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Headlines for Thursday, September 23, 2021

 

Ex-Kansas Legislator Pleads Not Guilty to COVID Relief Fraud

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Former Kansas state Representative Michael Capps has pleaded not guilty to 19 counts that allege he tried to defraud federal, state and county government organizations out of more than $450,000 in coronavirus relief funding. The Wichita Eagle reports that Capps entered the plea Wednesday via video conference from his lawyer’s office during his arraignment hearing. The Wichita Republican also agreed to surrender his passport while he awaits trial. Federal prosecutors have said Capps filed forms inflating the number of employees he had at two businesses and a sports foundation, and then applied for loans to pay the non-existent employees. Capps is charged with multiple counts of making a false statement, bank fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.

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3 Students Injured in Shooting Outside Wichita School

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say three students suffered gunshot wounds during a lunchtime shooting outside a Wichita high school. Officers responded Tuesday to 911 calls of a disturbance on a sidewalk outside East High School. Police say two male students, ages 15 and 16, were taken to a local hospital with injuries that were not considered life-threatening, and a another 15-year-old male student later reported a graze wound to the school nurse. Authorities were able to track the vehicle and take three other teenagers into custody. Police say the shooting appears to stem from an ongoing dispute.

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U.S. Marshals Still Searching for Dangerous Sex Offender Who Escaped Kansas Mental Hospital

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (WDAF) - U.S. Marshals are continuing to search for a dangerous sex offender who escaped June 30 from a state mental hospital in Kansas, and they are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to his capture.  The offender, 42-year-old John Freeman Colt, was sentenced in 2001 to five years in state prison for aggravated sexual battery, attempted rape, aggravated burglary, and four counts of aggravated battery against law enforcement.  WDAF TV reports that Colt was required to register as a sexual offender for the remainder of his life.  After his criminal sentence was completed, the State of Kansas courts deemed him a sexually violent predator at high risk to commit a future sex offense and too dangerous to be released. He was indefinitely civilly committed and sent to the Larned State Hospital’s Sexual Predator Treatment Program in 2007, where he has resided until the escape.  Investigators believe Colt planned his escape several months in advance, obtaining a replica of a staff ID badge and dress clothes.  While his whereabouts are currently unknown, he may be traveling to - or camping in or around - state or national parks throughout Colorado, Missouri, New Mexico, South Dakota, Texas or Utah. (Read more)

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Kansas Representative Davids Co-Sponsoring Abortion Rights Bill

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KNS) - Members of the U.S. House of Representatives will be voting on a bill that would put protections for abortion rights into federal law. The Women’s Health Protection Act would overturn recent tight restrictions on abortion that have recently been passed in states like Texas. It would also likely overturn some of the abortion restrictions in Kansas, like state-required counseling before a procedure or the current ban on getting a telemedicine abortion. Kansas Congresswoman Sharice Davids says a  woman’s right to an abortion is actively endangered in the current political landscape. “The right to make decisions about our own body is at a greater risk than ever," Davids said.  Kansans will vote on an amendment next year that would re-write the state constitution to say there’s no right to an abortion. However, if the federal bill became law, new state-level restrictions would be toothless. The bill has 212 sponsors in the House. It could pass the House with six more votes, but will face an uphill battle in the U.S. Senate. 

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Western Missouri Sheriff: 3 People Found in Home Died of Natural Causes

GLENAIRE, Mo. (AP) — The Clay County Sheriff's office says three people who were found dead in a home in July died from natural causes. Deputies found 66-year-old Roger Wilfong; his sister, 67-year-old Mary Wilfong, and their 99-year-old mother, Virginia King, dead inside a home in Glenaire. Deputies said all three were seated in the living room. Investigators determined the two women had serious health issues and could not move around without Roger Wilfong's help. He apparently died in June after choking on food, and the women were not able to access food, water or their medications. The cause of their deaths was listed as undetermined.

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Official: Kansas Middle School Student Died of COVID-19

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas education official says a middle school student has died of COVID-19. No details about the death have been released. The child's death would be the first reported COVID-19 death of someone aged 10 to 17 in Kansas and only the third reported for someone under 18. Education Commissioner Randy Watson said Wednesday that state health officials told him the child died this week. State health officials did not return requests for more information Wednesday. Meanwhile, state health officials reported 11 new COVID-19 clusters at schools. Data from the department showed there are now 72 active school outbreaks across the state, causing 537 cases and one hospitalization.

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Parents, Student in Blue Valley School District Agree to Dismiss Their Lawsuit Challenging Mask Mandate
 
JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. (KCUR) - A Blue Valley parent and middle school student have agreed to dismiss their lawsuit challenging the Johnson County Board of Commissioners’ mask mandate in some schools, even as a separate legal challenge is still pending.  The lawsuit, filed two weeks ago, alleged the board’s order, which lasts through the end of the school year, is too long. Ryan A. Kriegshauser, the lawyer who filed it, said he dropped the suit because of the risk of the minor child being "subjected to vitriol, rumors, and innuendo from bad actors."  The board of commissioners issued its health order in August. It mandates face masks in public and private schools up to the sixth grade.  Still pending is another lawsuit filed earlier this month that also challenges the school mask order as an “unconstitutional exercise of governmental power.”

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Suspect Arrested After Body Found in Rural Saline County

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Salina police say a 27-year-old man is in custody after a body was found in rural Saline County. Salina police say a body of a man in his 40s was found on Tuesday. He has not been publicly identified. The Salina police department says it is requesting a charge of second-degree murder against Manuel Medina-Castro in the man's death. Police say that Manuel Medina-Castro was arrested September 17 on a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm and other charges. That arrest came after Medina-Castro and his family members reported that car he had borrowed appeared to have blood in it.

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Wichita Man Charged for Participation in January 6 Riot at Nation's Capital

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 37-year-old Wichita man is facing several charges after federal authorities said he assaulted Capitol police officers during the January 6, 2021 riot in Washington D.C. Michael Eckerman was arrested and charged Tuesday with eight counts, including assaulting, resisting or impeding officers attempting to stop protesters from entering the U.S. Capitol. An affidavit submitted by an FBI agent says Eckerman at one point pushed a police officer, who fell down some stairs, while rioters were moving through the Capitol. Eckerman told KAKE-TV that he was at the protest but did not touch any police officer or hurt anyone. 

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Lenient Johnson County School District Sees High COVID-19 Rates

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Johnson County health officials say they are concerned about a high COVID-19 infection rate in the Spring Hill district, which is the only school district in the county that doesn't require masks for all grade levels. Health department data shows Johnson County schools are averaging an incidence rate of about 3 cases per 1,000 students since August 15. Spring Hill's rate was more than 15 per 1,000 students this month. Spring Hill requires masks only for younger students but also allows parents to sign exemption forms. The district says it is monitoring the situation but doesn't currently plan to change its protocols.

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Judge Closes Missouri Restaurant over Mask Mandate Violations

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)  - A judge in Jackson County, Missouri has ordered a restaurant in Blue Springs to shut its doors. Rae’s Café has repeatedly violated Jackson County’s mask mandate. Thursday afternoon, Judge Jennifer Phillips granted the county’s request for a temporary injunction and restraining order. The judge ruled that the restaurant must close until it complies with health regulations and obtains a valid permit from the county health department. The county first ordered the restaurant to close on September 3, after multiple complaints about mask violations. The café’s owners reopened the following day as a private club and charged customers a one dollar “membership fee” at the door. The restaurant’s owners said the kitchen is too hot for employees to wear face masks and said they were worried about losing customers if masks were required.

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1 Dead, 3 Teens Arrested After Chase and Shooting in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a 16-year-old girl is dead and three teenagers are in custody after shots were fired while two vehicles chased each other. Police Captain Jeff Weible said officers went to an area near Wichita State University Thursday afternoon after receiving calls about shots being fired. A short time later, a vehicle carrying a group of teenagers arrived at Wesley Medical Center, with the 16-year-old victim in the car. The other vehicle, which had been stolen, was recovered after the suspects fled on foot. Weible says a preliminary investigation indicates the groups in the two cars knew each other.  No other details were released.

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Delta Variant Appears to Plateau but Kansas Hospitals Overwhelmed

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — A rapid surge in the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Kansas has plateaued in recent weeks, but it’s still at a level that’s overwhelming hospitals. With the delta variant spreading this summer, the daily count of COVID inpatients quickly shot up from fewer than 200 to more than 800 people. Since mid-August, daily inpatient numbers have stayed in the mid-700s to low-800s. Hospitals are struggling to take in all those patients. Marci Nielsen, Governor's Laura Kelly's chief advisor on the pandemic, said, "the fact that we still have so many ICUs full is very concerning.”  Health care workers are exhausted and burned out.” The number of newly identified COVID cases in Kansas has fallen for two weeks in a row, but fewer people are getting tested, so it’s not clear if the delta surge is slowing.

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Injured Ex-Cop Now Attorney Running for Kansas Attorney General

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — An attorney who was forced to give up a career as a police officer after a drunken driver struck him is running for Kansas attorney general next year as a Democrat. Chris Mann of Lawrence launched his campaign Tuesday with a short video. He promised to focus on public safety issues and to remove partisan politics from the attorney general’s office. Mann has never held public office and is the first Democrat to announce a bid for attorney general. He was a police officer in Lawrence but was injured during a 2002 traffic stop. He later earned a law degree and became a Wyandotte County prosecutor and state securities regulator.

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Remains of Revered Kansas Priest Returned to Family

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The remains of a Kansas priest who is being considered for sainthood were returned to his family, 70 years after he died in a North Korean prisoner of war camp. During a ceremony Tuesday in Hawaii, U.S. Defense officials gave the remains of Reverend Emil Kapaun to his family and officials with the Catholic Diocese of Wichita. The remains will be flown back to Kansas, where they will be taken first to Pilsen — Kapaun's hometown — before being taken to Wichita, where a funeral is scheduled for September 29. He died in a prisoner of war camp during the Korean War.

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Court Rejects Missouri AG's Requests in 1979 Killings Case

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A Missouri appeals court has denied the state attorney general's request to recuse all Jackson County judges from presiding over an upcoming evidentiary hearing for a man who the county prosecutor says was wrongfully convicted in a triple homicide more than 40 years ago. The Missouri Court of Appeals on Thursday also denied Attorney General Eric Schmitt's request to cancel the October 5-6 hearing for Kevin Strickland, who has been in prison for the killings since 1979 and has always maintained that he's innocent. Schmitt argued that judges in Jackson County, which includes some of Kansas City, have shown a bias in favor of Strickland. His spokesman says Schmitt will appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court. 

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LGBTQ Advocates Demand Kansas City Cut Chick-Fil-A from Proposed List of New Airport Restaurants

KANSAS CITY, MO. (KCUR) - A Kansas City Council committee is considering a proposal for vendors at the new KCI terminal, but the inclusion of Chick-fil-A in that list has drawn complaints over the company’s history of anti-LGBTQ donations.  KCUR Radio reports that a plan unveiled last week to include Chick-fil-A alongside a mix of local and national restaurants inside the new Kansas City International (KCI) airport terminal is causing concern among LGBTQ advocates, who say it betrays the terminal’s inclusive ideals.  Last week, Kansas City officials named Vantage Airport Group of Vancouver, Canada, as the recommended concessions operator for KCI’s $1.5 billion new terminal. Vantage’s preliminary plan made public at a City Council business session included Chick-fil-A.  Previously, the new terminal had been lauded by local advocates for its steps toward greater inclusivity, including gender-inclusive restrooms.  But now those advocates say those steps feel hollow. The LGBTQ Commission of Kansas City, Missouri, released a letter to the city this week calling on elected officials to remove Chick-fil-A from consideration.  Chick-fil-A’s CEO, Dan Cathy, made headlines in 2012 when he said same-sex marriage would bring “God’s judgement on our nation.” He has since continued to donate to the National Christian Charitable Foundation, which funded opposition to the Equality Act, a bill in Congress that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity in many aspects of U.S. life.  The private company itself halted donations to the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in 2019 after repeated backlash.  (Read more)

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Democratic U.S. Lawmakers Attempt to Revive Nationwide Eviction Moratorium

UNDATED, (AP) - Progressive U.S. lawmakers have introduced a bill that would reimpose a nationwide eviction moratorium that lapsed last month. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, and Rep. Cori Bush, of Missouri, say their bill would direct the secretary of Health and Human Services to implement a ban on evictions in response to COVID-19. It would remain in effect until 60 days after a public health emergency is declared. The Supreme Court’s conservative majority at the end of August allowed evictions to resume across the United States, blocking the Biden administration from enforcing a temporary ban that was put in place because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Evergy Hopes to Boost Electric Vehicles Market in Kansas by Expanding Charging Network

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - Evergy wants to spend about $30 million to spur electric vehicle adoption by expanding the charging network in Kansas. But the Kansas News Service reports state regulators aren’t on board with all of the plan.  Evergy’s plan calls for spending $19 million to offer rebates to Kansas homeowners and businesses to install electric vehicle chargers. The company is also asking state regulators to approve spending $13.5 million on expanding the company’s public charging network to underserved areas outside of the Kansas City metro.  Regulators at the Kansas Corporation Commission say they can get behind the rebate program, but don’t think it’s in the best interest of customers to have them pay to expand a charging network when private companies are willing to take the risk.  If regulators vote to deny the request, it would be the second time regulators have prevented Evergy from passing the costs of building a charging network along to its customers.

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Jay-Z's Organization Seeks Kansas City, Kansas Police Agency's Documents

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A philanthropic organization led by rapper and media mogul Jay-Z is seeking police files and other records related to officer misconduct in the Kansas City, Kansas, police department. Team Roc is the criminal justice division of Jay-Z's Roc Nation. It filed a legal request Monday in Wyandotte County District Court seeking investigative files, personnel records and information on officer misconduct allegations. The department says it has released hundreds of pages of documents to the group but state law does not require the release of personnel records and criminal investigation files. Roc Nation is asking the court to override the state law and make the documents public.

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Dolly Parton Reading Program Could Benefit Kansas Kids

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) -More children across Kansas could soon have access to free books through a program sponsored by Dolly Parton. State agencies will use $350,000 in federal aid to expand the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. The program partners with nonprofit groups to make free books available to children up to age five. Currently only 77 of  the state’s 105 counties are in the book give-away program. The new money will expand that to every ZIP code in the state. Imagination Library partners with nonprofit groups to mail a free book once a month to children enrolled in the program. 

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District: Missouri Students Posted Pro-Slavery Petition Online

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) - A school district in suburban Kansas City says it is working with students and parents who are upset after a small number of students posted a petition online calling for the return of slavery. Officials have not released many details about the incident at Park Hill South High School in Platte County, Missouri. It came to light last week when Principal Kerrie Herren issued a statement to the student body saying the petition was unacceptable. School officials say the district values diversity and inclusion and is listening to students, staff and parents to determine the best ways to respond to the hurt the incident has caused. 

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Police ID Man Killed in Shooting on Kansas City Street

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Police have identified a man killed in an overnight shooting this week on a Kansas City street. Police say in a news release that 63-year-old Ernest Gibson died in the shooting that was reported around 12:45 p.m. Wednesday in a residential area several blocks west of the Kansas City Zoo. Officers called to the scene found Gibson suffering from gunshot wounds in the front yard of a home. He was rushed to a hospital, where he died of his injuries. Police say detectives are close to identifying a suspect and hope to soon present a case to prosecutors that would allow charges to be filed. 

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Crash in Kansas City Kills Pedestrian, Shuts Down I-70 Lanes

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Police in Kansas City say an early morning hit-and-run crash Wednesday on Interstate 70 killed a pedestrian and shut down a stretch of the interstate's eastbound lanes for nearly two hours. The crash happened around 4:30 a.m. Wednesday when a vehicle hit a man walking on the interstate. Police say the vehicle fled the scene and that the man was hit by several other vehicles, including a semitrailer. Police later announced that a person suspected to be the driver of the first vehicle that hit the man had been arrested. Police did not give that person's name or the name of the man killed. The eastbound lanes of I-70 at Brooklyn Avenue were closed until shortly after 6 a.m. 

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Man Pleads Guilty in Wichita Doctor's 2017 Stabbing Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 25-year-old man has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the 2017 death of a Wichita doctor who was stabbed more than 160 times. Television station KAKE reports that Umar Dutt entered the plea Tuesday, admitting to killing 57-year-old Dr. Achutha Reddy on September 13, 2017, behind Reddy's psychiatrics office. Prosecutors say police were called to the Holistic Psychiatric Services clinic that night and found Reddy's body in an alley outside the business. Investigators say Dutt entered the clinic with Reddy and assaulted the doctor inside an office before being interrupted by an office manager. Police say Reddy then fled the building, but Dutt caught up with him in the alley. Dutt is scheduled to be sentenced on
November 9.

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Police: Arrest Made Following Stabbing Death of Wichita Man

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita say they've made an arrest following the late-night stabbing death of a man inside a home. Police say in a news release that officers were called shortly after 10 p.m. Tuesday to a home along North Glenn and found 67-year-old Kurt Petersen suffering from several stab wounds. Petersen was pronounced dead at the scene. Investigators say Petersen's caretaker had called 911 after finding him on the kitchen floor with injuries. Officials say another man, 60-year-old James Shaw, was also in the home at the time and was later arrested on suspicion of second-degree murder in Petersen's death.

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Down Syndrome Issue at Center of Missouri Abortion Law Case

UNDATED, (AP) - The full 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis is deciding the fate of a Missouri law that puts sweeping restrictions on abortions, and a focal point of oral arguments on Tuesday was a provision prohibiting abortions based solely on a Down syndrome diagnosis. The law adopted in 2019 would ban abortions at the eighth week of pregnancy. The federal appeals court isn’t expected to rule for several weeks. In June, a three-judge 8th Circuit panel upheld an injunction prohibiting Missouri from enforcing the law’s provisions, but the full court decided to hear the case.

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Kansas Supreme Court Upholds Tracking of Convicted Criminals

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — The Kansas Supreme Court has once again upheld the state’s vast system for tracking people convicted of certain crimes. Kansas tracks the home and work lives of people who have committed a wide range of crimes involving drugs, sex or violence. They have to report everything from dying their hair to getting an Instagram account or buying a car. Someone who commits a misdemeanor can face the same 15 years of regularly reporting to law enforcement as someone who commits murder.  A 2018 Kansas News Service investigation found that the Kansas system is the most extensive in the country. Defense attorneys have repeatedly argued that the system violates constitutional rights but the state’s highest court disagrees and stood its ground again in two sex offender cases.

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Open Container Law Diverts Millions from Missouri Roads

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - An investigation by KCUR Radio in Kansas City finds that Missouri's decision to allow open containers of alcohol in vehicles is diverting millions of dollars from road construction to safety programs. The investigation found that Missouri has given up roughly $370 million in highway construction funds since 2001 for failing to comply with federal safety policies. Missouri allows passengers to drink in moving vehicles, which violates federal safety laws and forces the state to divert a percentage of road construction funds from federal programs to fund safety initiatives. The diverted money goes to infrastructure improvements like guard rail cables and behavioral campaigns to discourage driving while intoxicated. 

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Chiefs Welcome Chargers for Important Early AFC West Game

UNDATED (AP) — Two teams expected to compete for the AFC West title will be trying to stay out of the cellar when the Los Angeles Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs meet Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chargers are coming off a close loss to the Cowboys and the Chiefs were beaten by Baltimore last week. Both are 1-1 through the first two weeks while the Raiders and Broncos are 2-0. The spotlight will be on two of the game's best young quarterbacks in the Chargers' Justin Herbert and the Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes. Kansas City has won 12 of the last 14 games in the series.

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No. 25 K-State Visits Oklahoma State, Each Seeking 4-0 Start

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — No. 25 Kansas State travels to Oklahoma State this weekend as both open Big 12 play. Both teams are 3-0 despite dealing with some key injuries. Josh Howard will likely start at quarterback in place of injured K-State starter Skylar Thompson. Oklahoma State played last week without three of its top four receivers and lost another one during the game.

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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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