Fire Crews Respond to Main K-State Library; Blaze Now Under Control
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Crews have been fighting at fire at the main Kansas State University library but the blaze has been contained. The university says on its website that the smoke was reported around 4 o'clock this (TUE) afternoon in Hale Library, which had been undergoing repairs. The 400,000-square-foot building was evacuated, and the university urged students to stay away from the area. At least seven fire trucks responded to the scene. No injuries have been reported. The library was built in the 1920s and underwent a massive remodel and addition in the 1990s. The Manhattan Mercury reports that ths extent and cause of the fire wasn't immediately known.
UPDATE: Kansas Justices Express Doubt About School Funding Hike
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A majority of the Kansas Supreme Court expressed skepticism Tuesday that the Legislature and governor raised public school funding enough in the short-term to comply with the state constitution, suggesting they could be wrestling this summer with providing more money and possibly increasing taxes. The court is reviewing a law passed this spring by the Republican-led Legislature and signed by GOP Gov. Jeff Colyer that will phase in a $548 million education funding increase over five years. It's the second funding boost in two years, but four school districts suing the state argue that it still falls as much as $1.5 billion short of being adequate. The court heard arguments from attorneys, and within minutes of starting, Justice Dan Biles said Kansas would wait until "five years from now" to fund what would be adequate this year. Justice Lee Johnson later echoed that sentiment. Justices Eric Rosen and Marla Luckert suggested that legislators settled on what they wanted to spend on schools rather than what they needed to spend to fulfill their duty under the state constitution. "There's a lot of frustration here," Rosen said from the bench. "If this isn't a kind of a deja vu, 'we have all been here before' moment, I don't know what is." Kansas has been in and out of lawsuits over education funding for several decades. (Read more here.)
Top Kansas Court Hears Arguments on Latest School Funding Plan
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers are looking for hints from the state Supreme Court that they've increased education funding enough to meet the state constitution's requirement that every child get a suitable education. The court plans to hear arguments from attorneys Tuesday on the state's plan to spend $548 million more, phased in over five years. The increase, approved by lawmakers this spring and signed by Gov. Jeff Colyer, is the second in two years. Many lawmakers see it as a sizable boost. But attorneys for four school districts that sued the state in 2010 argue that it's as much as $1.5 billion short. The court ruled in October that current education funding of more than $4 billion a year isn't sufficient. The justices plan to issue their next ruling by June 30.
State Inspectors Find Violations at KCK Water Park Where Boy Died in 2016
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A state inspection has found 11 alleged violations of regulations at a Kansas water park where a 10-year-old boy died in 2016. The Kansas Department of Labor made an audit of the Schlitterbahn park in Kansas City public Tuesday, a day after issuing a notice to the park. The inspection was last week. The audit said safety signs in some park areas were not adequate, records were not available for review and some operating and training manuals were not complete. The audit said one ride's parts weren't replaced as the manufacturer recommended. The department issued a warning that the issues must be addressed. A spokeswoman said Schlitterbahn would issue a statement about the audit. The boy who died nearly two years ago was decapitated while riding a now-closed giant waterslide.
Woman Who Shot Kansas Abortion Doctor Released from Prison, Moved to Halfway House
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An anti-abortion activist who shot and wounded a Kansas abortion provider and firebombed clinics in Oregon and elsewhere has been released from prison to a halfway house to finish her sentence. The Federal Correctional Institution in Waseca, Minnesota, confirmed today (TUE) that Rachelle "Shelley" Shannon has been sent to a halfway house where she will complete a 20-year sentence stemming from two Oregon cases for arson and other crimes targeting abortion clinics. Her final release date is November 7. Shannon has already completed an 11-year sentence for shooting Wichita abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in 1993. Tiller was killed by an anti-abortion extremist who admired Shannon in 2009. Tiller's clinic was purchased by Trust Women. Its founder, Julie Burkhart, says Shannon's release raises concerns about the safety of clinic workers.
Police Arrest 18 Protesting in Kansas Official's Office
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Police have arrested 18 people protesting inside Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's office as part of a demonstration against policies he champions. Kansas Highway Patrol spokesman Adam Winters said the demonstrators were arrested Monday for criminal trespassing by the Capitol Police. About 40 protesters with the Poor People's Campaign gathered outside the building housing Kobach's office to decry his stance against illegal immigration and for tough voter identification laws. The protesters called those policies tools of white supremacy. Kobach was not in the building after attending a political luncheon in Leavenworth. He issued a statement defending his fight against illegal immigration, saying, "the law is the law." It was the second of six weeks of planned protests. The campaign is focused on array of social and economic issues.
Judge Dismisses Kris Kobach's Appeal of Contempt Finding
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal appeals court has dismissed the appeal filed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach over the finding that he violated a court order to fully register some voters. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Judge Julie Robinson's order holding Kobach in contempt is not yet final and therefore not immediately appealable. An appeals panel agreed with the American Civil Liberties Union that the contempt appeal is premature because Robinson has not yet determined the amount of sanctions. Kobach, a candidate for Kansas governor, was found in contempt in a lawsuit challenging a Kansas law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote. Robinson ordered Kobach to pay for damages, including attorney fees. Kobach was vice chairman of President Donald Trump's now-disbanded commission on election fraud.
Man Admits to Hate Crimes in Kansas Bar Shooting
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man who yelled "Get out of my country!" before killing one Indian immigrant and wounding another in a suburban Kansas City bar has pleaded guilty to three federal hate-crime charges. Fifty-three-year-old Adam Purinton entered the plea Monday in federal court. He previously pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in state court in the February 2017 death of 32-year-old Srinivas Kuchibhotla. The shooting in Olathe, Kansas, also wounded Kuchibhotla's friend and a man who tried to intervene. The attack stirred fears that immigrants were facing more violence after the election of President Donald Trump. It also attracted attention in India, where officials publicly wondered if Indian citizens are safe in the U.S. Witnesses said Purinton was asked to leave the bar after uttering racial slurs, then returned and opened fire.
Kansas Fires AD, Saying Progress in Some Areas Remains "Elusive"
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas has fired athletic director Sheahon Zenger, with Chancellor Douglas Girod saying that "progress has been elusive" in some areas of the program. Girod fired Zenger Monday and elevated deputy director Sean Lester to interim athletic director while the university searches for a replacement. Girod says Zenger had been a "loyal Jayhawk" and the university's athletics programs had improved. But Girod added the department "continues to face a number of challenges" without mentioning the football team, historically the worst in the Big 12 Conference. The firing comes a year after Zenger received a four-year extension on his contract and an increase in base pay to $700,000 a year. The university will pay Zenger more than $1.4 million under that contract.
UPDATE: Detective: Man Confessed to Making Deadly Kansas Hoax Call
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A California man confessed after his arrest that he made the hoax calls that led a police officer to fatally shoot an unarmed man in Kansas, adding he routinely made similar calls to seek attention, a detective testified Tuesday. Tyler Barriss, 25, is accused of calling Wichita police from Los Angeles on Dec. 28 to report a shooting and kidnapping at a Wichita home. The person who made the two calls said he shot his father in the head and was holding his mother and younger brother at gunpoint in a closet in the house. Police went to the house where they thought the crime was occurring, and an officer fatally shot 28-year-old Andrew Finch after he opened the door. The shooting drew national attention to "swatting," a practice in which a person makes a false report to get emergency responders to descend on an address. Finch had not been the intended target of the call. Sedgwick County Judge Bruce Brown ruled after the preliminary hearing Tuesday in Wichita that there was sufficient probable cause for trial on charges of involuntary manslaughter, giving a false alarm and interference with a law enforcement officer. The arraignment was set for June 29.
Kansas Judge Weighs Evidence in Deadly Hoax Call Case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A California man accused of making a hoax call that led to police shooting an unarmed man in Kansas is returning to court, where a judge is set to decide if there is enough evidence to put him on trial for involuntary manslaughter. Twenty-five-year-old Tyler Barriss is accused of calling police from Los Angeles on December 28 to report a shooting and kidnapping at a Wichita home. A police officer fatally shot 28-year-old Andrew Finch after he opened his door. Barriss' preliminary hearing is Tuesday before Judge Bruce Brown in Wichita. Barriss also faces charges of giving a false alarm and interference with a law enforcement officer. The shooting drew attention to "swatting," a practice in which a person makes a false report to get emergency responders to descend on an address.
Ex-Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer Picks Another Ex-Mayor in Kansas Governor's Race
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer has picked another ex-mayor from the state's most populous county as his running mate for the Democratic nomination for governor. The Wichita Eagle reports that former Gardner Mayor Chris Morrow is Brewer's choice for lieutenant governor. The 55-year-old Morrow was a city council member in Gardner before serving as the Johnson County community's mayor for more than four years. He stepped down in January. Morrow is a Navy veteran who ran an employment agency. He also recently obtained a real estate license. He said that he and Brewer know as former mayors what attracts businesses to communities and how to work in a non-partisan way. Other Democrats running for governor include state Senator Laura Kelly of Topeka and former state Agriculture Secretary Joshua Svaty of Ellsworth.
Teacher Retires After 50 Years at Leavenworth High School
LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas science teacher is retiring after 50 years at the same high school. The Leavenworth Times reports that 77-year-old Bob Hart arrived at Leavenworth High School in 1967, after teaching at other schools for three years. He intended to stay only a couple of years but "just kind of fell in love with Leavenworth." He says his interest in coaching led him to teach. He says that "in order to be a good coach, you have to be a good teacher." And he says coaching sports that included football and track helped him become a decent teacher. Hart says he will miss the students. He says that while the physical layout of the school changed over the years, the students are "about the same as when I started."
Spirit Aero Unveils Building Tied to $1 Billion Expansion
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Spirit AeroSystems has unveiled a new part of its planned $1 billion expansion that could bring 1,000 new jobs to Wichita. The aircraft supplier on Monday unveiled plans for a 7-story building that will house 2.3 million aircraft parts. The Wichita Eagle reports the $23 million building, called its Global Digital Logistics Center, will house and distribute parts Spirit throughout its Wichita complex. Currently, the parts are stored throughout the company's complex. It's expected to open by summer 2019. Spirit CEO Tom Gentile says improved technology and automation will allow Spirit to receive and deliver more than 51,000 parts daily in the new building. The city and Sedgwick County will pay a total of about $10 million for the new building, with Spirit paying the remaining $13 million.
Southern Plains Drought Continues Stress on Crops, Rangeland
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Lack of rainfall and above-average temperatures are prolonging the drought conditions that have stressed crops and rangelands and placed new pressures on groundwater sources across the U.S. Southern Plains. New Mexico State Climatologist Dave Dubois said Monday that while some areas of the Texas Panhandle and southwestern Oklahoma have received plentiful precipitation in recent days, other parts of those states plus New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas have experienced only spotty precipitation since October. Climatologists and forecasters say drought conditions across much of the Southwest rival those during the disastrous Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Oklahoma State Climatologist Gary McManus says some climatological stations in the western part of his state have recorded less than 2 inches of rain since October, the driest months on record for those locations.
Trophy-Hunting Company Owner Sentenced to Probation
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Pennsylvania man who owns a trophy-hunting company has been sentenced to five years of probation for illegally importing deer into Kansas. The U.S. attorney's office announced Monday that 48-year-old Robert McConnell also was fined $30,000 and banned from doing business in Kansas. The Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania, man owns Horseshoe Hill Outfitters, which advertised "big game hunting adventures" in Kansas, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Ontario. Prosecutors say he violated an act that regulates the trade of wildlife, fish and plants. In two counts, McConnell admitted to importing deer that weren't from an accredited herd, weren't officially identified and didn't have a certificate of veterinary inspection. In two others, he admitted to importing domesticated deer.
Kansas Man Gets 30 Years in Prison for Selling Meth in South Dakota
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A Kansas man accused of selling large quantities of methamphetamine throughout South Dakota has been sentenced to 30 years in federal prison. Thirty-six-year-old Justin Morales, also known as Speedy, was convicted in February of conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of meth. Authorities say Morales admitted to selling meth in several cities and at least one American Indian reservation within South Dakota. Court documents show that Morales, of Wichita, Kansas, had rented a small house in Sioux Falls to store meth for distribution. The meth was allegedly produced by drug cartels in Mexico and transported across the southern border of the United States. Prosecutors say Morales has a previous felony drug conviction. Two other defendants in the case, Chase Guzman and Daniel Guzman, have been sentenced to prison.
Kansas Governor to Treat Patients at a Wichita Free Clinic
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer, who is a plastic surgeon, plans to treat at least half a dozen patients at a free weekend clinic in Wichita. The Wichita Eagle reports Colyer will provide service to at least six patients June 2 at the Mayflower Clinic in Wichita. Volunteer physicians and nurses donate their time at the clinic, which treated 611 patients last year. Abdul Arf, a member of the clinic's board, says Colyer offered to help with the clinic last year after speaking at a health fair at a Wichita church. Arf says it's an honor to have a sitting governor attend the clinic and he hopes Colyer's visit will inspire other doctors to volunteer. Colyer has frequently traveled overseas in the past to provide volunteer medical care.
New York Man Seeks Ruling to Revive Run for Kansas Governor
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A New York man is seeking to revive his candidacy for Kansas governor by having an attorney argue in court that state law doesn't prevent him from running. Attorney Mark Johnson said in court Monday that Andy Maskin would move to Kansas if he's elected. Maskin filed earlier this month to run as a Republican in Kansas' August primary. A state board removed Maskin from the ballot last week following a Kansas GOP official's objection. Shawnee County District Judge Teresa Watson allowed Maskin to intervene in a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Derek Schmidt against Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Schmidt wants the judge to rule that out-of-state residents can't run for governor despite the lack of an explicit ban in Kansas law. Watson had a hearing Monday.
Government Sues over Kansas City-Area Teamsters Election
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The federal government is suing over the results of a Kansas City area-Teamsters union election. The lawsuit filed by U.S. Secretary of Labor R. Alexander Acosta is seeking a new election to be conducted under federal supervision. Local 41 President Ralph Stubbs and his slate of candidates won re-election in November over two rival slates, each of which protested the election. The lawsuit raises concerns about how members' ballots were collected and a posting on the union's Facebook page that promoted Stubbs' candidacy. The union didn't return a call Tuesday seeking comment. An investigation by the Teamsters' trial board found no evidence that the problems influenced the election. The Kansas City Star reports the Labor Department brought only four similar lawsuits last year out of 87 election complaints.