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Headlines for Thursday, July 2, 2020

Lawsuit Claims Racial Discrimination at Frito-Lay in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal lawsuit alleges Black employees at a Frito-Lay plant in Topeka faced racial discrimination and harassment that was tolerated by managers. The lawsuit says white employees used racial slurs and threatened to lynch Black workers, and that white employees were promoted over Black workers. The lawsuit was filed last week on behalf of three former and current employees. A spokeswoman for the plant said Frito-Lay did not tolerate discrimination but officials would not comment on the litigation. Tiffany Klosener, an attorney for the employees, said they sued after the behavior became too much to bear, and in hopes of changing the plant's environment. 

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Kansas Legislators Seek Investigation into Former Detective

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — A coalition of Kansas lawmakers, religious leaders and racial justice advocates called Thursday for an investigation into a retired white police detective accused of preying on Black women for sex over decades and framing for murder the son of one of them. A letter signed by 27 state lawmakers from both parties was sent to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation asking them to investigate former detective Roger Golubski and others in the police force. The letter contends the allegations show “a pattern of abuse toward poor, minority residents." His lawyers did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

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Appeals Court Overturns Murder Case in Eudora Shooting Death

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Court of Appeals has overturned the murder conviction of a man who killed one person outside a Eudora bar and tried to kill two others. Thirty-nine-year-old Danny Queen was serving 19 years in prison for the June 2017 death of 32-year-old Bo Hopson. He also was sentenced for trying to kill two other bar patrons. The appeals court on Thursday overturned Queen's convictions and vacated his sentences because the Douglas County District Court believed the trial for a speedy trial was a month later than it actually was. Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson says he will ask the Kansas Supreme Court to review the case.

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2 Sedgwick County Sheriff's Employees Charged in Case of Missing Evidence

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in Kansas say two former Sedgwick County Sheriff's employees have been arrested and charged with theft and other counts after an audit uncovered nearly $150,000 missing from the department's property and evidence holdings. The Wichita Eagle reports that former property and evidence technician Marc Gordon was arrested this week on a warrant charging him with felony official misconduct and three misdemeanor counts of theft. Officials have also arrested and charged former property and evidence supervisor Robert White with 13 counts, including official misconduct, theft and drug charges. Investigators say the property stolen included more than $7,700 in cash, more than 5 pounds of cocaine, 235 of units of narcotic and hallucinogenic drugs and several Samurai-style swords.

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Police Identify Man Fatally Shot in Kansas City, Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police have released the identity of a man who was fatally shot in Kansas City, Kansas, earlier this week. Police said Thursday that 41-year-old Marco Mcelwee, of Kansas City, Kansas, died in the Sunday night shooting. Police spokesman Officer Dustin Dierenfeldt had said earlier this week that officers responded around 9:20 pm Sunday to the scene on reports of a shooting. Mcelwee was declared dead at the scene. Police have not indicated they have any suspects in the shooting, and no arrests have been reported.

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Another Alligator Spotted in Wildcat Creek... but Not One of Two Missing from Pet Store

MANHATTAN, Kan. (KPR) — Just how many alligators are living in Wildcat Creek? Authorities may not know. The Riley County Police Department responded to reports of an alligator sighting along Wildcat Creek this (THUR) morning. But the alligator is not one of the two that went missing from a local pet store. Animal Control Officers were notified and were able to locate a small alligator swimming in the creek. The owners of Reptile World were contacted, but claim the animal is not one of the alligators taken from their store, as those two alligators were much larger in size. Animal Control Officers have contacted the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks to determine a course of action for capturing the alligator safely. The public is advised to use caution in the area. Linear Trail will remain open but no swimming, wading, or playing is allowed in Wildcat Creek at any time.

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Priest Sues to Stop Federal Execution of Kansas Man over Coronavirus Risk

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Zen Buddhist priest wants a federal judge to stop the execution of a death row inmate he’s been counseling and argues he'd be put at high risk for the coronavirus if the execution happens this month. Dale Hartkemeyer says he must attend the execution as a spiritual guide. He filed a lawsuit Thursday in Indiana. He wants a court to delay Wesley Ira Purkey’s execution until a coronavirus vaccine is available or there’s an effective treatment. Purkey is among four federal death row inmates scheduled to be executed in July and August. The Kansas native was sentenced to death in the 1998 killing of a girl he picked up in Missouri.

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Pittsburg-Based NPC, a Large Franchisee of Wendy’s and Pizza Hut, Files for Bankruptcy

PITTSBURG, Kan. (KOAM/KPR) – NPC International, the operator of 1,200 Pizza Hut and nearly 400 Wendy’s restaurants in the United States, has filed for bankruptcy. KOAM TV reports the franchisee has been dealing with a perfect storm of problems that led to its Chapter 11 filing Wednesday, including coronavirus-related shutdowns, a massive debt burden of nearly $1 billion and rising labor and food costs. Pizza Hut, of which NPC is the company’s largest franchisee, has also been struggling with sales recently. NPC’s restaurants will continue to operate while it navigates the Chapter 11 process. NPC International's corporate office is located in Pittsburg, in southeast Kansas, and was once owned by billionaire and Kansas native Gene Bicknell. The company website says it employs nearly 40,000 people in 27 U.S. states. 

Pizza Hut said the filing “was expected” and remains supportive of NPC. Pizza Hut, which is owned by Yum! Brands, pointed toward a recent filing showing that sales at its U.S. restaurants open at least a year have begun rebounding off their March lows. Pizza Hut has 7,100 restaurants in the United States. NPC is the latest U.S. company to file for bankruptcy during the Covid-19 pandemic. Chuck E. Cheese’s parent company, GNC, 24 Hour Fitness, Neiman Marcus, J. Crew have all filed in the past two months. J.C. Penney is another American company that has declared bankruptcy.

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2 Killed in Early Monday Crash in Kansas City Identified

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police have identified two people killed in an early Monday morning crash in Kansas City when their speeding car crashed into a building. Police say the driver of the car, 30-year-old Kelly Jackson of Kansas City, and a back seat passenger, 22-year-old Day'drina Whitmire of Independence, died at the scene of the crash. A passenger in the front seat was hospitalized in critical condition. Police say witnesses saw the car, described as a convertible Ford Mustang, and a white vehicle speed past them on Truman Road around 2 am Monday. The witnesses said the Mustang went out of control, left the road and crashed into a building.

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Leavenworth Hospital Closing Because of Coronavirus Costs

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — The owners of Saint Luke's Cushing Hospital in Leavenworth say the hospital will close this fall because of the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Saint Luke's inpatient unit will close July 17 and the rest of the hospital will close Oct. 1. About 70 employees at the hospital will be able to apply for other positions in the Saint Luke's Health System. Hospital CEO Adele Ducharme says the hospital transitioned to emergency services last year to make it financially viable but was only a few months into the effort when the costs of the virus pandemic hit.

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Douglas County to Close Bars Beginning Friday, Due to Spike in COVID-19

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) — The Douglas County local health officer has announced a new order that will close bars and nightclubs in the county for two weeks, beginning Friday. Dr. Thomas Marcellino said through a press release that a surge of COVID-19 cases linked to bars prompted the move. He said that public health experts around the country are recommending the closure of bars. As of Wednesday, Douglas County reported 190 COVID-19 cases since its first lab-confirmed case in March. 66 of the newest cases have been identified since June 26th. Douglas County already issued a mandatory mask order for indoor public spaces where six feet of separation is not possible, and the county is planning to align with Governor Laura Kelly's statewide mask executive order that is expected to be published today (THUR). The local order will close bars and nightclubs, excluding curbside and carryout services of beverages to be consumed somewhere other than the bar's premises.  

See the press release and more details at the Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health website

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Kansas Governor's Order to Wear Masks in Public Takes Effect Friday

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Governor Laura Kelly has issued an order directing Kansas residents to wear masks in public places and in their workplaces. The Democratic governor's order is provoking a backlash from the Republican-controlled Legislature, even though enforcement is expected to be lax. Kelly issued the order after the state saw a surge in reported coronavirus cases following her decision to lift statewide restrictions on businesses and public gatherings May 26. She left the rules up to the state's 105 counties after weeks of complaints from Republican lawmakers that she was moving too slowly to reopen the economy. The new mask requirement takes effect Friday. 

(–related–)

Fears About Schools a Key Reason Behind Kansas Mask Order

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas’s governor and its top public health official worry that the state won’t be able to reopen its K-12 schools for the new school year in August if it doesn’t reverse a recent surge in reported coronavirus cases. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly told legislative leaders that a desire to reopen schools is a key reason for her executive order she issued Thursday to require Kansas residents to wear masks in public and their workplaces. The order takes effect Friday. Some Republican legislative leaders criticized the order as going too far, but state officials don't expect strict enforcement. Counties can opt out of the mandate. 

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Top State Health Official Suggests Kansas Blew Chance for Coronavirus Respite  

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The top public health official in Kansas predicts the state will face steeper increases in new coronavirus cases. The state's health secretary, Dr. Lee Norman, also suggests Kansas blew its chance for a summer pandemic respite by reopening its economy too quickly. Norman blamed a recent surge in new reported cases on gatherings over the long Memorial Day weekend and the lifting of statewide restrictions on businesses and gatherings on May 26. He said Kansas is not “anywhere close” to leaving the first wave of the pandemic. Norman's comments came after the Kansas State Fair's board voted to hold the annual event despite his opposition. 

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Number of Kansas COVID-19 Cases Closing in on 15,000, Including 272 Deaths

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — Kansas has recorded 14,990 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. That number includes 272 deaths. The virus has now been identified in 97 of the 105 Kansas counties, with Wyandotte County's 2,394 cases continuing to lead the state. State health officials released the figures Wednesday; the next update is expected Friday.      

(Kansas health officials release new data on COVID-19 case numbers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.)

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Kansas State Fair to Go on Despite Surge in COVID-19 Cases 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas still will hold its annual State Fair in September despite opposition from the state’s top public health official and a surge in new coronavirus cases. The Hutchinson News reports that state health secretary and Dr. Lee Norman told the State Fair Board on Tuesday that it would be difficult to enforce mask wearing, social distancing and smaller crowd sizes at a fair. The board voted to hold the event Sept. 11-20 with some precautions. The state Department of Health and Environment said Wednesday that the state has 14,990 reported coronavirus cases, up 3.8% or 547 since only Monday. Kansas has had 272 COVID-19-related deaths.
 

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Bruce Mensie, Longtime Engineer for Audio-Reader and Kansas Public Radio, Dies at 69

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - Bruce Anthony Mensie, a retired broadcast engineer for the University of Kansas, has died at the age of 69. Mensie worked for decades as an engineer for both the Kansas Audio Reader Network and for Kansas Public Radio (KANU FM). He died Tuesday in Lawrence. Mensie was born January 11, 1951, in Independence, Missouri, the son of Vern and Jean (Reiss) Mensie. He graduated from Rockhurst High School and studied at the University of Kansas, where he fell just a few credit hours short of graduating with a degree in journalism. As a student, Mensie worked as a transmitter engineer for KANU, the university's non-commercial radio station. This experience eventually turned into a decades-long job at KU, where he worked on transmitters and other kinds of broadcast equipment for both Audio-Reader and Kansas Public Radio. Mensie also worked as an electronics repairman, a mechanic and a bus driver. He also became a pilot. He leaves his wife, Mary Jo of the home; brother, Jon of Leawood; and best friend, A. K. Bailey of western Douglas County. Private family services will take place at a later date. Memorial contributions may be made to Audio Reader, sent in care of Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home in Lawrence.

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NCAA Case Against Kansas Hoops Taken for Independent Review

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ The NCAA's infractions case against the University of Kansas men's basketball program has been accepted into a newly created independent investigation process that was created to handle especially complex cases. The Independent Accountability Resolution Process said Wednesday that a referral of the case against the Jayhawks and coach Bill Self had been approved by the infractions referral committee. It is the first step in a process that was created in August 2018 to deal with select cases and minimize perceived conflicts of interest.

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Douglas County Sheriff's Report: Ford Fusion Crossed Centerline in K-10 Crash that Killed 6 Occupants

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - A Ford Fusion with six people on board crossed the centerline in a crash that killed all six occupants, according to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office’s crash report released to the Journal-World Wednesday. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that five family members and a longtime family friend had driven close to 20 hours and were within an hour of their destination before they were killed in a head-on crash on Kansas Highway 10.

Anico Kirk, 29; her three daughters, Yamel Kirk, 11, Umariel Lee, 9, and Nah’Liyah Cay, 4; Anico’s brother Maurice Ross, 27; and longtime family friend Felecia Harvey, 49, were killed in the crash the evening of June 18, according to family members. They were from Topeka, though Kirk and her daughters had moved to Lakeland, Florida, about a year prior.

It remains unclear why the westbound Fusion crossed the centerline, but investigators believe both the Fusion and the eastbound GMC with which it collided were rounding a curve on K-10 at the time. The collission happened about half a mile west of the interchange at Iowa Street. Both vehicles caught fire. Christine Wiseman, a 41-year-old from Tonganoxie, was the sole occupant of the GMC. She survived the crash but was taken to an area hospital with serious injuries. Investigators do not suspect that either driver was impaired, but test results are pending.

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K-State Launches Diversity Programs After Football Boycott

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas State University is launching a diversity and education fund to address racial injustice after football players threatened a boycott in response to an insensitive tweet by a student about the death of George Floyd. The school also said student-athletes, coaches and staff would undergo mandatory diversity and inclusion training that includes monthly town hall sessions. And it announced that it would provide transportation for athletes to voting locations on Election Day.

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Lawsuit: Kansas City Ordinances Target Protesters
 
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Civil rights advocates have filed suit on behalf of three protesters who were arrested on charges of violating city ordinances during demonstrations against police brutality and racial injustice in Kansas City, Missouri. Kansas City police have arrested more than 200 nonviolent protesters in May and June for violating these ordinances which criminalize the “failure to obey” law enforcement orders. The ACLU of Missouri says in a news release that these ordinances are unconstitutional as they give law enforcement unlimited power to silence speech and violate due process rights.

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Veterans Affairs Says Agency is Changing Troubled Culture

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The leader of the Department of Veterans Affairs says the agency is focusing on improving accountability and inclusiveness at its hospitals. Robert Wilkie, secretary of Veterans Affairs, made his comments Thursday after touring the Kansas City VA Medical Center, which has been the target of complaints and protests alleging minority employees have been discriminated against for years. Wilkie says changes in leadership at the Kansas City hospital have led to increasing satisfaction for employees and veterans at the facility. Civil rights organizations in Kansas City are pushing for changes at the hospital after numerous complaints from Black employees about harassment and discrimination.

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Police Officer, Suspect Injured in Kansas City Shooting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City police officer and a suspect have been hit by gunfire. Kansas City police say the officer was hospitalized after the Thursday shooting. Kansas City police spokesman Sgt. Jake Becchina says a suspect was also shot. Information about the officer and suspect's injuries wasn't immediately available. The shooting is the second that injured a Kansas City officer Thursday. Three people including a police officer were shot earlier Thursday after a reported robbery at a bus stop. 

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3 Shot, Including Police Officer, After Alleged Robbery

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say three people including a police officer were shot after a reported robbery at bus stop in northeast Kansas City, Missouri. Sgt. Bill Lowe of the Missouri State Highway Patrol says a Ride KC bus driver called police after the suspect in a robbery she had just witnessed boarded her bus. The suspect shot a police officer when he tried to get on the bus, then shot the bus driver. Both sustained non-life threatening injuries. The suspect was shot and critically wounded after firing on other officers who arrived on the scene.

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U.S. Treasury Loaning $700 Million to Struggling Trucking Company Based in Overland Park

SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — A struggling trucking company once sued by the Department of Defense is getting a $700 million loan from the U.S. government because it is “critical to maintaining national security,” the Treasury Department said Wednesday. U.S. taxpayers will take a 29.6% stake in YRC Worldwide as a result of the deal, which was made as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The announcement by Treasury did not mention that the Defense Department sued YRC in 2018 for overcharging the government for freight carrier services and making false statements. YRC Worldwide is headquartered in Overland Park.
 
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Man Sentenced to Life for 2018 Shooting at Olathe School

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A Missouri man was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison for a 2018 shooting outside an Olathe elementary school that killed one man and left another paralyzed. WDAF-TV reports that 34-year-old Anthony Grable of Kansas City will not be eligible for parole for 50 years. He pleaded guilty last year to first-degree murder, attempted murder, aggravated assault, aggravated robbery and burglary. Grable was installing playground equipment at Sunrise Point Elementary in July 2018 when a fight over tools escalated to a crime spree. Grable shot and killed Todd Eugene Davis and critically injured Efren Joaquin Gomez.

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Kansas Police Officer Who Fatally Shot Teen Gets $70,000 Payout

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas police officer who fatally shot a 17-year-old received a $70,000 payout after he agreed to resign. Former Overland Park officer Clayton Jenison shot John Albers in January 2018 as the teenager was backing a minivan out of the family's garage. Jenison later was cleared of any wrongdoing in the shooting. The city of Overland Park said in a statement that the payout and severance package with Jenison was in the best interest of the community. Jenison and other officers went to the home when Albers' friends reported he was threatening to hurt himself. His parents were not at home at the time.

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Business Leaders Say Area's Economy Improving with Reopening
 
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new survey of business leaders released Wednesday suggests the economy has begun to recover as businesses reopened in the past month in nine Midwest and Plains states. But Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said the region's economy remains weaker than before the coronavirus outbreak began. And business leaders expect the economy to continue improving over the next six months. The region's overall index jumped into positive territory at 50.3 in June from May's 43.5. Any score above 50 suggests growth, while scores below 50 suggest decline. The monthly survey covers Kansas, Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

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