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Headlines for Thursday, July 9, 2020

Federal Government Aims to Combat Violent Crime in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The federal government is stepping up to stop violent crime in Kansas City, Missouri, with a program named after a 4-year-old boy who was killed when someone shot into his home. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Wednesday that the new program, “Operation Legend,” is named after 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was fatally shot in his bed last month.  As of Wednesday, Kansas City was reporting 99 homicides for the year.  With nearly half a year left, that puts the city on track to far exceed last year’s total of 150.


Kansas Reports 717 More Confirmed Cases of COVID-19 Since Monday

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) is reporting 717 more confirmed coronavirus cases since Monday.  On Wednesday, the department also reported 282 COVID-19 deaths, up two since Monday. Health and Environment Secretary Lee Norman announced this week that Kansas is among the top 14 states in the country for the most rapid spread of the coronavirus, and in the top 14 states for having the least restrictions on activities. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people who have the virus have not been tested.  State health officials say 1,269 Kansans have been hospitalized since the pandemic began, an increase of 35 since Monday.  KDHE says 190,864 Kansans have tested negative for the virus since the pandemic began. 


Kansas Records More Than 17,500 COVID-19 Cases, Including 282 Deaths

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — Kansas has recorded 17,618 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. That number includes 282 deaths. Cases have now been confirmed in 98 of the 105 Kansas counties. Wyandotte and Johnson Counties have the most cases, with 2,760 and 2,565, respectively.  State health officials released the figures Wednesday.  Another update is expected tomorrow (FRI).  

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


4 in 10 Kansans Don't Have to Wear Masks Despite Mandate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Four in 10 Kansans live in counties that have overruled Gov. Laura Kelly’s statewide mask order even as coronavirus cases in the state soar. More than 90 of the state’s 105 counties have opted out of the mandate issued last week under a new state law that allows local leaders to follow or discard Kelly’s pandemic-related executive orders. The Kansas City Star and The Wichita Eagle's analysis of public health data shows that six of the 10 counties with the most cases have decided against mandatory mask wearing. Nine of the 10 counties with the lowest rates of testing have also opted out.

Kansas State Fair Board Will Reconsider Holding Event

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The chances of the Kansas State Fair being held this year are looking less likely after a large number of vendors backed out or expressed trepidation. The Hutchinson News reports that the fair’s board will meet Monday to reconsider its decision to hold the event in September. Kansas State Fair general manager Robin Jennison said it was beginning to appear the fair would be financially worse off going forward than not having it. The organization cannot operate in the red.


Lawrence Hospital Reports Death of Patient Diagnosed with COVID-19

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) – LMH Health is reporting the death of a patient previously diagnosed with COVID-19.  However, hospital officials say the inpatient death Wednesday morning is not believed to be a direct result of the virus.  LMH Health spokeswoman Amy Northrop says the hospital is committed to transparency, especially during the pandemic, but privacy laws prevent the release of further information.  "Our thoughts and prayers are with the patient’s family as they navigate this difficult time." Northrop said.


Kansas Settles Foster Children Civil Rights Lawsuit

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The state of Kansas settled a class-action lawsuit filed by advocates who accused the state of not providing foster children with adequate mental health care and moving them too frequently between homes. The settlement, filed Wednesday, mandates the state stop moving foster children often and track them more carefully. KCUR-FM reports the agreement won’t take effect until a judge approves and all children are notified. The settlement requires the state to stop sheltering foster children in hotels, motels, cars, stores, offices, unlicensed homes or any other non-child-welfare housing. The state must also provide timely mental health treatment when needed. 


Prosecutor: Attack at Topeka Fireworks Stand May Be Racially Motivated

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A white man has been charged with stabbing a Black man at a Topeka fireworks stand in an attack that the prosecutor say may have been racially motivated.  Authorities say 40-year-old Austin Bryce Langley has been charged with attempted first-degree murder, aggravated battery and the criminal possession of a weapon by a convicted felon in the July 2 attack.  Langley has prior convictions for aggravated battery. Public defender Cindy Sewell didn’t immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press. Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay says he will seek a longer sentence than sentencing guidelines call for if Langley is convicted.


VA Hospital Sex Abuse Trial Appears Close to Wrapping Up in KCK

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A trial in Kansas City, Kansas, involving the sexual abuse of patients at the VA hospital in Leavenworth, appears close to wrapping up.  A former physician's assistant, Mark Wisner, has already been convicted and sentenced to prison for molesting numerous patients at the Dwight Eisenhower VA Hospital in Leavenworth.  This trial involves a lawsuit brought by one of Wisner's victims against the federal government.  The government does not dispute that Wisner sexually molested veterans at the VA hospital, but says it should not be held liable because Wisner’s conduct was outside the scope of his employment and because the damages sought for a lifetime of medical treatment are excessive.  (Read more about this trial.) 


UnitedHealthcare Donates $1 Million to Help Kansas Nonprofits During Pandemic

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KPR) — A major health insurance company has donated a million dollars in grants to help non-profit organizations in Kansas expand healthcare access during the coronavirus pandemic.  UnitedHealthcare's Empowering Health grants have been awarded to seven community-based organizations in the state.  In part, the grants are aimed at helping uninsured Kansans and those residents living in under-served communities.  The company says the grants will help organizations increase their capacity to fight COVID-19 and assist individuals and families experiencing challenges from the pandemic.  “The circumstances created by COVID-19 have presented many new challenges for communities across Kansas," said Governor Laura Kelly. "We appreciate the grants awarded by UnitedHealthcare and its willingness to step up and support Kansans and their families."  


Grant recipients in Kansas include:
  • Kansas Food Bank at various locations statewide — $250,000 to purchase a refrigerated semi-truck trailer, provide a walk-in cooler for a food pantry in rural western Kansas to serve as a fresh food hub for other food pantries in the region, expand the agency’s mobile pantry program into rural counties in central Kansas.
  • Mid-America Regional Council in Kansas City — $250,000 to purchase a commercial freezer and dairy cooler to safely store home-delivered, medically sensitive meals for older adults and expand services throughout the Kansas City metro area.
  • Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas — $200,000 to support its Community Health Action Team with a behavioral health nurse and social worker to address social isolation and behavioral health needs among existing and new patients with low incomes. 
  • Johnson County Mental Health Center in Johnson County — $95,000 to support emergency clinical services, costs associated with the delivery of meals to residents and transportation for clients.
  • Valeo Behavioral Health Care in Topeka — $95,000 to provide comprehensive mental health services to more than 120 uninsured patients who are experiencing mental illness.
  • Just Food of Douglas County, Kansas — $60,000 to expand its cooking education program called Just Cook to additional community sites and increase rural food distribution through its mobile pantry called the Cruising Cupboard.
  • Harvesters – The Community Food Network in Northeast Kansas — $50,000 to expand SNAP outreach and mobile distribution programs through extended staff time and the purchase of emergency food.


Kansas Man Sentenced to 12 Years in Cruise Ship Killing

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man has been sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for killing his girlfriend by strangling her and pushing her over a balcony on a cruise ship off the coast of Florida. The Kansas City Star reports that 55-year-old Eric Newman, of Topeka, also was sentenced to five years of supervised release during a hearing Wednesday in federal court.  He pleaded guilty in December to second-degree murder in the January 2018 death of 50-year-old Tamara Tucker of Lawson, Missouri. U.S. District Attorney Stephen McAllister told reporters that the cruise was a present from her family. 

The couple was on a Carnival cruise from Jacksonville, Florida, to the Bahamas and was staying in a cabin on the 13th deck. Newman admitted during his plea hearing that the couple argued in their cabin. He said he strangled Tucker then pushed her over the cabin room balcony railing to the 11th deck, killing her.  At the time, the cruise ship was about 30 nautical miles from New Smyrna Beach, Florida.  At a news conference following the sentencing, U.S. District Attorney Stephen McAllister described her death as “a sad tale of intimate partner violence” and spoke about the need for preventative programs. He was joined by her family, who also called for better domestic violence policies, including a national registry of offenders. 

Her brother, Bo Tucker, said Newman was arrested previously for domestic battery, unknown to the family until after Tamara Tucker’s death just days after her 50th birthday.  “Tamara was an advocate for everyone else,” he said of his sister, who was a professor of social work at Park University and previously served as a program director of the Child Abuse Prevention Association in the Kansas City area. “She took care of people.”  His sister also had a son, and he lamented that the justice system “does not take domestic abuse seriously.” 


Sheriff: K9 to Be Euthanized After Vicious Attack on Handler

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas sheriff said he has decided to euthanize one of the department’s police dogs after an “unprovoked vicious attack” on its handler. Geary County Sheriff Daniel Jackson posted on Facebook the attack Tuesday involving K9 Krew lasted 90 seconds. The deputy had reached into the kennel in his patrol car to put a collar on the dog. He suffered a torn bicep and multiple puncture wounds requiring 17 stitches. The sheriff wrote that since 2018 the dog has also attacked two other K9 officers on three different occasions requiring a total of 54 stitches and the reattachment of a toe.


Police: More Human Remains near Creek Likely from Same Body

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say additional human remains found along a Kansas City creek are likely from the same body of remains discovered earlier in the week by a 10-year-old boy. The Kansas City Star reports that search crews found the additional human remains on Tuesday along Shoal Creek north of Pleasant Valley Road. That followed the initial discovery Sunday of remains by the boy in a nearby area of the creek. The remains have not been identified. Officer Doaa El-Ashkar, a police spokeswoman, said investigators believe the additional remains are from the same person, due to the “proximity and makeup of the remains.”


Missouri Man Charged in Death of Woman in Olathe Burglary

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A 42-year-old Missouri man was charged Thursday in the death of a woman whose body was found by police responding to a burglary call in Olathe. The Johnson County District Attorney’s Office said in a Twitter post that Clyde J. Barnes Jr., of Kansas City, Missouri, has been charged with premeditated first-degree murder, aggravated burglary, unlawful tampering with electronic monitoring, criminal threat and violation of a protection order. The burglary was reported around 3. a.m. Sunday, police said in a news release. The victim was identified as 42-year-old Jessica L. Smith.


Woman Charged in June Shooting Death of Wichita Man

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a 41-year-old woman has been arrested and charged with murder and other counts in the June shooting death of a man.  KAKE TV reports that Amber Ahrens was booked into the Sedgwick County Jail on Tuesday. She's charged with second-degree intentional murder, criminal possession of a firearm and possession with intent to distribute opiates. Police were called to a disturbance with shots fired at a northeastern Wichita home on June 17 and found 53-year-old David Leddy in front of a home with a gunshot wound. He died at the scene. Police said Ahrens is the mother of a 19-year-old man who was involved in a fight with Leddy earlier in the day.


Lawyer: TSA Makes Changes After Kansas Whistleblower's Complaint

UNDATED (AP) — The TSA has made some changes at airport security checkpoints after a whistleblower inside the agency complained about poor protection against the coronavirus. Jay Brainard accused the Transportation Security Administration of helping spread the virus because screeners didn't have enough protective gear. Brainard's lawyer says that since he lodged a complaint with a federal whistleblower-protection office, the TSA has taken new steps including requiring screeners to change or sanitize gloves after every passenger pat down. Brainard is the top TSA official in Kansas. TSA says nearly 1,000 of its employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and six have died.


AP Exclusive: "Strike for Black Lives" Aims to Highlight Problem of Racism

NEW YORK (AP) — A national coalition of labor unions, along with racial and social justice organizations, will stage a mass walkout this month to protest against systemic racism. Dubbed the “Strike for Black Lives,” tens of thousands of workers will walk off their jobs on July 20, according to details shared exclusively with The Associated Press. Workers across the economy, including fast food, ride-share services, nursing homes and airports, in more than 25 cities will strike to demand action from corporations and the government to dismantle white supremacy and to ensure the health, safety, and economic well-being of every worker, organizers said.


Police: 1 of 2 Men Injured in East Wichita Shooting Has Died

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say one of two men injured in an east Wichita shooting earlier this week has died. Police say 20-year-old Broderick Lloyd died Wednesday at a Wichita hospital. Police say Lloyd and a 21-year-old man were shot around 12:30 a.m. Monday. Officers called to the scene of the shooting found Lloyd in a wrecked vehicle suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. Police say the other man, who had been taken to a hospital by private vehicle, also suffered several gunshots. He is expected to recover. Police have not made any arrests and say they have no suspects.


Missouri School Districts Can Choose Mix of Online, In-School Classes

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri school districts will be allowed to have students attend every other day and learn remotely on alternating days, helping schools avoid funding penalties related to attendance.  The State Board of Education passed two emergency rules this week, establishing hybrid instructions models for districts that want them. Under the new rules, students will need to physically be in school at least two days a week. Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven said Missouri has allocated $10 million from the CARES Act to make up for COVID-19 learning losses, but it will be up to local communities to put the pressure on school boards to create rigorous, remote learning opportunities for students.


Rise in COVID-19 Cases in Missouri Worries Tourism Officials in Branson

BRANSON, Mo. (AP) — A surge in coronavirus cases is proving worrisome in the popular southwestern Missouri tourist destination of Branson. The Kansas City Star reports that confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, have more than doubled in less than two weeks in Taney County, which is where Branson is located. On June 26, the county had just 43 confirmed cases. As of Wednesday, it had reported 107 cases and two deaths. Branson has a wide array of shows and attractions and is among the most popular tourist destinations in the Midwest. Community leaders are now stressing the need for face coverings, though they’re stopping short of requiring them.


Man Shot by Deputies Booked into Southeast Kansas Jail

IOLA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have arrested a man who was shot by two sheriff’s deputies at a campground in southeast Kansas following an altercation. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says 41-year-old Edward Bridges, of Chanute, was taken into custody Tuesday after he was released from the University of Kansas Medical Center. Bridges has been booked into the Allen County Jail. He's charged in neighboring Woodson County with aggravated assault, criminal possession of a firearm, possession of stolen property and illegal drug possession.  


Feds Move Forward with Execution Plan; Former Lansing Man Set to Die Wednesday  

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department is moving ahead with its plan to resume federal executions for the first time in more than 15 years.  The executions are set to take place next week.  That's despite the coronavirus pandemic raging both inside and outside prisons and despite stagnating national support for the death penalty.  Beginning Monday, three inmates are scheduled to die by lethal injection at an Indiana prison.  One of the inmates is convicted murderer Wesley Ira Purkey.  In 1998, the Lansing man raped and killed a 16-year-old girl and murdered an 80-year-old woman. The decision to move forward with the executions has been criticized by some as a dangerous and political move by the Trump administration, at a time when there is great scrutiny of racial disparities in the death penalty and in the larger criminal justice system. Purkey is scheduled for execution on Wednesday, July 15.


GOP Establishment Boosting Kansas Congressman's Bid for U.S. Senate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Establishment Republicans who’d been coy for months about the Kansas GOP primary for the state's open Senate seat are increasingly putting their thumbs on the scale. They're hoping to push western Kansas Congressman Roger Marshall to victory over polarizing conservative Kris Kobach. A new GOP super-PAC this week launched what it promised will be a $3 million advertising campaign against Kobach.  Even President Donald Trump stepped in last month with the anti-tax, free-market Club for Growth confirming that Trump persuaded it to abandon a multi-million-dollar ad campaign against Marshall ahead of the August 4 primary.


GOP Candidate’s Dad Steers Cash into PAC Attacking Rival

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The father of a former Kansas Republican Party chairwoman who is seeking to unseat freshman Kansas Democratic Congresswoman Sharice Davids has steered more than $100,000 into a super PAC airing ads attacking one of his daughter’s primary rivals.  Federal Election Commission records show that Amanda Adkins’s father, Alan Landes, was the sole donor to the Heartland USA PAC as of March 31 after making two donations totaling $113,146. This week, the PAC launched an ad campaign attacking fellow GOP primary candidate Sara Hart Weir, the former president and CEO of the National Down Syndrome Society.


Kansas Speedway Announces No Fans for July NASCAR Weekend

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KCTV) – The Kansas Speedway has announced that no fans will be able to attend races in July.  “After careful and extensive consideration for the health and safety of our fans and the local community, we determined that the most prudent course of action would be to host the races without fans. We appreciate the patience and support from our fans, and look forward to our Fall NASCAR weekend, October 16-18,” Kansas Speedway President Pat Warren said.

The Kansas Speedway’s July NASCAR weekend schedule will consist of the following:

Thursday, July 23: NASCAR Cup Series Kansas 400
Friday, July 24 : NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Kansas 200
Friday, July 24 : ARCA Menards Series Kansas 150
Saturday, July 25: NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Kansas 200
Saturday, July 25: NASCAR Xfinity Series Kansas 250


KPR's daily headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays and updated throughout the day.  KPR's weekend summary is usually published by 1 pm Saturdays and Sundays.


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