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Headlines for Tuesday, June 30, 2020

 

Protesters Gather in Downtown Lawrence, Block Mass Street, Make Demands 

LAWRENCE, Kan.  (KPR) — Protesters continue to block a main thoroughfare in downtown Lawrence Monday evening after a protest was sparked over the weekend by a banner depicting George Floyd being lynched.  A police show-of-force on Monday did little to end the protest. Lawrence police say there were no injuries and six people were arrested.  A banner depicting George Floyd with a noose around his neck was put up on Massachusetts Street sometime during the weekend.  Floyd was killed when a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck. The banner depicting Floyd also criticized the Black Lives Matter movement, calling it authoritarian.  Protesters want an investigation, saying the banner was hate speech. They also want to defund the police department and send more resources to social services.  In addition, protesters want Rontarus Washington Jr. released from jail. They say he has been unjustly held for five years and continues to be held after a jury couldn't reach a decision in his murder trial.  (Read more.)

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Kansas Governor Mandates Statewide Use of Masks

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly is mandating that people wear masks in public starting Friday to stop the spread of COVID-19.  The Democratic governor said her administration will issue specific guidance later this week and will work with the state attorney general’s office to implement the policy. Local officials would enforce the policy. Kansas health officials reported on Monday at least 14,443 confirmed coronavirus cases, an increase of 905 since Friday. Kelly said evidence shows mask wearing is safe and necessary to avoid another shutdown. 

- Related -

Kansas Counties Could Make Governor's Mask Order Toothless

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Gov. Laura Kelly’s planned order requiring Kansas residents to wear masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus could be toothless in many parts of the state. Counties can exempt themselves and even those that don’t might not enforce it. Officials in some counties already were signalling Tuesday that they planned to opt out of the mandate Kelly plans to have take effect Friday. She plans to make masks mandatory in stores, restaurants and in any situation where social distancing cannot be maintained. Sedgwick County Commissioner Jim Howell said he has been inundated with negative emails since Kelly announced the mask requirement Monday. 

Kansas Prepares to Require Masks as COVID-19 Cases Rise

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Recently reopened Kansas restaurants are closing, AMC Theaters is pushing back its plans to reopen and the state is planning to require masks anywhere that social distancing is impossible as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases rises. Among the restaurants to close is Thao’s Bistro in Wichita, which reopened for dine-in on June 2. In a Facebook post Monday, the owners cited concerns about “rapidly increasing cases of COVID-19." The state reported at least 14,443 coronavirus cases on Monday, an increase of 905 confirmed cases since Friday. The state also added six more deaths to its count, bringing the total to 270. 

Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health Department Also Announces Mandatory Mask Order 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) — Douglas County Local Health Officer Dr. Thomas Marcellino has announced that people will be required to wear masks in all Douglas County indoor public spaces where six feet of separation is not possible. That includes businesses, workplaces, and public facilities such as community centers or libraries. The order takes effect Wednesday.  Marcellino said in a press release that the order was prompted by a steady increase of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, including more than 30 new cases over the past weekend. Douglas County includes the cities of Lawrence, Eudora, Baldwin City, Lecompton, and VInland. 

To see the complete order, click here: Mask Order from Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health Department
To request a cloth mask for personal use for you and your family members, click here: United Way of Douglas County Mask Program  

Kansas City, Kansas, Makes Wearing Masks Mandatory

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Another Kansas City area community is making masks mandatory amid a surge of coronavirus cases. The Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, announced in a tweet over the weekend that masks must be worn in public, beginning at 5 pm today (TUE).  The community made the announcement one day after Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas said that people must wear masks inside businesses and other public places there starting Monday.  The number of confirmed conornavirus cases in Wyandotte County rose Friday to 2,108, up 12% from one week earlier. Its one of the hardest hit counties in the state, which is now recording more than 13,500 cases and 264 deaths.

Jackson County, Missouri, Will Mandate Face Masks in Public

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A health official says Jackson County will require people to wear face masks in public amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Kansas City Star reports Jackson County Health Director Bridgette Shaffer told legislators that the mandate will go into effect Wednesday. The decision comes just days after Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas announced that the city would require all residents and visitors to wear masks in public, starting Monday. The next day, the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, announced a mask ordinance would go into effect at 5 pm Tuesday.

Kansas City Mayor Called Racist Slur After Requiring Masks

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City’s Black mayor says he was called a racist slur and told he should “swing from a tree” after he announced mandatory face masks in the Missouri city. Mayor Quinton Lucas on Monday shared a screenshot of the texts on Twitter. The exchange comes after Lucas said masks are mandatory in Kansas City when 6 feet of separation isn’t feasible. It’s unclear if police are investigating the texts to the mayor as a threat. An Associated Press request for comment to a Kansas City police spokesman wasn’t immediately returned Monday. 

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KDHE Reports Over 14,000 Cases of COVID-19, Including 270 Deaths

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — Kansas has recorded 14,443 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.  That number includes 270 deaths. State health officials released those numbers Monday. New data will be released Wednesday.  Cases have been reported in 97 of the state's 105 counties. 

(The Kansas Department of Health and Environment releases new data on COVID-19 case numbers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.(link is external))

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University of Kansas Backs Away from In-Person Requirement

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas is providing faculty more flexibility if they don’t feel comfortable teaching in-person classes in the fall. KCUR reports that Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Barbara Bichelmeyer told the university’s department chairs and directors on Monday that decisions on courses, how they would be taught and teaching assignments “should be the purview of the department or program.” The move came after faculty members had pushed back last week after they were told to return to campus beginning Aug. 24, unless they could invoke an exemption under the Americans with Disabilities Act. More than 50 department leaders signed a letter to Bichelmeyer raising concerns.

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Merck Announces $100 Million Investment in Company Facilities in DeSoto, Kansas

DESOTO, Kan. (KPR) – Merck Animal Health, a division of Merck & Company, will invest $100 million to expand its manufacturing facilities in DeSoto.  According to a news release from the Kansas Department of Commerce, the investments include a technological expansion of the vaccine production facility, which will come on line this year.  An additional investment of $66 million will provide for added enhancement capabilities to be realized over the coming years.  The  DeSoto site develops and manufactures a broad portfolio of vaccines for Swine, Cattle and Equine with key technologies in research and development, manufacturing and quality operations. Particularly, the site houses large-scale fermentation and cell culture, blending and filling operations and packaging.  Kansas Governor Laura Kelly said, “Merck Animal Health continues to be a strong source of innovation and growth in Kansas and are a leading force in vaccine production and research in the Animal Health Corridor.”

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Kansas City Board Votes to Remove Name from Iconic Fountain

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City officials have voted to remove the name of an influential developer from the city's most recognizable fountain because he barred Blacks and Jews from his neighborhoods. The Board of Parks and Recreation voted unanimously Tuesday to remove J.C. Nichols's name from a fountain near the city's upscale Country Club Plaza, and from an adjacent street. The city will take suggestions for a replacement name until at least July 7. Nichols's development of the Plaza and thousands of upscale and middle-class homes transformed the city and its surrounding suburbs in the early 1900s, but deed restrictions kept minorities out of his developments.

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15-Year-Old Girl Shot and Killed in Kansas City, Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 15-year-old girl was fatally shot inside a vehicle in Kansas City, Kansas, early Monday. Police were called to a hospital at about 1:50 a.m. in response to a young gunshot victim, Officer Dustin Dierenfeldt, a police department spokesman, told The Kansas City Star in an email. The victim underwent surgery but died shortly after. Officer T.J. Tomasic said someone shot into the vehicle, which was in the Armourdale neighborhood.

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Family Awoke to Gunfire Outside Kansas City Apartment, Boy Fatally Shot

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities have identified the young boy who was shot at a Kansas City apartment. The Kansas City Police Department said in a news release that 4-year-old Legend M. Taliferro was shot around 2:30 am Monday. Police say that based on their preliminary investigation detectives believe this was not a random shooting and that the apartment was targeted. Police responding to the shooting were told a family member was driving the boy to a hospital. He a short time later. People at the same apartment as the boy told police they awoke to gunshots coming from outside the home.

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Body Recovered and Identified After Search for Missing Swimmer at Kansas Lake

GODDARD, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have identified the body of a missing swimmer found in a Kansas lake. The Wichita Eagle reports that Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office spokesman says 29-year-old Zachariah Shepherd of Andover disappeared in the water around 2 a.m. Saturday as he tried to swim across the Lake Afton. Shepherd had been camping at the lake over the weekend.The search began Saturday afternoon at the 258-acre man-made recreational lake in an area of Sedgwick County west of Wichita. His body was found  around 1:20 a.m. Sunday.

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Wichita Police Seek Clues in 2 Homicides in Recent Days

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police are asking the public's help to solve two separate homicides in the city in recent days. Police say the first occurred Sunday afternoon, when police were called to Planeview Park after the body of a man was found there. Police say 42-year-old Manuel Vargas-Avila had been shot several times, and investigators believe he had been involved in a fight with several people in the park Saturday night. The second homicide was reported late Monday afternoon when a man was shot to death in a driveway. That man's name has not yet been released. Captain Jason Stephens says that shooting apparently happened during a fight over personal property. No arrests have been reported in either case.

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Police: Pedestrian Hit by Train in Winfield

WINFIELD, Kan. (AP) — Authorities said pedestrian was hospitalized after she was hit by a train in Winfield. The Wichita Eagle the female pedestrian was taken to Wesley Medical Center in critical condition. Her age and city of residence were not released. Police said she was on or near the railroad tracks when she was struck by a BNSF Railway locomotive shortly before 9:30 am Monday. No one else was injured in the incident.

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Records: Suspect in Radio Host's Death Had Been Drinking

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Newly released court records say a man charged in a crash that killed longtime radio host and Wichita State University basketball announcer Don Hall had empty alcohol bottle at his feet. KWCH reports that an affidavit released Tuesday in the case against Ray Watkins said he had a 0.243 blood alcohol on the day of the April 29 crash. The legal limit in Kansas is 0.08. He faces a charge of involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence. In an interview, Hall admitted to drinking beer prior to driving. The affidavit said that when he asked about how much he had to drink, Watkins responded, “probably too much."

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Ruling: Civil Case Against Topeka Police Officer Can Proceed

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court's decision not to grant qualified immunity to a Topeka police officer accused of using excessive force against a handcuffed Black man. On Monday, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the appeal from police officer Christopher Janes that had sought to dismiss the civil lawsuit brought by Timothy Harris against him and the city of Topeka. The three-judge appeals panel ruled that a reasonable jury could find that Harris, once handcuffed and walking to the patrol car, did not present an immediate threat. The decision sends the case back for trial.  

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Nation's High Court Refuses to Block Federal Executions, Including Two Inmates from Kansas

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has refused to block the execution of four federal prison inmates, including two from Kansas, who are scheduled to be put to death in July and August.  The executions would mark the first use of the death penalty on the federal level since 2003.  The justices rejected an appeal from four inmates who were convicted of killing children. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor noted that they would have blocked the executions from going forward.  The court's action leaves no obstacles standing in the way of the executions, the first of which is scheduled for July 13.  The inmates are separately asking a federal judge in Washington to impose a new delay on their executions over other legal issues that have yet to be resolved.  The activity at the high court came after Attorney General William Barr directed the federal Bureau of Prisons to schedule the executions. Three of the men had been scheduled to be put to death when Barr first announced the federal government would resume executions last year, ending an informal moratorium on federal capital punishment as the issue receded from the public domain.

The inmates scheduled for execution are: Danny Lee, who was convicted in Arkansas of killing a family of three, including an 8-year-old; Wesley Ira Purkey, of Kansas, who raped and murdered a 16-year-old girl and killed an 80-year-old woman; Dustin Lee Honken, who killed five people in Iowa, including two children; and Keith Dwayne Nelson, who kidnapped a 10-year-old girl who was rollerblading in front of her Kansas home and raped her in a forest behind a church before strangling the young girl with a wire.

Three of the executions — for Lee, Purkey and Honken — are scheduled days apart beginning July 13. Nelson’s execution is scheduled for August 28. The Justice Department said additional executions will be set at a later date.

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Feds Cite Textron Aviation for 2019 Explosion in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Federal regulators have cited aircraft maker Textron Aviation for a December 2019 explosion that injured 15 workers at a Wichita manufacturing plant. KWCH-TV reports the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration says Textron had a serious violation when it failed to protect employees at the facility. The agency has proposed a $13,494 penalty for the violation. The aviation manufacturer must also develop and implement measures to “effectively control, discover, maintain and repair pressure vessels.

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Testing to Determine Whether Kansas Carp are Dying of Herpes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State wildlife and parks staff are collecting and testing samples from fish carcasses to determine whether a koi herpes virus is behind fish kills in at least two Kansas lakes. Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, staff say they have confirmed die-offs at Pomona Reservoir in Osage County and Hillsdale Reservoir in Miami County. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that common carp are the only species that appear to be affected, leading staff to belief that the koi herpes virus is the cause. The virus has no effect on other species, including humans.

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K-State Researchers Get $1 Million to Improve Wheat Diversity

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas State University wheat geneticist will get nearly $1 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for research designed to improve the genetic diversity of wheat. The Hutchinson News reports the research will focus on studying and cultivating a genetic species of wheat that can withstand drought, heat and viruses. Wheat geneticist and professor of plant pathology Jesse Poland is part of two grants that focus on bringing wild native plants together with wheat to create better seed. Poland estimates that each project might take from six years to more than 10 years.

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Las Vegas Hitman Gets Nearly 70 Years in Kansas Murder Plot Foiled by Wrong Ammo

WICHITA, Kan. (Wichita Eagle) - A Las Vegas hitman, whose plan to kill two Wichita men was botched when his handgun misfired, has been ordered to spend nearly 70 years in prison.  That's according to a news release from the Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the hitman's gun misfired because it was loaded with the wrong ammunition.  Prosecutors say Cardell Turner, 52, drove up next to two men on a residential street in south Wichita on August 14, 2018, pointed a handgun at them and pulled the trigger several times. But the gun didn't go off because it was full of the wrong ammo, foiling the murder attempt.  Turner, who lived in Las Vegas, was hired by another man to travel to Kansas to kill someone who lived on the street where the attempt took place, according to evidence presented at his trial last summer.  A jury convicted Turner of attempted first-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder last year.  Last week, he was sentenced to 837 months in prison — 69 3/4 years — by District Judge Bruce Brown.  The man who allegedly hired Turner to carry out the killings is currently imprisoned in another state, the DA's Office said.

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Kansas Man Gets Probation in Crash that Killed 4 Motorcyclists

OGALLALA, Neb. (AP) — A Kansas man has been sentenced to four years of probation in a Nebraska crash that killed four Iowa motorcyclists. The Kearney Hub reports that Jeser Cisneros-Hernandez, 24, of Liberal, Kansas, also was ordered Friday to serve 400 hours of community service. He pleaded no contest in February to reckless and willful vehicular homicide. Prosecutors dropped three more counts and two other charges in return for his pleas. Prosecutors say his vehicle hit two motorcycles carrying two people each on July 1, 2017, near Ogallala.

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