed Beverage Association representative Philip Bradley wasn't opposed to the idea but said for monitoring customers, a real-life bartender is hard to beat. Missouri bar owner Zach Campbell has such taps in his establishment and said customers must check in with a bartender periodically. He says having self-service taps is "almost like a beer buffet."

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Grand Jury: Kansas Waterslide Was "Deadly Weapon"

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) —  A grand jury indictment says officials who designed, built and operated a giant waterslide at a Kansas water park knew it was "a deadly weapon" when they allowed a 10-year-old boy to get into a raft that later went airborne and decapitated him. The Schlitterbahn water park in Kansas City, Kansas, and a former executive at the park were indicted Friday on involuntary manslaughter and several other charges in the August 2016 death of Caleb Schwab. The indictment alleges that officials rushed the design and construction of the Verruckt waterslide. Also, the indictment says operators were aware of at least 13 other injuries — including two concussions — on the ride and that the specific raft Caleb was on went abnormally fast and would go airborne more frequently than other rafts. A Schlitterbahn spokeswoman has not responded to requests for comments on the company's indictment.
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3:30 p.m.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) —  A grand jury has indicted a corporation for involuntary manslaughter after a 10-year-old boy died on a giant waterslide at one of the company's water parks in Kansas. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced Friday that Schlitterbahn Waterpark of Kansas City, Kansas, was indicted along with a former executive in the August 2016 death of Caleb Schwab, who was decapitated on the 17-story "Verruckt" waterslide. Schmidt said the indictments also involve injuries suffered by 13 other people, including four children, who rode on the slide. The executive, Tyler Miles, and Schlitterbahn also face charges of interference with law enforcement. A spokeswoman for Schlitterbahn didn't immediately return a call for comment.
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2:30 p.m.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former executive for Schlitterbahn pleaded not guilty Friday to involuntary manslaughter in the death of a 10-year-old boy who was decapitated on a waterslide at the Kansas water park. Twenty-nine-year-old Tyler Austin Miles, a former operations director for the company, was charged Friday in the August 2016 death of Caleb Schwab at the Schlitterbahn water park in Kansas City, Kansas. Miles is the only person criminally charged so far in the boy's death, which occurred when the raft he was on hit a pole and netting on the 17-story Verruckt waterslide. Miles also faces 19 other charges. Schlitterbahn officials defended Miles after the charges were filed, saying they stood by him and were shocked by the allegations against him.
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2 p.m.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A former executive with the Kansas water park where a 10-year-old boy died on a giant waterslide has been charged with involuntary manslaughter. Tyler Austin Miles, who was an operations director for Schlitterbahn, was booked into the Wyandotte County jail Friday and is being held on $50,000 bond. Caleb Schwab died in August 2016 on the 17-story Verruckt water slide at the park in western Kansas City, Kansas. An autopsy revealed the boy was decapitated when the raft that he and two women were on went airborne. It hit a pole that supported nets that were designed to keep riders from flying off the ride. Winter Prosapio, a spokeswoman for Schlitterbahn, said the company was "deeply disappointed" that someone was charged for the "terrible accident." She said Schlitterbahn stood by Miles, who left the company for another job in September.

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Judge Bars Topeka from Enforcing 21-to-Smoke Ordinance

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka cannot enforce a new ordinance that banned the sale of tobacco products to anyone younger than 21 after a judge ruled the ordinance violates the Kansas Constitution. Shawnee County District Judge Franklin Theis issued a permanent injunction Thursday barring Topeka's city government from enforcing an ordinance approved in December. More than a dozen other cities in Kansas have passed "Tobacco 21" ordinances, in an effort to restrict people between 18 and 21 from buying cigarettes and other tobacco-related products, including electronic cigarettes. Topeka's law was scheduled to take effect in January. The Vapebar Topeka and Puffs 'n' Stuff in Topeka claimed in a lawsuit that state lawmakers, not cities, have the authority in such laws. Theis agreed, issuing a permanent injunction because the ordinance goes beyond the authority granted to municipalities by the Kanss Constitution, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported . Theis wrote that the ordinance conflicts with the Kansas Cigarette and Tobacco Products Act, which sets 18 as the age of participation for selling or using products it regulates. He agreed with the plaintiffs' argument that the harm caused to them by the ordinance exceeds the public interest in enacting the new age limits. "The city is reviewing the decision and considering its options moving forward," said Molly Hadfield, spokeswoman for Topeka's city government. The tobacco sales minimum age already is 21 in more than 270 municipalities in 18 states. Most of the Kansas City metro area increased the age in recent years, along with communities stretching from Iola in the southeast to Garden City in the west. Theis rejected the businesses' request to remove city officials from authority over their businesses or products, saying the possibility existed that some future local ordinance could be compatible with state law.

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FBI: Agent's Cancer Death Due to Sept. 11 Terror Attacks

KANSASCITY, Mo. (AP) — The FBI says one of its first responders to the September 11, 2001, terror attacks has died of brain cancer linked to exposure to contaminants. Special Agent Melissa S. Morrow died Thursday at the age of 48. The agency said in a news release Friday that Morrow made the "ultimate sacrifice," and her death has been classified as a line-of-duty death. She had been certified by the World Trade Center Health Program and the Sept. 11th Victim Compensation Fund. Morrow joined the FBI in 1995 and worked at its Washington field office prior to transferring to the Kansas City field office. She was a first responder to the Pentagon crash site and the Alexandria evidence warehouse. The FBI says she spent 10 weeks recovering and processing evidence at the site.

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Man Ordered to Write Letters of Apology for Armed Standoff

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — An armed man who threatened law enforcement officers during an eight-hour Lawrence standoff has been ordered to write letters of apology to three officers and undergo alcoholism treatment. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 49-year-old David Rainbolt faces two years in prison if he fails at probation. The sentencing Wednesday comes one month after he pleaded no contest to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and criminal threat. The standoff started in October after police responded to a report of gunshots being fired at Rainbolt's home. Police say the shooter called police, and then made threats to harm officers and residents in the area. Police evacuated houses in the area and blocked off surrounding streets. Rainbolt had been hospitalized at the state's psychiatric facility in Osawatomie before being booked into jail.

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Salina Plaza Memorializes Record-Setting Aviator Steve Fossett

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A plaza has been dedicated in central Kansas to memorialize Steve Fossett's record-setting around-the-world flight that began 13 years ago at the airport in Salina. The Salina Journal reports that the plaza dedicated Thursday includes a sculpture of an 8-foot, stainless steel globe, with Fossett's GlobalFlyer going around it. Below the globe is the story of Fossett's historic 22,936-mile flight. Fossett was solo when he took off in February 2005 in the fixed-wing GlobalFlyer and returned 67 hours later without refueling. He set other aviation records before he died in a 2007 plane crash. The plaza also includes a 700-foot ornamental fence that includes storyboards telling the history of Schilling Air Force Base until the time of Fossett's flight.

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Suspended Kansas Volunteer Firefighter Charged with Arson

WAKEENEY, Kan. (AP) — A suspended volunteer firefighter has been charged with arson in pasture and hay bale fires last year in western Kansas. The Salina Journal reports that Landon Ray Beesley, of Collyer, was charged Wednesday in Trego County with two counts of arson. He is free on $32,500 bond. He doesn't have an attorney or a listed phone number. Trego County Attorney Chris Lyon said in a news release that the charges stem from an ongoing investigation into the Feb. 12, 2017, fires in a rural area near the town of Collyer. No details were provided about the fires. Sheriff Richard Hanks says the fire department has placed Beesley on suspension pending the outcome of the investigation. The terms of the suspension include that Beesley not respond to any fire calls.

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Olathe Man Re-Sentenced for Shooting at First Responders

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) _ An Olathe man was sentenced for the second time for setting a fire and then shooting at first responders who responded. 63-year-old William Outhet Jr. was sentenced Thursday to nearly 14 years in prison for attempted first-degree murder.  Prosecutors say he set his house on fire in February 2013 and fired at firefighters and police officers when they arrived. No responders were injured and firefighters rescued Outhet after they found him unconscious in the home with a shotgun across his chest. Outhet was sentenced in 2014 to 15 years and four months in prison. The Kansas Court of Appeals vacated his arson conviction and ordered resentencing for the attempted murder charge.  

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1 of 5 Suspects in St. Joseph Double Homicide Sentenced

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) _ One of five men charged in a double homicide in St. Joseph, Missouri has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for his role in the deaths. Alexi Martinez-Andino was sentenced Thursday for second-degree conspiracy to commit murder in the July 2016 deaths of 22-year-old Kevin Villegas-Melendez and 25-year-old Raymond Gonzalez-Ortiz. Prosecutors say the victims were killed in an execution. Investigators found 50 shell casings near the victims' van, and no evidence that the victims had weapons or fired back at the suspects. Police say residents near the shooting had to run for cover. Two other suspects have pleaded guilty to the same charge and are awaiting sentencing. The cases of two other men each charged with two counts of first-degree murder awaiting court hearings.  

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Shooting in Wabaunsee County Ruled Justified Self-Defense

ALMA, Kan. (AP) — No charges will be filed in the fatal shooting death of a man last month in Wabaunsee County. County Attorney Tim Liesmann announced Thursday that the shooting of 36-year-old Chad Thomas-Buckbee in Alma was a justified self-defense shooting. Liesmann said the shooting occurred after Thomas-Buckbee began acting aggressively toward a family member, who tried to lock him out of the house. He says Thomas-Buckbee got inside the house and was shot after he injured a family member. He died later at a Wamego hospital. Liesmann did not identify the shooter or the person who was injured.

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Lawrence High School Band Trip to Orlando Includes Sickness

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence school officials say about a third of the 150 Lawrence High School band members who recently went to Orlando, Florida, became sick after apparently contracting a norovirus.  Lawrence High School assistant principal Mark Preut said the students spent six days in Orlando for Festival Disney, a performing arts competition at Disney World. They began falling ill after they arrived at an Orlando hotel on March 14.  A norovirus is a highly contagious virus that people can get from another person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces.  One student was treated at an emergency room for dehydration. The high school is on spring break this week.
 

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