Governor Brownback Prepares to Deliver Final State-of-the-State Speech
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says he will deliver budget and school funding proposals next week during the State-of-the-State address. Brownback has also announced that he won't resign before he's confirmed by the U.S. Senate to become an ambassador in the Trump administration. Brownback will deliver the speech Tuesday at 5pm. KPR will carry the address live. The governor says the budget and school funding proposals will be his, though Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer had more input this time than in previous years. Colyer is in line to take over as governor if the U.S. Senate confirms Brownback for the ambassador post.
Trump Signs Order Disbanding Voter Fraud Commission
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has signed an executive order disbanding his voter fraud commission. A White House statement is blaming the decision on numerous states that have refused to provide voter information to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says that, "Rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense," Trump has signed an order to dissolve the commission and asked the Department of Homeland Security to determine the administration's next steps. Critics saw the commission as part of a conservative campaign to strip minority voters and poor people from the voter rolls, and to justify unfounded claims made by Trump that voter fraud cost him the popular vote in 2016. Past studies have found voter fraud to be exceptionally rare. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was serving as vice-chair of the commission.
Kobach Says He Will Advise DHS on Suspected Election Fraud
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says he will continue advising federal officials on election fraud issues after President Trump dissolved the voter fraud commission. Kobach said Wednesday that Trump's decision to disband his election integrity commission was a "tactical change" and a "handoff" of its investigation to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Kobach was the commission's vice chairman. Kobach said he expects to work closely with the department and the White House on election fraud issues going forward and to travel to Washington when necessary. He's said he's been in regular telephone contact with the Trump administration. Kobach has championed strict voter identification laws in Kansas that have sparked multiple lawsuits. He is also running for the Republican nomination for governor this year.
Legislative Leaders Delay Decision on New Kansas Prison
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A decision on whether Kansas should build a new prison will wait for at least two more weeks. Members of the State Finance Council agreed Thursday to delay consideration of a proposal from Governor Sam Brownback's administration to hire a private prison operator to build a new prison in Lansing. The proposed lease-to-own arrangement will be considered again January 18. The Kansas City Star reports Brownback said the old, deteriorating prison "desperately needs help." Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, an Overland Park Republican, said he wanted more time to study the proposal before voting on it. Under the proposal, CoreCivic Inc. would design and build the prison, but the state would operate it. The proposed $362 million project would provide a 2,400-bed prison to replace the current Lansing prison.
Swatting Death Call Suspect Threatened to Kill Grandmother
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Court documents show a man accused of making a hoax emergency call that led to the fatal police shooting of a Kansas man had once threatened to kill his grandmother. Tyler Barriss is accused of calling 911 last week with a fake story about a shooting and kidnapping at a Wichita home. The Wichita Eagle reports that his 62-year-old grandmother wrote in a California domestic violence case seeking a restraining order that Barriss had threatened her. He was ordered to move out of the house they shared and stay away from her, her home, her dogs, workplace and vehicle. The order was later dismissed when both missed a court hearing. Barriss reportedly threatened his grandmother to prevent her from telling authorities he had called in false bomb threats.
Brownback Names Interim KDHE Secretary, Top Medical Officer
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has appointed a Kansas Department of Health and Environment attorney to serve temporarily as its top administrator. Brownback's office said Wednesday that the new interim KDHE secretary is Darian Dernovish. He is the department's chief litigation attorney in federal and state courts. He has been a local and federal prosecutor and worked for the Kansas Highway Patrol. He is replacing Secretary Susan Mosier, who is resigning Friday. Dernovish will serve as secretary until a more permanent replacement is found. Brownback's office also announced that he appointed Republican state Representative Greg Lakin of Wichita to serve as the department's chief medical officer. Lakin is an osteopath and medical director for the Valley Hope Rehabilitation Center. He says he plans to resign from the Kansas House.
FBI Investigating Fatal Officer-Involved Shooting in Topeka
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka's interim police chief says the FBI is investigating a fatal officer-involved shooting in September, even as the police department's internal review is nearly complete. Interim Chief Bill Cochran says the FBI hasn't contacted him and he doesn't know when the agency's investigation into the death of Dominique Tyrell White will conclude. White was killed September 28 when two officers both fired four times as he fled after a struggle for his gun. Cochran told The Topeka Capital-Journal Wednesday the police department's internal review should be completed next week. FBI Special Agent Joel Sealer said the agency wouldn't comment on whether it's investigating the shooting. Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay has determined the officers were justified in shooting White and would not face criminal charges from his office.
Man Found Dead Inside Truck in Kansas City, Kansas
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Officials say a person of interest in a Kansas killing was taken into custody after a wild police chase along an interstate in northern Kansas City, Missouri. Kansas City, Kansas, police spokesman Thomas Tomasic said in a news release the victim was found shot inside a truck early Thursday. He died later at a hospital. The victim's name has not been released. Later Thursday, officers from several law enforcement agencies chased a van that exceeded 100 mph and weaved through oncoming traffic several times on U.S. 169 and Interstate 435. Authorities say police eventually shot at and hit the suspect, and the van spun to a stop. A woman in the van quickly surrendered. Officers arrested the man inside the van. No further details were immediately available.
Suspect in KCK Shooting Leads Officers on High-Speed Chase
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A van carrying a person of interest in a Kansas killing led officers on a wild chase as the driver weaved through the wrong lanes of an interstate while sometimes going 100 mph. Kansas City, Missouri police said the chase began Thursday near Smithville and continued until it spun out of control on Interstate 35 in northern Kansas City. Police spokeswoman Captain Stacey Graves says the driver was shot but his injuries were not life-threatening. A woman who was in the van surrendered. Graves said the driver intentionally drove toward oncoming cars and drove other vehicles off the road. No one else was injured. Kansas City, Kansas, police said the man is a person of interest in the death of a man who was found shot inside a pickup truck early Thursday.
Defense in Garden City Bomb Case Wants Trump Voters in Jury Pool
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys for three men accused of plotting to bomb an apartment complex housing Somali refugees have urged a federal judge to include prospective jurors from rural western Kansas because they are more likely to have voted for President Donald Trump. Government prosecutors objected. They say that granting the request would "wreak havoc" on the current trial and picking a jury pool based on ideology would set a dangerous precedent. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren took the matter under consideration after a hearing Wednesday in Wichita. Gavin Wright, Patrick Stein and Curtis Allen are charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against civil rights for allegedly planning to detonate truck bombs at the apartment complex, which also houses a mosque, in Garden City.
Topeka Police Identify Body Found in Burning Vehicle
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police say the death of a Lawrence man whose body was found inside a burning vehicle is being investigated as a homicide. Police said in a statement Wednesday that the body of 30-year-old Arnulfo Garcia was found inside the vehicle Saturday morning after firefighters responded to a call of a vehicle on fire in Topeka. The statement said arson investigators have ruled the vehicle fire was intentionally set. The coroner's office ruled Garcia's death a homicide. Anyone with information about the case is asked to call authorities.
Kansas Sheriff's Office Dog Dies After Being Hit by Car
ABILENE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas sheriff's office says one of its police dogs died after it escaped its pen and was hit by a car. Dickinson County Sheriff Gareth Hoffman says the K-9, named Biz, died Friday afternoon. Hoffman says the lock on Biz's pen malfunctioned and the dog pushed the gate open. Biz was later found dead beside a road. Hoffman says the vehicle that hit the dog did not stop. Biz joined the sheriff's office in 2016. He came from Nebraska.
Sprint Names Michel Combes President and Financial Chief
NEW YORK (AP) — Sprint named Michel Combes president and chief financial officer, months after it called off a merger with rival T-Mobile. Combes replaces Tarek Robbiati, who will remain with the Overland Park, Kansas, company to help with the transition until the end of the month. Combes most recently worked as CEO of telecom company Altice N.V. and is a longtime telecom industry executive. Combes will join the Sprint board later. In November, Sprint and T-Mobile said they couldn't come to an agreement that would benefit customers and shareholders. The companies have been dancing around a potential merger for years, but most recently said they would call off negotiations for the foreseeable future. A merger would have given the combined company better footing in competing with its much larger rivals, AT&T and Verizon.
Kansas Elementary School Ends Bible Giveaways
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A public elementary school in east-central Kansas is ending the free distribution of Bibles to students after complaints about the practice violating the constitutional separation of church and state. The Wichita Eagle reports that Herington Elementary School's giveaway took place about two weeks ago. A table was placed at the school with a sign inviting fifth-graders to help themselves to a free Bible. The American Humanist Association sent a letter to the school district, demanding that it end the practice, after receiving complaints from parents. The group says Bible distribution tables have been barred from elementary schools around the nation, with courts ruling that the young students "are especially open to coercion." Superintendent Ron Wilson says the district respects all religious beliefs and students' constitutional rights. Herington is about 30 miles southwest of Junction City.
Capital-Journal Publisher Ahrens Joining Missouri Company
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The president and publisher of The Topeka Capital-Journal has accepted a job with WEHCO Media in Jefferson City, Missouri. Zach Ahrens will be general manager of Central Missouri Newspapers Inc., which publishes the Jefferson City News Tribune, Fulton Sun, California Democrat and HER Magazine. He will also oversee the company's commercial printing division and Flypaper, a digital marketing firm. Those media outlets are owned by WEHCO Media, a privately owned communications company that operates daily and weekly newspapers, magazines and cable television companies in six states. Ahrens announced his decision to Capital-Journal employees on Tuesday and introduced himself to Jefferson City employees Wednesday. Grady Singletary, regional vice president for GateHouse Media, said a search for the newspaper's next publisher would begin soon.
Authorities Identify 1 Victim of Wichita Grain Elevator Accident
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — One of the two men killed in a Kansas grain elevator has been identified. The Wichita Eagle reports that Marcus Tice left behind a wife and two stepdaughters. Relatives confirmed his identity on Wednesday. The second victim has not been identified. The men died Tuesday at the Gavilon Grain elevator in south Wichita. The bodies were recovered about three hours after the men became buried under 20 to 25 feet of grain. It isn't clear how they got into the bin and what caused them to become trapped. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating.
18-Year-Old Missouri Man Charged in Mall Shooting Death
INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) - A teenager is charged with second-degree murder and armed criminal action in a deadly shooting outside a mall in Independence, Missouri. Seventeen-year-old Matthew Haylock was shot to death Tuesday night at the Independence Center mall. Jackson County authorities have charged 18-year-old Tyler Gates. The victim was from Independence, as is the suspect. Haylock's body was found near a vehicle in the mall's parking lot. Gates had been sought as a person of interest since the shooting.
Kansas City Natives Buy Alternative Magazine, The Pitch
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A new Kansas City-based ownership group has bought alternative magazine The Pitch. KCUR reports Carey Media LLC closed the deal on December 31 to buy the magazine from Tennessee-based SouthComm, which bought The Pitch in 2011. The new owners, Stephanie and Adam Carey, say they plan to keep the magazine focused on Kansas City. It is the first time in nearly 20 years that the magazine has been owned and operated locally. Long-time reporter David Hudnall has been named the magazine's new editor. Last year, The Pitch moved from a weekly publication to a monthly.
First Female President of Malawi to Speak at K-State
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) _ A woman living in exile after spending two years as president of the east African country of Malawi is speaking later this month at Kansas State University. Joyce Banda's January 29 appearance is open to the public. Banda was the Republic of Malawi's first female president from 2012 through 2014. She has also been a women's rights activist, entrepreneur, educator and lawmaker. She is credited with implementing reforms that helped turn around Malawi's ailing economy. Police in Malawi issued an arrest warrant for her in July in connection with a public corruption scandal in which millions of dollars were looted from government coffers. Banda denies the allegations. Banda's appearance is part of the Landon Lecture series, named for former Kansas Governor Alf Landon.
Auction of Country Music Pioneer Roy Acuff's Fiddle to Benefit Kansas City Goodwill
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A fiddle once owned by country music legend Roy Acuff is expected to generate thousands of dollars for the Goodwill organization in the Kansas City area. The fiddle was donated anonymously to Goodwill of Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas and is being sold in an online auction at shopgoodwill.com. As of this (THUR) morning the high bid was $7,780. The auction is open until 11 p.m. Central time Saturday. Acuff is a Tennessee native who died in 1992 at age 89. He was best known for hits such as "Wabash Cannonball and "Tennessee Waltz." The fiddle was made by Evart Acuff, Roy Acuff's uncle, in 1945, using wood from a family farm. It isn't clear why it was donated to a Kansas City Goodwill store.