NWS: It Was an EF-1 Tornado that Tore Through Johnson County Wednesday Morning
JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. (KPR/KC Star) - As far as tornadoes go, it was a relatively weak one that touched down in Johnson County early Wednesday morning. Even so, the EF-1 tornado was strong enough to snap trees and power poles in half. Storms also knocked out power to as many as 75,000 in the Kansas City area. Residents of Overland Park, Lenexa, Leawood and Prairie Village have been picking up storm debris and assessing storm damage to their homes and yards. The Weather Service says winds of 100 MPH moved through the area, but no serious injuries were reported.
NWS: Second Tornado Reported in Kansas City Area Wednesday Morning
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDAF) — The National Weather Service said preliminary damage shows an EF-2 tornado damaged Northeast Jackson County, Missouri, near Buckner early Wednesday morning. WDAF TV reports it was the second tornado to hit the Kansas City during the overnight hours. The tornado near Buckner left behind a nine mile path, was 200 yards wide, and had winds up to 115 mph. That’s in addition to an EF-1 tornado that hit Johnson County, Kansas, and then traveled into Jackson County, Missouri, at about the same time. A survey team with the weather service spent part of the day assessing the damage across both counties. The team said it focused on the area from 95th Street in Lenexa to Buckner in the eastern part of Jackson County. The NWS said the smaller tornado’s track was on the ground for 14 miles and was 125 yards wide at its largest point. The survey team said the EF-1 tornado had wind speeds of 100 mph. The weather service said it will continue to assess the damage and expects to have additional results soon.
Federal Report Critical of Larned Hospital Security Protocols
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - A federal report says multiple mistakes by Larned State Hospital staff led to a resident escaping. The resident escaped Larned in January and was found shortly thereafter. Staff at the state hospital say they thought escapee Isaac Watts was sleeping in bed when he had actually left the facility multiple hours before. Employees at the Kansas mental health care facility are supposed to check multiple times an hour to ensure everyone is accounted for. The person who eventually reported Watts missing did so after originally saying he was in his bed. The report also found that staff regularly forgot to check if doors were locked, the Kansas Reflector reported. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services gave the Reflector a copy of the report.
Ottawa Man Arrested, Accused of Raping 13-Year-Old
LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - An Ottawa man has been arrested and accused of raping a 13-year-old child in Douglas County. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 22-year-old Ernest Fredrick Ingram has been charged with one count of rape and providing alcohol to a minor. Ingram was arrested Tuesday by Douglas County Sheriff's deputies. He had his first court appearance Wednesday. If convicted, he's facing life in prison. Prosecutors accuse Ingram of raping the child in September of last year. His next court appearance is set for June 15.
Ex-Kansas Officer Found Not Guilty in 2017 Fatal Shooting
LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) _ A second jury has found a former Kansas police officer not guilty in the 2017 shooting death of a man inside his vehicle. The Kansas City Star reports that Matthew Harrington was acquitted Wednesday of involuntary manslaughter in the death of 47-year-old Antonio Garcia Jr. The decision came after a mistrial was declared in Harrington's first trial in April when that jury could not reach a unanimous verdict. Harrington shot Garcia in July 2017 while Garcia was sitting inside a vehicle in Leavenworth. Prosecutors said Garcia had a knife but didn't threaten the officer. Harrington was fired from the Leavenworth force after a department investigation found he had violated policies on use of deadly force.
De Soto Considers Proposals for Possible $4 Billion Plant
DE SOTO, Kan. (KCTV) - The site of the former Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant in rural Johnson County could once again become a major manufacturing hub, if the area can successfully attract an unnamed company. KCTV reports that for several months, local and state officials have hinted that a location in Kansas is a finalist for a $4-billion manufacturing plant. The state even passed legislation in February with more than $1 billion in potential incentives. Details of the site and the potential investor have not been made public. But KCTV reports the De Soto Planning Commission this week examined two proposals for the site of the former ammunition plant, which appeared to match the size and scope of the facilities that have been discussed. City officials in De Soto would not confirm further details.
Drought Hampering Kansas Wheat Production
WESTERN Kan. (KNS/KCUR) - The war in Ukraine has disrupted food supply chains and sent wheat prices soaring, but many Kansas wheat farmers won’t be able to cash in. A lack of rainfall here in the Wheat State is hindering farmers - preventing them from producing grain needed by millions of people around the world. Wheat harvests are expected to be especially poor in the western half of the state, where drought, heat and high winds have battered crops for months. Combined with skyrocketing fuel and fertilizer costs, Lane County farmer Vance Ehmke figures that half of the wheat fields in western Kansas won’t turn a profit. “They're losing money, even with the highest price of wheat that we've probably ever seen in the past 50 or 100 years," he said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that wheat fields statewide will average 37 bushels per acre. That's down sharply from 52 bushels the year before. Recent reports warn that just 10 weeks’ worth of wheat remain in global stockpiles. This could lead to global food shortages. (Read more.)
Kansas Woman Pleads Guilty to Aiding ISIS in Syria
UNDATED (KCUR/Topeka Capital-Journal) - A woman who used to live in Kansas pleaded guilty this week to operating an all-female military group for ISIS in Syria. Federal prosecutors say 42-year-old Allison Fluke-Ekren trained more than 100 women and girls in the use of AK-47s and explosive device. She also admitted to a role in the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead. Fluke-Ekren attended the University of Kansas, where she studied biology. Before that, she attended Topeka Collegiate School and, until 1997, Topeka High School, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal. She was detained last summer and has been in custody in the Eastern District of Virginia since late January. She faces up to 20 years in prison when she’s sentenced on October 25th.
Kansas Woman Pleads Guilty to Training an ISIS Battalion of 100 Women in Syria
UNDATED (Business Insider / Washington Post) - A former Kansas woman has pleaded guilty in federal court to organizing and leading an all-women ISIS battalion in Syria and providing material support to a terrorist organization. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, former Lawrence resident Allison Fluke-Ekren trained at least 100 women in Syria and worked with the Islamic State for several years. Business Insider magazine reports that, according to federal prosecutors, Fluke-Ekren repeatedly expressed interest in conducting a terrorist attack at an American mall or on a college campus. According to the Washington Post, friends and family from Fluke-Ekren’s days in Kansas City and Topeka, where she grew up as Allison Elizabeth Brooks, have said they are shocked she turned to extremism. After studying biology at the University of Kansas and pursuing a master’s degree in teaching at an Indiana college, Fluke-Ekren moved with her children and second husband to Egypt in 2008 and aided terrorist groups for more than six years while in Iraq, Libya and Syria. Fluke-Ekren told witnesses that she considered any attack without mass casualties "to be a waste of resources." She's facing a 20-year prison term when she's sentenced in October.
Parsons Man Wore Ankle Monitor During Bank Robbery
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Kan. (Montgomery County Chronicle) - A Parsons man who held up a southeast Kansas bank in May 2021 is probably wishing he never wore a security device during that robbery. Last week, Paul Duane Gordon, of Parsons, pleaded guilty to one count of bank robbery for the holdup of the Equity Bank in Independence. The Montgomery County Chronicle reports that Gordon took $460 from the bank during the robbery but could now be sentenced to anywhere from 17 to 20 years in prison because of his guilty plea. When Gordon robbed the Independence bank, law enforcement had a good idea of his location, because he was wearing an ankle monitor due to a previous crime in Missouri. That ankle monitor allowed law enforcement to track Gordon to his exact location, where he was subsequently arrested following a high-speed chase and a pursuit on foot. Sentencing is scheduled on August 19 in federal court in Wichita.
Universities Announce Common-Read Books
MANHATTAN, Kan. (KNS) - Three Kansas universities have announced the books they’ve selected as common reads for freshmen next school year. Students at the University of Kansas will read Disability Visibility, a collection of essays by people with disabilities. Wichita State students will read a book called Notes from a Young Black Chef, a memoir by Kwame Onwauchi. Kansas State has selected The Unthinkable, a book about how people survive disasters. Tara Coleman coordinates the First Book Program at K-State. She says the program aims to spark conversation among newcomers on campus. “If you are in the elevator and you’re going to the eighth floor of Ford Hall, and you don’t know what to say to the person standing in line, you can say, ‘What’d you think of that book?’ And that can be the start of a conversation and maybe a beautiful friendship," she said. All three universities are planning lectures and other events related to their common books.
Popcorn, Anyone? Maybe Not as National Popcorn Shortage Hits Kansas
TOPEKA (KSNT) – Popcorn, anyone? Maybe not. KSNT reports that a national popcorn shortage has emerged. Supply chain disruptions are limiting popcorn supply, which is concerning for many movie theaters and other vendors. But at least one local food truck says getting popcorn isn’t even the biggest issue right now. Other products, like sugar, cups and lids are also hard to find. All of this comes back to the same old issue that is being heard so often nowadays: supply chain problems. Aaron Parrish, owner of Poppin’ Squeeze, says he hopes they can make it through the season.
Lifeguard Shortage Hits Kansas Cities and Towns
LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS) - City pools in Lawrence only have half the lifeguards they need to run at optimal capacity. It's a problem many Kansas communities are facing this summer. Kent Rettig, with Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department, says they've increased wages and offered hiring bonuses, but they are still struggling. He says that pools being closed during the pandemic prevented departments from retaining employees. “So, we are rebuilding from scratch," he said. "It's going to take time to get enough employees and get the training and get everybody in place.” Even pools that have sufficient staff to open regular hours might lack enough workers to cover sick leave or vacation days. Rettig believes the issue won’t be as bad next summer.
Kansas Man Sentenced to Prison for 2018 Killing of Baby Daughter
HAYSVILLE, Kan. (AP) - A southern Kansas man has been sentenced to more than 20 years in prison for the killing of his 4-month-old daughter in 2018. Television station KAKE reports that 36-year-old Andrew Franklin, of Haysville, was sentenced Monday to 250 months in prison. Franklin pleaded no contest in April to second-degree murder and child abuse in the death of 4-month-old Brexley Grace Franklin. Police say the baby girl died on September 13, 2018, five days after she was admitted to a hospital suffering from a skull fracture, retinal hemorrhages and bruises to her jaw. Franklin was initially charged with first-degree murder and two counts of child abuse and has been behind bars since his arrest in January 2019 related to the baby's death.
Missouri Judge Throws Out $4 Million Verdict for Trans Student
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP/KCUR) - A judge in Jackson County, Missouri, has thrown out a $4 million verdict awarded to a transgender student in the Blue Springs School District who sued over being denied access to male bathrooms and locker rooms. Judge Cory Atkins ruled the student's attorneys did not prove that his male sex was "a contributing factor" in the district's banning him from male facilities. The ruling said the student was barred from those facilities solely because of his female genitalia. The student, identified in court documents as R.M.A., sued in 2015. He was allowed to participate in male sports but was required to dress in separate unisex bathrooms. (Read more from KCUR Radio.)
State Senator Dennis Pyle Declares Candidacy for Kansas Governor
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - A conservative state senator is running for Kansas governor after recently leaving the Republican Party. State Senator Dennis Pyle, of Hiawatha, is jumping into a race for governor where the current leaders are Republican Derek Schmidt and incumbent Democrat Laura Kelly. Pyle has served in the Kansas Senate since 2005 as a conservative Republican. But he had often clashed with Republican leaders. Pyle’s candidacy for governor as an independent may hurt Schmidt. While he’s unlikely to win, Pyle could split the conservative vote. Schmidt’s campaign said Pyle is helping Kelly by running and called Pyle a "fake conservative.” Pyle will need to collect 5,000 signatures to appear on the ballot.
Conservative State Senator Dennis Pyle Runs for Kansas Governor as Independent
HIAWATHA, Kan. (AP) — A state senator who recently left the Republican Party has begun campaigning for Kansas governor as an independent. The Kansas City Star reports that grain and livestock farmer Dennis Pyle, of Hiawatha, appointed a campaign treasurer Monday. Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Democratic Governor Laura Kelly are expected to win their parties' nominations for governor in the August 2 primary. Pyle will need to gather 5,000 signatures to appear on the November general election ballot. No independent or third-party candidate has come close to winning an election for governor in modern times, but they sometimes draw enough votes to influence close elections. Pyle's running mate is Clearwater school board member Kathleen Garrison.
Missouri Court Sides with Former Governor Eric Greitens on Message-Deleting App
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri appeals court says former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens didn't violate open records laws by using a message-deleting app. The Western District Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld a lower court ruling in Greitens' favor. A St. Louis attorney sued Greitens in 2017 over use of the Confide app by the governor's office. Greitens resigned 2018 in the face of possible impeachment and allegations of sexual and political misconduct. He's now running for U.S. Senate. The plaintiff's attorney told The Kansas City Star that they'll try to take the case to the Missouri Supreme Court if necessary.
Benedictine College Coach Ryan Moody Added to NABC Board of Directors
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Benedictine coach Ryan Moody, Colorado coach Tad Boyle and Wheaton coach Mike Schauer have all been appointed to the National Association of Basketball Coaches' board of directors. The board of directors provides strategic oversight of the coaches' association along with advocating for them on national legislative and policy issues. Their role in the college basketball landscape has become more pronounced over the past few years with name, image and likeness legislation having a profound effect on the game. The terms of Northeastern coach Bill Coen, Trinity coach Pat Cunningham and Westmont coach John Moore expired.
Royals Snap Losing Streak; Beat Bluejays 8-4
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Kansas City Royals won! The Royals beat the Toronto Blue Jays 8-4 to end a three-game losing streak.
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, 11 am weekends. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today.