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Headlines for Monday, December 27, 2021


Autopsy: Death of Black Kansas Teen in Custody Ruled a Homicide

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ An autopsy report says that a Black teenager's death following a physical struggle with staff at a Kansas juvenile center was a homicide. The autopsy report released today (MON) contradicts an earlier, preliminary finding that 17-year-old Cedric Lofton hadn't suffered life-threatening injuries.  The report said Lofton's heart and breathing stopped after he was handcuffed while lying on his stomach. Lofton had briefly been in the custody of the Sedgwick County Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center in Wichita when his altercation with staff members occurred September 24. He was taken to a local hospital and died two days later. Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said he is reviewing the report.


Kansas Identifies Nearly 7,000 New COVID-19 Cases Since Last Wednesday

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reports that there have been nearly 7,000 new cases of COVID-19 identified since last Wednesday, including 119 *new* hospitalizations. State health officials also report 14 new virus-related deaths across the state since Wednesday.  In all, Kansas has recorded more than 512,000 COVID-19 cases and nearly 7,000 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began. 

By the Numbers:

As of Monday, KDHE has recorded 512,461 COVID-19 cases and 6,964 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began.


Wastewater Data Shows Omicron Spreading Rapidly in Missouri

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS) - The highly contagious omicron variant is spreading rapidly across Missouri.  New wastewater testing data released Friday shows the omicron variant has been detected in almost 25% of the locations tested, including Kansas City and St. Joseph.  Samples collected just one week earlier in only 3 percent of testing locations.  A spokesman for the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services says the latest data is based on samples collected the week of December 13th.


Experts Warn of "Perfect Storm" in Missouri as COVID Cases Jump

ST. LOUIS (AP) - New cases and hospitalizations from COVID-19 are surging throughout Missouri. Health leaders are warning of an approaching "perfect storm" if more people don't get vaccinated and take other precautions. Missouri is seeing a seven-day average of daily new cases of more than 3,000. The average dipped below 1,000 in October. Hospitals in St. Louis and the Kansas City area say they are already overwhelmed. That's even before Christmas gatherings and before the fast-moving omicron variant fully takes hold. Data tracked by The Kansas City Star shows the Kansas City region is now averaging around 844 new COVID-19 cases per day over seven days. That's the highest number since January.


KU Men’s Basketball Game vs. Harvard Canceled - New Game Scheduled!

UPDATE: The KU men's basketball team will host Nevada on Wednesday at 7 pm at Allen Fieldhouse. The contest will be televised on Big 12 NOW on ESPN+. Tickets for the previously scheduled December 29 game versus Harvard will be valid for admission to the Nevada contest and will not be re-issued.

LAWRENCE, Kan. – The University of Kansas men’s basketball game vs. Harvard, scheduled for Wednesday, has been canceled because of a combination of injuries and positive COVID-19 tests within the Harvard program.  Officials at KU Athletics say the game will not be rescheduled this season and KU is looking for an opponent to fill the cancellation by Harvard to play this Wednesday at Allen Fieldhouse. All tickets issued for the Harvard game will automatically be transferred with the details of the new opponent once that is finalized. The cancelation is the second in a row for KU, which also had last week’s road game at Colorado canceled because of COVID issues within the CU program.


Southwest Kansas Woman Dies After Truck Hits Concrete Barrier

COMANCHE COUNTY, Kan. (AP) — A 20-year-old Kansas woman died after the truck she was driving smashed into a concrete highway barrier in a rural part of the state. The Kansas Highway Patrol says the crash happened around 3:30 am Sunday along state Highway 1 in Comanche County, which isn't far from the Oklahoma border in southwest Kansas. The accident report said that Brittney Marie Turley, of Coldwater, Kansas, was driving a 2014 Dodge Ram that veered across the centerline and struck the barrier, but it wasn't immediately clear what caused the crash. Turley was taken to Comanche County Hospital, where she died. A 22-year-old passenger was taken to a Wichita hospital with possible serious injuries.


Eight People Died on Missouri Roads over Christmas Weekend

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Eight people died on Missouri roadways over the long Christmas weekend, two fewer than the holiday period in 2020. The Missouri State Highway Patrol said Monday that troopers worked 310 total accidents during the period from Thursday through Sunday, including 92 accidents with injuries. The patrol also made 67 arrests for driving while intoxicated. State troopers handled two fatal accidents in the St. Louis area and two in central Missouri. The other four fatal wrecks were investigated by police in Kansas City, St. Louis and two St. Louis suburbs — Overland and Wentzville.


Man Tied to Fatal Shooting of 2-Year-Old in Kansas City Arrested in Omaha

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A man wanted in connection with the shooting death of a toddler in suburban Kansas City has been arrested in Omaha. Police have said the child died after a gun the 2-year-old was handling discharged Friday afternoon in Independence, Missouri. The man fled after police went to the home to confront him about the incident because they were initially told that the child was wounded by a bullet from a drive-by shooting. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said the 23-year-old Missouri man got a ride to Nebraska and made arrangements to meet someone at a restaurant in Omaha Friday. But authorities were tipped off about the meeting, so officers were waiting for the man when he arrived.

(Earlier reporting...)

Toddler Dies in Christmas Day Shooting in Independence

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A toddler from the Kansas City area died when handling a gun Saturday.  Police say they were initially told that the child was struck by a bullet from a drive-by shooting, but further investigation determined that was not the case.  Police say an adult who was in the Independence, Missouri, home fled when officers arrived. Their vehicle crashed and the driver fled the scene.  A person of interest was later arrested in Omaha, Nebraska, and is being extradited to Jackson County, Missouri.


Man Shot and Killed While Driving in Kansas City Suburb

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Authorities say a man was likely shot while he was driving near the Kansas City suburb of Raytown on Saturday. Kansas City Police spokesman Sgt. Jake Becchina said gunshots were reported around 11:45 am Saturday. The officers who responded to that report found a vehicle that appeared to have been damaged by bullets off the road. Inside the vehicle, police found a man who had been shot. Paramedics tried to help him but he died at the scene of the crash near 4900 Raytown Road. Investigators believe someone in another vehicle pulled up next to the victim's car and fired gunshots before fleeing.


Two Wichita Officers Shot by Suspect Expected to Recover

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two police officers from Wichita are being treated for injuries not considered life-threatening after being shot in the early hours of Christmas Day. Police investigating a domestic violence report made contact early Saturday with the suspect, 24-year-old Malik Rogers. Police say he resisted arrest and fired several shots. One officer was shot in the leg. The other was shot in the arm. Both were being treated at a hospital. A tactical team was called and the apartment was evacuated. The suspect was later found dead of what police called a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police say no officers fired any shots.


Minnesota Woman Dies in Accident in NE Kansas on Christmas Eve

HIAWATHA, Kan. (AP) — A Minnesota woman is dead after her SUV was struck by a semi in northeastern Kansas on Christmas Eve. The Kansas Highway Patrol said the accident happened just before 1:30 pm Friday on U.S. 75 in Brown County. The patrol said a semi was pulling out of a driveway when it was struck from behind by a 2005 Chevrolet Suburban driven by 46-year-old Socorro Mercado, who died in the accident. The patrol report did not state her hometown. The driver of the semi was uninjured.


Missouri Woman Charged with Killing Boyfriend with a Sword

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri woman has been charged with killing her boyfriend with a sword on Christmas Eve. Cape Girardeau Police said 32-year-old Brittany Wilson was found outside the home she shared with her boyfriend Friday night with blood on her clothing, and a sword was lying in the front yard. After officers arrested Wilson, they went inside and found her 34-year-old boyfriend dead with several fresh stab wounds. Wilson told police that she and her boyfriend had taken methamphetamine earlier in the day. Wilson was being held Sunday in lieu of $2 million bond.


Long Road to Recovery for Western Kansas Ranchers After Wildfires

PARADISE, Kan. (AP) — Ranchers in western Kansas have begun to recover from the deadly wildfires that torched their land earlier this month, but they acknowledge it will be a long process. Two men died and the Kansas Forest Service estimates that around 163,000 acres of land were burned on December 15 in fast-spreading fires driven by wind gusts of up to 100 mph. Rich Koester, whose ranch ear the Russell County town of Paradise was among the many that were damaged, is typically busy caring for newborn calves or preparing his herd for winter this time of year. Instead, he’s burying livestock. He told High Plains Public Radio that the fire killed more than one-third of his 200-head herd.


One Person Dead, Another Injured in KCK Shooting

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police in Kansas City, Kansas, are investigating a shooting that left one person dead and another injured. The shooting happened Friday night. Officers went to a home on 73rd Place after hearing gunshots and found the two victims inside. Names of the victims have not been released, and police did not disclose information about the condition of the injured person. No arrests have been made.


5 More Killings Mean 2021 Second-Worst Year on Record in KC

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Five killings in Kansas City, Missouri, during Christmas week have brought the 2021 total to 156, making it the city's second-deadliest year on record. The Kansas City Star reports that only last year was worse, when Kansas City had 182 homicides. This year topped the 155 killings that occurred in 2017. The entire Kansas City metropolitan area, including the Kansas suburbs, has seen 215 homicides in 2021. Mayor Quinton Lucas, on Twitter, says the city will ``never stop trying'' to reduce the number of killings, calling it Kansas City's ``greatest challenge.''


Family Raises Money to Pay for Funeral After Teen Found Dead

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Kansas City family is raising money to help pay for the funeral of an 18-year-old boy who was found dead more than two weeks after he was reported missing. Amara Jones was reported missing on December 4, and his body was found last week, not far from his home. Kansas City Police spokesman Sgt. Jake Becchina said told the Kansas City Star on Sunday that the investigation into Jones' death remains open, but investigators do not suspect foul play. Family members said on the GoFundMe site they set up that Jones was one of nine children. As of Sunday afternoon, the online fundraiser had collected more than $8,000.


Prosecutor: Topeka Police Justified in Fatal Shooting

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka area prosecutor has found that police were justified in fatally shooting a homicide suspect. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay said this week that no charges would be filed in the death of 33-year-old Jesse Buck Lees. Kagay also found that Lees acted alone in the fatal shooting of his girlfriend, 25-year-old Jennifer Morris. Witnesses said Morris and Lees had gotten into an argument on September 8 before he dragged her into a bathroom and shot her. Police spotted Lees on September 10 pulling out of a convenience store parking lot and a chase ensued. After crashing, Lees took off running and raised a handgun in the direction of police. Three officers then fired.


Audit: Kansas Company in Decline While Seeking Contract in Nebraska

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A new Kansas audit says a child welfare provider that served Omaha-area families was plagued with mounting debt, poor money management and other problems even before it won a Nebraska state contract. The Omaha World-Herald reports that the audit of Saint Francis Ministries shows a nonprofit in financial disarray, with managers who spent money on themselves instead of programs and a chief executive at the time who enjoyed lavish trips paid for by the organization. The audit also states that Saint Francis has since taken steps to correct those issues. A Saint Francis spokesperson says the organization is now financially stable.


Kansas Democratic Governor Pivots to the Center Ahead of Tough Reelection Battle

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Democratic Governor Laura Kelly has signaled her efforts to appeal to moderate Republican and GOP-leaning independent voters whose support is necessary for her to win a tough reelection race in Kansas next year. A recent example was her signing Republican legislation aimed at helping Kansas workers resist COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Kelly is like other governors in Michigan and Wisconsin in trying to win a second term against midterm political headwinds helping Republicans. She's doing it in a state former President Donald Trump carried twice. Her attempt to stake out ground in the political center has irritated some Democrats in the short term. But others argue it's a tactic that could work for her.  


More Kansas Children to Get Free or Reduced-Price Lunches

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas children who receive Medicaid services will soon qualify automatically for free or reduced-price school meals. The Kansas News Service reports that the change will mean less paperwork for schools and families. Cheryl Johnson is director of child nutrition for the Kansas Department of Education, and she knows the importance of school breakfasts and lunches. "When kids are hungry and are listening to their little tummies roar or growl - or whatever you want to call it - they can’t learn," she said. Until now, Kansas families who qualify for food assistance were automatically enrolled in the free-lunch program. But everyone else had to apply. Starting next school year, those who receive health care through Medicaid will also get free or reduced-price school lunches, without additional paperwork. Kansas is now one of 27 states participating in the direct-certification program.


Kansas Supreme Court Considers State's Eviction Process

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The Kansas Supreme Court has created a group to review the state's eviction process and look for ways to make it more fair and equitable. The Kansas News Service reports that the group will offer recommendations in February. More tenants and renters are representing themselves in court for the eviction process. Judge Sarah Warner doesn’t know why this is happening, but she says it became more common during the pandemic. This is just one issue the committee will examine.  COVID changed how courts operate, and Warner says now is a good time to rethink the eviction process. “This pandemic is not the disruption that any of us wanted in the court system. But perhaps it was the disruption that we needed," she said. The review also comes months after the moratorium on evictions was lifted. Warner says the number of eviction cases has risen, but it has not exceeded pre-pandemic levels.  


With AFC West Title in Tow, Chiefs Look Toward Bigger Things

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs will never take for granted winning their division, which they've now done six straight times, but a thorough thrashing of the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night served notice to the rest of the league. The Chiefs have their sights set on a much bigger prize.  Along with breaking the record for consecutive AFC West titles, the Chiefs (11-4) also maintained their place a game ahead of Tennessee and atop the conference standings with two games left in the regular season.  That would give them a coveted first-round bye while ensuring all of their playoff games would take place in Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs are now looking ahead to next weekend's trip to Cincinnati to face the Bengals. The Chiefs could secure the No. 1 seed as early as this Sunday if they beats the Bengals and the Titans lose to the Dolphins. Otherwise, they may need to beat the Broncos in their regular-season finale to wrap it up.

(Earlier reporting...)

KC Chiefs Clinch Playoff Spot After Defeating Steelers
The Kansas City Chiefs have officially clinched a berth to the AFC playoffs after a 36-10 win Sunday over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs also won their division for the sixth straight season, something that’s never been previously accomplished in the AFC West.  Chiefs wide receiver Byron Pringle, who played college football at Kansas State, caught two touchdown passes as tight end Travis Kelce and several other players missed the game after being placed on the NFL’s COVID list last week. It was the last regular season game at home and the Chiefs will try to maintain their No. 1 seeding in the AFC playoff picture when they travel to Cincinnati next Sunday. 


These area headlines are curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Kaye McIntyre and Tom Parkinson. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today!   

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