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Headlines for Monday, January 29, 2018

Area news headlines from the Associated Press

Kansas Interns Must Sign Confidentiality Agreement

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Legislature requires interns to sign confidentiality agreements that lawmakers say are intended to protect private political discussions but some legal experts contend could deter interns from reporting harassment or illegal activity. The Kansas City Star uncovered the agreement as part of an open records request as the Legislature discusses improving transparency and addressing sexual harassment and treatment of interns. According to the agreement, interns who disclose activity in a lawmaker's office could be fired. Employment law experts who reviewed the document for The Star said not only could it discourage interns from reporting harassment, it also might violate interns' free speech rights. Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, said she thought the confidentiality agreement applied to political conversations, with no intention of protecting sexual harassers. But she acknowledged the three-paragraph agreement could have been writing more clearly. The Star requested 15 years of codes of conduct, rules, dress code materials and any other documents about interns' behavior at the Kansas Legislature. Speaker Pro Tem Scott Schwab, an Olathe Republican whose office plays a key role in administering the intern program, initially rejected the request but a month later provided no or barely any information concerning the internship program from 2009, 2010 and 2012. The newspaper reported the missing documents made it impossible to know when or why policies changed to require the confidentiality agreements. A thorough explanation of the Statehouse's sexual harassment policy does not appear until the 2018 intern handbook, which came months after reports that female interns were sometimes asked to drive male lawmakers home. Schwab's office said it didn't know when interns were first asked to sign a confidentiality agreement or whose idea it was. The office noted that other legislative staff members also are subject to confidentiality obligations. Ronald W. Nelson, an Overland Park attorney, called the confidentiality agreement "staggeringly broad." "It does not say anything about sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior being excluded from its terms, which it should," Nelson said.

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Brownback Critics Mock Fasting Proclamation with Pizza Party 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Departing Governor Sam Brownback wants Kansas residents to observe his final full day in office with prayer and fasting, but some critics are opting for pizza and beer. The governor's office issued its last proclamation, designating Tuesday as a "Day of Prayer and Fasting." He's resigning at 3 p.m. Wednesday to become U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. Critics posted plans on Facebook for a 24-hour "Bye Brownback" pizza and beer party starting at 3 p.m. Brownback said in a statement Monday that he feels blessed to have served the state. He said he would like to observe a time of prayer and fasting before, in his words, "God takes me on to the next part of my journey." Fellow Republican Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer will succeed Brownback as governor.

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Kansas Officer Fired for Violating Policy in Deadly Shooting

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas police officer has been fired six months after fatally shooting a man, and prosecutors continue to review the case. Leavenworth Police Chief Patrick Kitchens said in an email Monday that Officer Matthew Harrington was terminated Friday for violating the department's use of deadly force policy. The release said Harrington responded in July to a domestic argument over possession of a sport utility vehicle that initially was reported as a stolen automobile. The release says Garcia left before Harrington arrived, then returned and had an "encounter" with Harrington in the driveway. Garcia was shot while in the SUV. No other details were provided about what led up to the shooting. Harrington doesn't have a listed phone number. The department doesn't have union representation, and it wasn't immediately known if Harrington had an attorney. Leavenworth County prosecutor Todd Thompson said in a news release that his staff hopes to complete its review soon, noting that they're awaiting requested information. The release noted that the criminal investigation is separate from the police inquiry. "The standard for terminating an employee based on upon professional standards is also a much lower burden than the burden used to charge and/or convict someone of a crime," the release said. "We have an ethical duty to do our best to fully vet a matter before we file charges on anyone." Gina Mays, who raised Garcia starting when he was a teen, told The Kansas City Star that Garcia "did not deserve to die" and that the family wanted to see body camera footage. "We're all hoping to see this," Mays said. "I want answers like everyone else. There is a man dead here because of neglect." Kitchens said police aren't releasing body camera footage because the investigation is ongoing and it's classified as evidence.

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Mom Whose 4 Kids Were Killed in Pratt House Fire Dies

PRATT, Kan. (AP) — Hospital officials say the mother of four children who all died in a house fire in Pratt has died.  Wichita television station KSNW reports that officials with St. Francis Hospital in Wichita confirmed that Charee Eggleston was taken off life support Saturday and died soon after.  Eggleston suffered burns and was flown Thursday morning from Pratt to St. Francis Hospital. Her children, the youngest a baby, died after being trapped in the home's basement. Several other adults survived the fire.  Authorities have not announced the cause of the fire. The state fire marshal launched an investigation the day of the fire.  Pratt is about 80 miles west of Wichita.

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Fire Officials: 1 Person Injured in Topeka Church Fire

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say one person was hospitalized after a fire started inside a Topeka church.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the fire was reported about 4:30 pm Friday at Divine Love Outreach Ministries Church in the eastern part of the city.  Firefighters arriving at the scene found heavy smoke and flames coming from the rear of the church. Officials say a person found outside the church had sustained injuries from the fire was taken to a local hospital.  Investigators determined the fire started in the church's kitchen.  Fire officials estimated the damage of the structure somewhere between $25,000 and $90,000 and loss of contents at around $65,000. 

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Kansas Man Died in Single-Car Crash East of Hamlin

HAMLIN, Kan. (AP) — A 40-year-old Morrill man has died in a crash about a mile east of Hamlin in northeastern Kansas.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the Friday afternoon crash killed Ernest Reynolds III.  The Kansas Highway Patrol says Reynolds was westbound on 280th Road and was speeding when he lost control.  The patrol says the car left roadway and went through a barbed wire fence and telephone pole. The car then went airborne over a creek bed and came to rest in a pasture.  Investigators say Reynolds died at the scene.

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Family of Kansas Woman Who Died Decade Ago Looks for Answers

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The family of a Kansas woman who was mysteriously found dead 10 years ago is still looking for answers.  The Salina Journal reports Beverly Logan was found dead January 20, 2008, in her Salina home, and the family still doesn't know why or who's behind her death.  Former Salina police investigator Sean Furbeck led the homicide investigation into Logan's death until 2015 when he was promoted. Furbeck says during his time investigating "we put in thousands of man-hours" and "must have followed up on more than a thousand leads."  Logan's daughter Veronica Miley says she calls the police department every couple months. Miley says her family just wants Logan's case solved. She says, "it's not going to bring my mother back, but we deserve to know who did this."

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Kochs to Spend $20 Million to Promote Tax Overhaul

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) — The political network backed by conservative industrialists Charles and David Koch plan to spend $20 million to promote the tax overhaul recently signed into law by President Donald Trump.  The investment marks an early focus of the Koch brothers' 2018 political strategy.  The Kochs' chief lieutenants previewed the strategy Saturday, the first day of a three-day private donor retreat at a luxury resort in the California desert. They previously announced plans to spend between $300 million and $400 million on politics and policy. The GOP's House and Senate majorities are at stake this fall.  Weekend attendees include two governors and five members of Congress, all Republicans.  To help promote the tax overhaul, the Koch network will host rallies across the country, phone banks and run television and internet ads.

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After Silver Alert, Elderly Salina Man Found Dead in Car 

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Salina police say an elderly man who was the subject of a statewide Silver Alert was found dead in his car. A Dickinson County deputy on Monday found the body of 89-year-old Gene Oliver Wolfe after receiving a report that a car had gone off a county road. Wolfe, who had Alzheimer's and dementia, was reported missing Saturday afternoon. Relatives said he left his home and said he was going to his parents' gravesite in Manchester. Authorities found no signs of foul play and no autopsy will be ordered.

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Salt, the Solution to Winter's Dangers, Threatens U.S. Waters

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Truckloads of road salt used to keep highways ice-free in the winter are starting to take a toll on the environment.  Researchers say they're finding rising salt levels in hundreds of lakes, especially in the Northeast and Midwest where sodium chloride is used most. The findings are raising fears that salting roads could put everything from microscopic zooplankton to fish at risk in coming decades.  The environmental concerns — and a desire to reduce costs — have prompted public works agencies in many states and cities to search for ways to cut their salt use. They have turned to high-tech equipment to spread salt more efficiently and better weather forecasting to time their salting. Others are using liquefied organic additives such as beet juice and even cheese brine that help salt stick to pavement.

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Body in Kansas Ditch Investigated as Suspicious Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County authorities say the death of a man whose body was found in a ditch is being investigated as suspicious. Spokesman Lieutenant Tim Myers said a passer-by saw the body in the ditch near Haysville Monday afternoon. Myers says the man's age has not been determined. He released no information on how the man died or whether the body showed signs of trauma.

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Malfunctioning Extension Cord Blamed for Deadly Wichita Fire

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a malfunctioning extension cord sparked a weekend fire in a Wichita home where a man was found unconscious and later died. Wichita fire Lieutenant Jose Ocadiz said Monday that investigators found the heat-damaged extension cord in the middle of the victim's living room, buried beneath several items that were prone to catching fire. The Wichita Eagle reports that the victim was identified only as a 66-year-old man. He was found unresponsive Saturday in a hallway of the home and couldn't be revived. Ocadiz says an autopsy will determine the man's cause of death. The caused about $50,000 in damage to the man's home and property.

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Kansas Shelter Launches Barn Program for Feral Cats

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — An animal shelter in central Kansas is hoping to address rodent problems by using feral cats. The Hutchinson News reports that the Hutchinson Animal Shelter's Barn Cat Program launched last week. The program matches feral cats with applicants wanting to control rodent populations in barns, warehouses or outdoor structures. Animal Services Director Stacy Cleaves says the program allows the shelter to save more cats at no cost to applicants. She says the cats are usually independent, but applicants still need to provide food, water and some type of shelter. Feral cats who are matched with applicants will be neutered, vaccinated and have its ear clipped instead of being euthanized. Clipped ears are an international sign of a wild cat that's been neutered. Cleaves reminds applicants the cats aren't "going to cuddle with you."

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Man Pleads Guilty in Traffic Death While Fleeing Police

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas City, Kansas, man has pleaded guilty to causing a deadly crash while fleeing from a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper. The Kansas City Star reports that 47-year-old David Colvin admitted to a charge of involuntary manslaughter in the August 2016 death of Janet Eimer. The 66-year-old Kansas City, Kansas, woman died when Colvin took off after the trooper tried to stop him for a traffic violation. He then ran a red light and collided with Eimer's vehicle. The patrol said at the time that the trooper hadn't started to pursue the vehicle, but was following at a distance when the crash occurred. Sentencing is set for March 23.

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Police: Woman Killed by Hit-and-Run Driver in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police are investigating after a woman crossing U.S. 71 was run over and killed by a hit-and-run driver.  The Kansas City Star reports that the crash happened around 11:15 p.m. Friday. Police say the woman was in a crosswalk when the vehicle hit her.  Police say evidence left at the scene indicated the vehicle that hit her was a 2012-2015 Chevrolet Equinox. Police say the sport utility vehicle continued traveling south without stopping. Witnesses told officers that the vehicle was either a black or dark blue. It is believed to have front-end damage caused from the crash.  The woman was pronounced dead at the scene. Her name has not yet been released.

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Father of Slain Missouri Office Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The father of a slain off-duty Lee's Summit police officer has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the restaurant where the shooting happened and the alleged shooter.  The Kansas City Star reports that Thomas Orr Jr. file the suit on behalf of his son, Thomas Alvin Orr III. The lawsuit accuses Californos, the restaurant that hosted an all-day party in August where the 30-year-old officer was shot, of negligence.  The lawsuit also names Sean Steward, of Kansas City, who has been charged with second-degree murder and other counts in the August 20 shooting. Police have said Orr was not the intended target and was shot during an argument between other people at the restaurant.  The lawsuit seeks to recoup Orr's lost wages, funeral expenses and other damages.

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Wichita Officer Who Fired Gun in House, Injuring Girl, Fired

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say an officer who fired a shot inside a house, injuring a 9-year-old girl, has been fired.  The Wichita Eagle reports that Officer Dexter Betts was fired Thursday. Betts' attorney declined to comment to the newspaper.  The shooting occurred in late December when officers were called to the house for a report of a man who was threatening to hurt himself.  The family's four children and dog remained inside the house with officers, who were looking for a gun. While inside, an officer shot at the dog, saying it charged him, while the four children were in the room.  The bullet broke into fragments, which hit a 9-year-old girl in the head. The girl was treated and released from a Wichita hospital.

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Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas Honors U.S. Senator Pat Roberts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts is touting an honor he has received by a group that promotes Kansas and its history.  The Kansas Republican was honored Friday night with a citation for distinguished statesmanship from the Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas at the group's annual banquet in Topeka. Roberts said in a statement that he's appreciated the group and "its celebration of our state since I was a little boy."  The organization honored Roberts as Kansan of the Year in 1998 and as Distinguished Kansan of the Year in 1999. This year marks the group's 100th anniversary.  Roberts is the longest serving member of Congress from Kansas and is the only member to ever serve as both chairman of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees.

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Man Pleads Guilty in Shooting of 5-Year-Old Kansas Girl

LENEXA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man pleaded guilty to shooting and injuring a 5-year-old girl when he meant to shoot another man. Antwaun Nelson Fulton pleaded guilty Monday to attempted second-degree murder, aggravated battery and discharging a firearm into an occupied dwelling. The girl who was shot in the leg last July at the Crossland Economy Studio in Lenexa. Investigators say the 36-year-old Fulton shot at a man he had been in an earlier dispute with but the bullet missed the man and hit the young girl. The Kansas City Star reports under terms of Monday's plea, lawyers will recommend a sentence of about 18 years in prison.

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Firefighters Hurt While Battling KCK Blaze

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say three Kansas City, Kansas, firefighters were injured after the second floor of a burning building collapsed. WDAF-TV reports that the early Sunday collapse caused four firefighters to fall to the first floor of the vacant building. Two firefighters were taken to the hospital immediately while a third was taken later. Battalion Chief Morris Letcher described the injuries as minor. Fire officials estimate there's about $35,000 worth of damage at the home. They're working to determine an official cause.

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Driver Dies After Pursuit Ends in Crash

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a driver has been killed while fleeing from law enforcement in northeast Kansas. The Kansas Highway Patrol says 45-year-old Raymond Bosch Jr., of Effingham, failed to maneuver a curve early Sunday in Atchison. The patrol says his pickup truck then drove onto a private lawn, struck a brick retaining wall and rolled. The patrol says he wasn't wearing a seat belt and died. No details were provided about what prompted the pursuit.

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