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Headlines for Monday, October 25, 2021


Ex-Kansas Senate Leader Pleads No Contest to DUI

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita Republican who once was one of the Kansas Legislature’s most powerful lawmakers has pleaded no contest to driving under the influence and reckless driving. Former Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop appeared in a Topeka court Monday to formally accept a deal with prosecutors that dropped a felony charge of trying to elude law enforcement while speeding the wrong way on highways in Topeka. A Shawnee County District Judge found Suellentrop guilty and sentenced him to 6 months in jail for the DUI and 90 days for reckless driving. The bulk of the jail sentences were suspended but he will serve 48 hours in jail.


Kansas Lawmaker Warned in Past Now Barred from Agency Offices

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A first-year Kansas lawmaker has been banned from a state agency’s offices over what it called disruptive and intimidating behavior. The ban came eight months after Democratic state Representative Aaron Coleman of Kansas City received a written warning from a legislative committee about conduct before taking office that included abusive behavior toward young women and girls. It wasn’t clear Monday that Coleman would face a House investigation into the incident prompting the Kansas Department of Labor's ban. He went September 30 to the agency's main office in Topeka. The ban took effect through an October 12 letter from the agency's head. Coleman has said he was trying to help constituents.


Kansas Economy Rebounds Amid Pandemic

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - The Kansas economy has almost fully recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic. But some challenges remain.  Several factors have helped the state’s economy rebound, says Donna Ginther, a University of Kansas economist.  The biggest, she says, is billions of federal dollars from two massive relief bills passed by Congress. “That federal money was critically important," she said.  Especially, Ginther says, the $6.6 billion dollars in Paycheck Protection loans doled out to Kansas small businesses. “That PPP money preserved hundreds of thousands of jobs in the state," she said. Remaining challenges for the economy include a labor shortage caused in large part by the retirement of thousands of Baby Boomers. “35,000 Kansans at least have retired in the past year. You know, this was going to happen, but because of COVID it happened all at once," she said. The labor shortage has led many Kansans in low-wage jobs to look for better ones. And that, Ginther says, is causing a lot of churn in the labor market.  A lack of affordable childcare and spotty broadband coverage are also holding back the recovery in some parts of the state.

Biden Sued by 12 States, Including Kansas, over Reversal of Trump-Era Abortion Referral Ban

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s top lawyer has filed suit against the Biden administration seeking to restore a Trump-era ban on abortion referrals by family planning clinics that was reversed earlier this month. The action by Republican Attorney Dave Yost was joined by 11 other states. It says new federal regulations at the Department of Health and Human Services that return the Title X federal family planning program to the way it ran under the Obama administration prevents states from determining violations of a federal prohibition on clinics using taxpayer money for abortions. Former President Donald Trump set the ban in 2019. States joining the challenge are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and West Virginia.


Head-On Crash in Jefferson County Sends Six to the Hospital

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) - A head-on crash in northeast Kansas has sent six people to the hospital.  The Kansas Highway Patrol says four adults and two children were taken to Stormont-Vail Hospital in Topeka following Sunday's crash near U.S. Highway 59 and U.S. Highway 24 in Jefferson County.  Topeka television station KSNT reports that the driver of one vehicle suffered serious injuries while the other five people suffered minor injuries.


As Many as Five Tornadoes Touch Down Near Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - As many as five tornadoes may have touched down in the greater Kansas City area, leaving behind damage but no injuries.  Television station KCTV reports that four of the five tornadoes were reported north of Kansas City Sunday evening.  Debris consistent with a tornado was found in Doniphan County, in extreme northeast Kansas.  The tornadoes have not been confirmed by the National Weather Service and the strength of those storms is unknown at this time.


Kansas National Guard to Use Federal Funds for Vaccination Compliance

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The Kansas National Guard says it will use federal funds to make sure service members are vaccinated against COVID-19. That comes after state lawmakers raised concerns about the mandate. Kansas legislators passed a law against using state money to enforce vaccine mandates. So Leavenworth Republican Pat Proctor wrote to the Kansas National Guard, contesting its vaccine requirement. But Kansas Adjutant General David Weishaar, says the requirement is funded with federal dollars. The vaccine requirement is part of the U.S. Department of Defense’s mandate that all service members get vaccinated.


Woman Pleads Guilty to Soliciting Lansing Inmate's Murder

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A 44-year-old Kansas City woman has pleaded guilty to solicitation of capital murder after she helped set up a plan to kill an inmate at the Lansing Correctional Facility. During a plea hearing Friday, Renee Johnson-Fritz admitted that she sent a message to inmate Andrew Hogue ordering the death of another inmate. The target inmate was attacked in April 2019 but survived. Johnson-Fritz's husband, Frederick Fritz, is also charged with solicitation of capital murder. Prosecutors said he sent his wife a letter demanding the death of the Lansing inmate. Witnesses at a preliminary hearing said Frederick Fritz is a leader of the Aryan Brotherhood of Kansas. Hogue is charged with attempted capital murder.


State Investigates After 32-Year-Old Prison Inmate Dies

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — The death of a 32-year-old inmate who was being held at the Lansing Correctional Facility is being investigated because he died in state custody. The Kansas Department of Corrections said only that officials don’t believe Lawrence Brown Jr. died of the coronavirus. No other cause of death was given, but an autopsy is planned. Brown died Friday at a hospital in Leavenworth. Brown was serving a 122-month sentence at Lansing. He had been convicted in Sedgwick County of battery of a corrections officer or employee.


Allegations of Police Bias in Kansas Yield Few Sanctions

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The vast majority of complaints of bias made against Kansas law enforcement agencies are not found to have merit. An Associated Press review of data shows agencies have received hundreds of complaints of bias over the past 10 years, but records available to the public show only two alleging racial bias resulted in consequences for officers. Advocates for racial equality question how that could be the case and suggest that law enforcement investigating complaints against other officers and a lack of transparency are problems. Representatives of law enforcement say police investigators that look into bias complaints receive specialized training and that proving bias is extremely difficult.


Woman in Wheelchair Dies After Being Struck by SUV in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A woman in a wheelchair was struck by a vehicle and killed as she tried to cross a highway in Kansas City, Missouri, Saturday night. Kansas City Police said the crash was reported late Saturday night along U.S. Highway 40 near south Hocker Road. Police said a 51-year-old woman from Kansas City was crossing the highway in a wheelchair when she was hit by a westbound Honda SUV. The woman died at the scene.


1 Dead, 1 Injured in Kansas Crash Involving Two Semi-Trucks

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - One person is dead and another injured after a semi-truck rear ended another one on I-35. The Kansas Highway Patrol said one of the semi-trucks was carrying vegetable oil and caught fire in Saturday's crash. KWCH-TV reported that its driver was ejected from the vehicle and later died from their injuries at a local hospital. The other driver is in the hospital with injuries that are not considered life-threatening.


Police: 2 Critically Injured in Wichita Road-Rage Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Two people have been critically injured in a road-rage shooting in Wichita. Officers responding to a Friday night call of a shooting arrived to find two people with gunshot wounds.  Police say one is a 26-year-old woman believed to be the driver and the other is a man in his mid-20s who is believed to be a passenger. Both were transported to a local hospital in critical, but stable condition.  Police say they were driving down Kellogg when they were involved in some sort of road range incident with another vehicle. Several shots were fired from a white four-door car, hitting the two victims.


Overland Park Police Expand Mental Health Response for Calls

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) - The Overland Park Police Department is expanding a team that responds to police calls involving mental health crises. The mental health unit will have more than a dozen members and six co-responders. The change comes after the Overland Park City Council voted in September to raise property taxes to fund the unit, and the city received a nearly $250,000 federal grant. When the mental health team responds to a call, it will be joined by a clinician from Johnson County Mental Health.  Police officials say the department's goal is to let the mental health team help while officers keep everyone safe.


State Investigates After 32-Year-Old Prison Inmate Dies in Leavenworth

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) - The death of a 32-year-old inmate who was being held at the Lansing Correctional Facility is being investigated because he died in state custody.  Officials have only said they don't believe Lawrence Brown Jr. died of the coronavirus. No other cause of death was given, but an autopsy is planned.  Brown died Friday at a hospital in Leavenworth. He was serving a 10-year sentence for battery of a corrections officer in Sedgwick County.


Man Charged in Wichita Shooting that Killed 1, Injured 6

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A man is jailed on $5 million bond after being charged in a shooting at a Wichita club that left one dead and six injured. Keshawn Dawson made his first court appearance Thursday after being extradited from Arizona on Wednesday. Dawson is charged with first-degree murder, six counts of aggravated battery and criminal discharge of a weapon. He also faces drug and weapons charges in separate cases. Dawson fled after the shooting September 7 at the Enigma Club & Lounge. Police said he came back to the lounge and started shooting after being kicked out. He was arrested in Arizona on October 8.


Kansas City Police: Driver Who Crashed into Tree Had Been Fatally Shot

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Police say a driver who crashed into a tree in Kansas City, Missouri, was later found to have been shot. Officers were dispatched Friday night to an injury accident. Police say the man was unresponsive when police and emergency medical responders arrived at the scene.  Medical responders began treating him and transported him to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. It was discovered during his treatment that he had been shot. Detectives were later notified that he had died.


Kansas City Police: Fatal Stabbing Followed Altercation with Another Man
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Police say a 28-year-old man was stabbed to death following an altercation with another man in the yard of a home in Kansas City, Missouri. Police on Saturday identified the victim as 28-year-old Darryl Gilland. A person of interest remains in custody as detectives work with prosecutors on charges. Officers responding Friday afternoon to a cutting call were directed to the rear of the residence where they found the victim who had been stabbed. Emergency medical responders declared the man dead at the scene. Police placed the other man in custody for further investigation.


Major Kansas Universities Require Employees to Get COVID-19 Vaccine

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - The three largest public universities in Kansas will require all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Officials with Kansas State, the University of Kansas and Wichita State all announced Friday that employees will need to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8. The announcement came after the Board of Regents determined that an executive order from President Joe Biden applies to universities that work on federal contracts. Emporia State and Fort Hays are not subject to the mandate because they do not administer any federal contracts. Pittsburg State officials said the school was reviewing the requirements. Employees will be allowed to apply for religious or medical exemptions.


Oklahoma Cities, Others Join in Effort to Overturn McGirt Decision

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Two northeast Oklahoma cities, state law enforcement and business groups and the states of Texas, Kansas, Louisiana and Nebraska have filed briefs supporting the state's request that the U.S. Supreme Court overturn its decision that some tribal reservations were never disestablished. The cities of Tulsa and Owasso filed friend of the court briefs Thursday alleging crimes such as domestic violence have not been prosecuted because of what is known as the McGirt decision. A federal prosecutor and the Cherokee Nation dispute the claims. The McGirt decision found that Oklahoma has no jurisdiction over crimes committed by or against Native Americans on tribal reservations.


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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