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Headlines for Friday, May 15, 2020

 

Severe Storms Spawn Tornado Warnings, Flash Flooding Across Eastern Kansas Thursday Night

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR / WIBW TV) - Severe storms rolled across eastern Kansas Thursday night, prompting the National Weather Service to issue several tornado warnings.  WIBW TV reported that one confirmed tornado touched down in Morris County around 9:30 pm, about four miles north of Americus.  There were no immediate reports of injuries or serious damage.  Storms also dropped hail and poured 3 to 5 inches of rain in many areas.  Torrential rainfall led to flash flooding in Lyon, Osage and Coffey counties, affecting the towns of Emporia, Lyndon, Osage City and Burlington. At least one water rescue was reported Thursday night in Lyon County but it's likely there were several others.  A Flash Flood Watch remains in effect until Saturday evening a portion of the KPR listening area, including Allen, Greenwood, Neosho and Wilson counties. 

- Related -

Flooding Reported as Heavy Rains Move Through Kansas

EL DORADO, Kan. (The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle) — Storms across south-central Kansas are being blamed for a fatal vehicle crash as well as local road closures and rescues of people from stalled vehicles. The Wichita Eagle reports the crash occurred around 5 a.m. Friday after a driver hit a tree that had fallen in the storm in southwest Butler County. The flash flooding came after more than 3 inches of rain and led a few water rescues and responses to flooded vehicles stalled in intersections.

Flooding Reported as Heavy Rains Move Through Southern and Eastern Kansas

EL DORADO, Kan. (KWCH-TV) — Heavy rainfall moving through Butler County Friday caused some local road closures and rescues of people from stalled vehicles. KWCH-TV reports parts parts of the county has seen as much as 6 inches of rain since midnight. El Dorado and Augusta received between 1.5 and 2 inches during a two-hour downpour. National Weather Service says emergency management reported a five-block area in El Dorado was experiencing "significant flooding." Storms are moving east out of the county, but another strong band of thunderstorms is expected to move through south-central Kansas Friday evening.

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Kelly: Downward-Headed Virus Data Now Flattening in Kansas

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly said Friday that data on COVID-19 infections that had been trending downward, leading the state to begin reopening its economy, is beginning to fluctuate and flatten. Kelly discussed the issue one day after slowing the reopening of the state’s economy by ordering bars and bowling alleys to remain closed at least through the end of the month. Some of the state’s biggest problems have been in meatpacking facilities, where there are 1,791 cases and four deaths, and in prisons, with 917 cases and five deaths. Combined those cases account for 34% of the state’s total of 7,886 cases. 

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USDA Food Safety Inspector in Kansas Dies of COVID-19

DODGE CITY, Kan. (KWCH TV) - KWCH TV reports that a Kansas-based food safety inspector for the U.S. Department of Agriculture has died amid the outbreak of coronavirus at meat processing plants.  TIME reports the inspector was located in Dodge City.  The inspector, who was not identified, is now the fourth USDA inspector to die from COVID-19 amid the pandemic.  “USDA can confirm the passing of an employee,” according to the agriculture department. “The safety and well-being of our employees is our top priority. We thank those working on the front lines of our food supply chain for remaining on the job and for making sure the American people have access to safe food.”  Kansas is currently tracking 88 clusters around the state. Nine have been linked to meatpacking plants which account for nearly 23-percent (1,791) of the state's 7,886 cases of COVID-19.  Ford County, where Dodge City and two meatpacking plants are located, currently leads Kansas in the number of positive COVID-19 cases with 1,299.  As of May 15, four deaths in Kansas were linked to meatpacking plants.

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Police: Child Pulled from Water in Arkansas City Dies

ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. (KAKE-TV) — Police in southern Kansas say a child has died after being pulled from water in a neighborhood just east of Arkansas City. Wichita television station KAKE reports that police and medics were called to the neighborhood around 5 pm Thursday for a report of a possible drowning. When they arrived, CPR was being administered to a child. The child was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where the child was pronounced dead. Authorities have not released the child's name or age. The death remains under investigation.

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Sheriff: Man Dies Trying to Save Dog in Kansas Creek

TOPEKA, Kan. (The Kansas City Star) — Authorities say a man who tried to save a dog has died after jumping into a fast-moving creek in Kansas. Shawnee County Sheriff Brian Hill says two men were working on land near Mission Creek in Shawnee County when the dog entered the water. The Kansas City Star reports one man was swept under the water after jumping in. The other man tried unsuccessfully to rescue him. His identity hasn’t been released. Police have not said whether the dog survived.

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More Heavy Rainfall Expected Across South-Central Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH TV) - KWCH TV meteorologist Jake Dunne says it's been a stormy start to Friday in the Wichita area.  Areas of heavy rain have been moving out but not before dumping up to three inches of rainfall over parts of south-central Kansas. Additional storms are expected later today (FRI).  And while the severe weather threat is very low for the Wichita area, more heavy rainfall is a concern over southern Kansas.  Off-and-on showers and storms remain in the forecast tonight (FRI) and tomorrow (SAT) before southern Kansas dries out Saturday night and Sunday.  It should stay dry through the middle of next week. While Saturday's storms are not expected to be severe, additional heavy rainfall is possible.

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Wichita Inmates Relocated After Coronavirus Cases Increase

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — The state Department of Corrections says all inmates at a work release facility in downtown Wichita have been moved to another Kansas facility after 38 of them tested positive for the coronavirus. Department spokeswoman Rebecca Witte says about 100 inmates at the Wichita Work Release Facility were moved Thursday to the Lansing Correctional Facility, where 88 staff members and 750 inmates have tested positive for the virus. The Wichita Eagle reports that Witte said the dormitory set-up at the Wichita facility doesn't allow for the separation of the sick and healthy, but that Lansing is better able to quarantine and isolate.

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Kansas City Police ID Teen Killed While Fleeing Officers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police in Kansas City have identified a teenage driver who was killed in a crash while fleeing from a police stop. Police say in a news release that 17-year-old Daniel Ruiz-Serafin, of Kansas City, died in the crash. Investigators say the incident began Monday afternoon when officers tried to stop a car suspected in an assault, and the driver fled. As officers chased the car, it went out of control, hit a concrete wall, then a pole and a parked vehicle. Police say the driver, later identified as Ruiz-Serafin, died at the scene.

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FBI: Missouri Man Planning to Bomb Hospital Killed Himself

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Missouri man who was planning to bomb a Kansas City-area hospital killed himself in March as FBI agents served a probable cause arrest warrant. The agency said Friday that an autopsy determined that FBI agents shot 36-year-old Timothy Wilson, of Raymore, in the upper and lower extremities on March 24 on a Belton street but that his cause of death was a self-inflicted wound to the head. Investigators say in court documents that Wilson was distressed by the government's response to the coronavirus crisis and motivated by racial, religious and anti-government animus.

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Police Investigate Shooting Death of Kansas City Man

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police in Kansas City are investigating that city's latest homicide. Police say officers were called late Wednesday night to the northeastern part of Kansas City for reports of gunshots. Arriving officers found a man down in the street who had been shot several times. The man was rushed to a Kansas City hospital, where he later died. Police have not released the victim's name. No arrests have been reported.  Police say the shooting happened only blocks from where another shooting homicide took place earlier this week, but investigators do not believe the killings are related.

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Investigators: Arson Caused Tipi Fire at Haskell Indian Nations University; Suspect Arrested   

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS) - A 32-year-old man from Lawrence was booked into the Douglas County Jail Thursday on charges of arson and trespassing in connection with the burning of a teepee (tipi) at Haskell Indian Nations University. The tipi was built to honor this year’s graduates at the federally run school in Lawrence.  County jail records show the sheriff’s office arrested Ryan Simpson mid-day Thursday near downtown Lawrence. Firefighters found the teepee burned to the ground early Saturday on Haskell campus.  Authorities have not publicly identified a motive.  Haskell has about 1,000 students from tribes across the country.  (Read more in the Lawrence Journal-World and then get a subscription to help keep local news reporting going strong.)

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FBI: Missouri Man Planning to Bomb Hospital Killed Himself

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Missouri man who was planning to bomb a Kansas City-area hospital killed himself in March as FBI agents served a probable cause arrest warrant. The agency said Friday that an autopsy determined that FBI agents shot Timothy Wilson, 36, of Raymore, in the upper and lower extremities on March 24 on a Belton street but that his cause of death was a self-inflicted wound to the head. Investigators say in court documents that Wilson was distressed by the government’s response to the coronavirus crisis and motivated by racial, religious and anti-government animus.

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Former KU Football Coach Pepper Rodgers Dies at 88

ATLANTA (AP) — Former KU football coach Pepper Rodgers has died at the age of 88. His alma mater, Georgia Tech, announced his death. Rodgers was a colorful personality who helped Georgia Tech to a 12-0 season as a player in 1952.  But he's even better known for his coaching career, with included stints with Kansas, UCLA and Georgia Tech, as well as the United States Football League and the Canadian Football League.  As a quarterback and kicker, Rodgers was part of Georgia Tech team that went 32-2-3, claimed two Southeastern Conference championships and won three major bowl games during his three years on the varsity.

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GoFundMe Account Established for Mother of Topeka Teenager Fatally Shot

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR / WIBW-TV) — A GoFundMe account has been established for the mother of a Topeka teenager who was shot and killed this week.  Topeka police say 18-year-old Joheem Meredith, a high school student set to graduate this year, was shot to death on Tuesday.  WIBW TV reported that Meredith was taken to the hospital Tuesday night but later died from his injuries. Police say he had been shot in the parking lot of White Lakes Plaza Apartments. Meredith was a senior at Topeka West High School. His death was the capital city's ninth homicide this year. A GoFundMe account has been set up on behalf of Meredith's mother. Organizers say donations will be used to help the family pay funeral and memorial expenses.

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Missouri Governor Orders Flags to Fly Half-Staff in Honor of Independence Firefighter
 
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri Governor Mike Parson ordered U.S. and Missouri flags be flown at half-staff at all government buildings in Jackson County and at fire houses across the state on Monday, May 18, in honor of Independence Fire Department Firefighter/Hazardous Material Technician David F. Jameson, Jr.  Parson also ordered U.S. and Missouri flags be flown at half-staff at the Fire Fighters Memorial of Missouri in Kingdom City.  On May 7, Firefighter Jameson was among the firefighters who responded to a reported house fire. He experienced shortness of breath and was later found to be unresponsive. His colleagues tried to revive him, but he died. Firefighter Jameson's death was in the line of duty. 
 
“Firefighter David Jameson devoted his life to public service and risking his own safety in order to save lives and protect others,” Governor Parson said. “During his long career with the Independence Fire Department, he earned many letters of commendation for heroism and service to others. The outpouring of support following his passing demonstrates the positive difference a public servant can make in their community.”  Firefighter Jameson faithfully and honorably served as a member of the Independence Fire Department for more than 23 years. He was 52 years old and the father of nine children.
 

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Kansas Governor Slows Reopening; Limits to Go into Late June

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Governor Laura Kelly has slowed down the reopening of Kansas’s economy. Kelly on Thursday ordered bars and bowling alleys to remain closed through the end of the month and plans to keep some coronavirus-inspired restrictions in place until near the end of June. Kelly’s new order takes effect Monday and is likely to stir strong opposition in the Republican-controlled Legislature. A limit on public gatherings of 10 or fewer people will remain in place, rather than being increased to 30 on Monday. Kelly is allowing barbershops and hair and nail salons to reopen as planned but limiting them to appointments only.

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Top GOP Lawmakers Move to Take Control of Reopening Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top Republican legislators have moved to take control of how Kansas reopens its coronavirus-battered economy from Democratic Governor Laura Kelly.  On Wednesday, six GOP leaders rejected Kelly's request to have top lawmakers extend a disaster declaration she issued into mid-June. The Republicans instead extended the declaration only through May 25, Memorial Day. That would give the GOP-controlled Legislature a chance to pass a law governing the state’s coronavirus response. The full Legislature is scheduled to reconvene May 21 for a final day in session this year after beginning its spring break early on March 20 because of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers in Kansas are joining a larger national effort to shield doctors, hospitals and businesses from lawsuits stemming from the coronavirus. Business and medical groups are pushing them to act quickly, but the effort faces strong opposition from labor unions, trial lawyers and many Democrats. They fear measures will keep patients, consumers and employees from being able to turn to the courts to hold businesses and medical providers accountable for negligence or misconduct. Similar efforts are underway in Congress and other states, including Mississippi, North Carolina and Utah.

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Kansas Reports Nearly 7,500 Cases of COVID-19, Including 164 Death 

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — As of Friday morning, state health officials reported 7,886 cases of COVID-19, including 172 deaths.  Cases have been reported in 84 of the state's 105 counties.  (The latest COVID-19 case numbers for Kansas are released here Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.)  

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Two Lansing Prison Employees, Three Inmates Have Died from COVID-19

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — A second corrections officer working at the Lansing Correctional Center died this week of medical complications related to COVID-19.  Jeff Zmuda, secretary of the Kansas Department of Corrections, said the nearly 20-year veteran of the agency, who was a man in his 50s, died Tuesday. The Lansing prison's first staff fatality associated with the virus took place Monday.  The prison has been at the epicenter of the state prison system’s cluster of coronavirus cases. At the Lansing facility, at least 88 employees and 728 inmates have tested positive for the virus. Three of Lansing’s prisoners have died of COVID-19.   Zmuda said the first staff member to die was a man over the age of 60 with more than three decades of service in KDOC.  The corrections department has reported infections of staff or inmates at prisons in El Dorado, Ellsworth, Norton, Topeka and the Wichita work release facility and the juvenile detention facility in Topeka.

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Spurred by Pandemic, Kansas ACLU Launches Clemency Project

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — A civil rights group has launched “The Clemency Project” to try to secure the release of Kansas prisoners whose medical conditions make them vulnerable to the coronavirus. The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas on Thursday filed the first round of what it anticipates will be dozens of individualized clemency petitions seeking relief for their clients from the parole board and governor. The petitions will be filed on a rolling basis. The move comes just days after a Leavenworth judge threw out the group’s class action lawsuit seeking the release of seven inmates due to the pandemic.

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Sausage-Making Plant in Holton Shuts Down Amid COVID-19 Cases

TOPEKA Kan. (AP) — A Kansas plant that makes sausage has shut down after employees tested positive for the coronavirus, and an outbreak that has infected hundreds at the state’s largest prison has claimed the life of another worker. The shutdown at the Johnsonville plant in Holton, which employees about 230 workers, took effect Wednesday. Johnsonville didn’t announce when it plans to reopen the plant. Johnsonville said all employees will continue to get paid, and downtime will be used to implement even more aggressive safety protocols before reopening. Some new safety protocols include placing additional barriers between workstations where social distancing isn’t possible. The plant already had been requiring mandatory temperature checks.

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Kansas County Defends Data-Collection Rule Prompting Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An eastern Kansas county is defending a policy that directs business owners to collect information about their customers. Attorneys for Linn County argued Thursday in a federal court filing that the rule is an effort to help trace the contacts of infected people during the the coronavirus pandemic. The county's attorneys said a May 1 order by the health director does not violate constitutional rights against unreasonable searches. The county's attorneys were responding to a federal lawsuit filed by a newspaper publisher and restaurant owner arguing that the requirement represents an improper warrantless search of their business records.

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Manhattan Mayor Suspends Bid for Democratic Nod for U.S. Senate

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas mayor has suspended her campaign for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate. Manhattan Mayor Usha Reddi said Thursday that responding to the coronavirus pandemic had become her most important work and would demand all of her focus for the foreseeable future. Reddi’s decision all but guarantees that state Senator and Kansas City-area Dr. Barbara Bollier will be the Democratic nominee. Reddi raised less than $147,000 for her campaign through March, while Bollier raised nearly $3.5 million. Reddi has served on the Manhattan City Commission since 2013 and is serving a yearlong term as mayor.

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Kansas Congressman Marshall Struggles to Unite GOP Establishment in U.S. Senate Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Roger Marshall’s critics on the political right are working to hobble the western Kansas congressman’s bid for the U.S. Senate.  Marshall is fighting in the final three months of a primary campaign to overcome conservative immigration hardliner Kris Kobach in a crowded field. Marshall is the alternative to Kobach that all but the hardest of hard-right Republicans are supposed to embrace to keep Kobach from winning he nomination and putting a normally safe seat into play in the fall. But Marshall hasn’t dissipated distrust some conservatives have harbored since he defeated tea party favorite Rep. Tim Huelskamp to win his seat in Congress in 2016.

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Kansas Medicaid Director Resigns to Take New Job

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas's state Medicaid director, Dr. Adam Proffitt, has announced his resignation to take a new job in the private sector. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment announced Proffitt's resignation in a news release Wednesday night. Proffitt's resignation is effective June 5. Proffitt joined the department as the director of its healthcare finance division in December 2017. He was named the state's Medicaid director last May. The news release says the department will announce an interim director at a later date. Proffitt's resignation comes as the state grapples with trying to contain the new coronavirus outbreak.

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Agricultural Businesses in Kansas, Iowa Settle EPA Cases

LENEXA, Kan. (AP) — Federal regulators have reached settlements with two agricultural storage and supply businesses to resolve alleged violations of clean air regulations. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in a news release Thursday that it inspected Midland Marketing Co-op Inc. and Troy Elevator Inc. in response to accidental releases of anhydrous ammonia that injured workers. Anhydrous ammonia is corrosive to the skin, eyes and lungs. Exposure may result in injury or death. Midland owns a facility in Palco, Kansas. Troy Elevator owns facilities in Bloomfield and Blakesburg, Iowa.

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Forecast: Kansas Farmers to Harvest Smaller Wheat Crop

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas farmers are expected to bring in a smaller winter wheat crop this year even though they will harvest about the same number of acres. The National Agricultural Statistics Service said Tuesday this year’s Kansas winter wheat crop is forecast at 306 million bushels, down 10% from a year ago. Average yield is forecast at 47 bushels per acre, down 5 bushels from last year. The agency said Kansas growers will cut wheat off 6.5 million acres, which is about 96% of the acres that they planted with wheat last fall.

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Attorneys General in 14 States to Trump: Let's Hold China Accountable for Coronavirus
 
Tallahassee, Fla. (AP) — Republican attorneys general in 14 states, including Kansas, are asking President Donald Trump to form a federal/state partnership to hold China accountable for the spread of coronavirus. The letter sent Wednesday calls for state and federal governments to seek legal remedies for the toll the virus has taken on economies and human life. The effort is being led by the Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody and South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson.

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Sedgwick County to Pay Wichita Woman $310,000 for 2017 Crash

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County will pay $310,000 to a Wichita woman injured when a county employee crashed into her in December 2017. The Wichita Eagle reports the settlement comes in a lawsuit filed by Matilda Pruitt after she suffered head, neck, back and other injuries in the crash. Pruitt sued Metropolitan Area Building and Construction Department employee Jarrod Truman and the county for negligence. Her lawsuit says she was stopped at a Wichita intersection waiting to turn when Truman crashed into the back of her vehicle. The impact pushed Pruitt's car into oncoming traffic, where she was hit by two other vehicles. Truman told police he was looking down on the floor of his vehicle when he hit Pruitt.

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Police: Domestic Altercation Led to Shooting Death in Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A man in his 20s was found dead inside a Kansas City, Kansas, home in what police say was an incident that began as a domestic altercation. Police said in a news release that the department received a report of a shooting at about 12:49 p.m. Friday and discovered the shooting victim inside the residence. Its initial investigation indicates the shooting stemmed from a domestic incident. No other details were immediately released.

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KPR's daily headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays and updated throughout the day.  KPR's weekend summary is usually published by 1 pm Saturdays and Sundays.  
 

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