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Headlines for Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Area news headlines from the Associated Press

3 Men Convicted in Kansas Plot to Bomb Somali Refugees

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal jury on Wednesday found three men guilty of plotting to bomb a mosque and apartment complex housing Somali refugees in Kansas. Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen were convicted of one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and one count of conspiracy against civil rights. Wright was convicted of a charge of lying to the FBI. Sentencing is set for June 27. The three men were indicted in October 2016 for plotting an attack for the day after the presidential election in the meatpacking town of Garden City, about 220 miles west of Wichita. Prosecutors have said that a fellow militia member, Dan Day, tipped off federal authorities after becoming alarmed by the escalating talk of violence and later agreed to wear a wire as a paid informant. The government's case featured months of profanity-laced recordings in which militia members discussed plans and referred to the Somalis as "cockroaches." Wright is captured in one recording saying he hoped an attack on the Somalis would "wake people up" and inspire others to take similar action against Muslims. The government argued that the men formed a splinter group of the militia Kansas Security Force that came to be known as "the Crusaders." The testimony and recordings indicate the men tried to recruit other members of the Kansas Security Force to join them. According to prosecutors, Stein was recorded discussing the type of fuel and fertilizer bomb that Timothy McVeigh used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people. Stein was arrested when he delivered 300 pounds (135 kilograms) of fertilizer to undercover FBI agents to make explosives. Attorneys for the defense said the FBI set up the men with a paid informant and all the talk about violence wasn't serious. They said the men had a right to free speech and association under the U.S. Constitution. Prosecutors argued the plot was more than just words, telling jurors that the men also manufactured homemade explosives and tested them.

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Judge: Kansas Secretary of State in Contempt in Voting Case

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge says Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach violated her order that some voters were eligible to cast a ballot while a lawsuit challenging a state law requiring proof of U.S. citizenship worked its way through the courts. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson found Kobach in contempt of court Wednesday. She didn't impose a fine but ordered Kobach to pay for damages, including attorney fees. The American Civil Liberties Union sought the contempt ruling after Kobach refused to update the state's election guide or ensure that county officials sent postcards to residents who registered at driver licensing offices without providing citizenship documents. Robinson said in March that she had made it clear voters covered by a May 2016 injunction she imposed were not to be treated differently.

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Crews Battle Wildfires, Close U.S. Highway 40  and Evacuate Homes in Southwest Kansas

Wildfires in western Kansas forced the temporary evacuation of about 90 homes. The town of Richfield in Morton County was evacuated last (TUE) night but no one was hurt and residents were allowed to return home around 2:30 this (WED) morning.  Firefighters have been able to contain the fires and bring them under control.  But Laren Reynolds, with the National Weather Service in Dodge City, says the threat isn't over.  Tinder dry conditions, high winds and low relative humidity have created ideal conditions for fires to ignite or reignite today (WED).  Governor Jeff Colyer has already issued a disaster declaration for the affected area.  (Read more about this story here.)

Officials: Despite Moisture, Fire Danger Remains High in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - State officials are reminding Kansans that recent rain and snow did not significantly reduce fire danger in the state.  The National Weather Service issued red flag fire warnings and said the fire danger will be only slightly reduced Wednesday.  Winds of 25 to 35 mph with gusts up to 55 mph are forecast, with humidity as low as 5 percent.  The State Emergency Operations Center has been activated because of the extreme fire weather conditions. State officials are asking residents to avoid any activity that could spark a fire. 

The Red Flag Warning was issued for Barber, Clark, Comanche, Edwards, Finney, Ford, Grant, Gray, Hamilton, Haskell, Hodgeman, Kearny, Kiowa, Lane, Meade, Morton, Ness, Pawnee, Pratt, Rush, Scott, Seward, Stafford, Stanton and Steven counties.  Learn more about the fire danger here.

Hundreds Forced to Flee Fires in Colorado

DENVER (AP) - A wildfire whipped by winds that reached 60 mph destroyed five homes and several outbuildings in southern Colorado. The Pueblo Chieftain reports the fire started east of the city Tuesday afternoon and forced more than 200 families from their homes. No injuries were reported, and the fire had slowed by late afternoon. Meanwhile, El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder tells The Gazette that another wildfire burned at least 10 buildings close to Interstate 25 near Colorado Springs.

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Kansas Governor Signs School Funding Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer has signed an education funding bill despite a multi-million dollar flaw in the bill's language.  Because of an accounting error, the bill calls for a $454 million spending increase, which is $80 million less than intended.  The bill is aimed at addressing a state Supreme Court's ruling that funding for schools is inadequate. A lawyer for the school districts that sued the state said the bill doesn't do enough to address that problem.  During Tuesday's signing at a Topeka High School, Colyer spoke in support of the bill but called on lawmakers to fix the error when they reconvene April 26.

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Kansas Takes Control of 15 Troubled Private Nursing Homes

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is taking over 15 private nursing homes after the owner and operator defaulted on payments to vendors and failed to meet payroll. Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services Secretary Tim Keck will oversee operations of the Skyline Health Care LLC homes. Court documents show the facilities have nearly 850 residents and 950 employees. KCUR-FM reports that the New Jersey-based owner previously acknowledged that Skyline had insufficient funds to pay utilities and food services vendors. Keck says Florida-based Mission Health has assumed day-to-day oversight of the homes. Mission already operates 14 skilled nursing facilities in Kansas. The move comes after Nebraska officials took over 21 nursing homes and 10 assisted living facilities operated by Skyline last month. Keck says the next step is to find a new owner.

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Pilot of Southwest Flight with Blown Engine was Navy Fighter, Former Olathe Resident

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A Southwest Airlines pilot who made an emergency landing after the jet apparently blew an engine and lost a window is a former Navy fighter pilot who's now being praised for helping prevent a far worse tragedy.  Tammie Jo Shults was at the controls of the Dallas-bound Flight (1380) when it made an emergency landing in Philadelphia yesterday (TUE).  The twin-engine Boeing 737 that left New York with 149 people board was hit by shrapnel that smashed a window and damaged the fuselage, killing a passenger and injuring seven others.  Shults took the plane into a rapid descent as passengers used oxygen masks that dropped from the ceiling and braced for impact.  Shults, a New Mexico native, is a graduate of MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe.  Passengers on the Southwest flight have been praising her "nerves of steel."

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Kansas Man Dies After Farming Accident
 
HAYS, Kan. (AP) - Authorities say a Kansas man has died in a farming accident.  The Reno County Sheriff's Office says 34-year-old Daniel Bruce Smith had been working with another individual Monday to set steel posts into the ground with a skid steer.  The Hays Post reports that Smith was killed after the skid steer's bucket he was standing under fell and hit him. It's possible that the bucket hit Smith in the head before falling onto his lower extremities.  The bucket was removed from Smith's body several minutes later and CPR was started just prior to first responders arriving on scene.  An investigation has determined the death to be an accident.

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14-Year-Old Boy Arrested in Shooting of 13-Year-Old Brother

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Authorities have arrested a 14-year-old Kansas boy accused of shooting his 13-year-old brother in the chest while they played video games at home.  Officer Charley Davidson says the younger brother was taken to a Wichita hospital with serious but non-life threatening injuries after being shot around 12:15 p.m. Monday.  Davidson says there was a handgun in the room where the brothers were playing video games and that the older boy was handling the weapon when it discharged. The older brother was booked on juvenile charges of criminal possession of a firearm, aggravated battery and possession of marijuana.  Davidson says the shooting is under investigation and that he couldn't say whether it was accidental or intentional.
 
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Mother of Kansas Teen Fatally Shot by Police Files Lawsuit

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — The mother of a suburban Kansas City teenager who was shot to death by an Overland Park police officer in January is suing the officer and the city. The federal lawsuit filed Tuesday by Sheila Albers alleges the officer, Clayton Jenison, was never in danger and had no reason to draw his weapon when he shot 17-year-old John Albers as he backed a minivan out of the family's garage on Jan. 20. The officer "acted recklessly and deliberately" when he shot the teenager, who may not have known police were at his home, the lawsuit says. Officers went to the Alberses' home in January after someone reported he was on social media and appeared to be suicidal. Police said Albers backed the minivan out of the family's garage toward an officer, who yelled at him to stop and then fired 13 times into the vehicle, The Kansas City Star reported . Dashcam police video shows the van slowly backing out when two shots are fired from the side, and then whipping around backward toward the house again as the officer fired 11 more times. The lawsuit claims John Albers was incapacitated by the first two shots, leaving the van out of control as the officer continued firing. What started as "a welfare check," the lawsuit says, became a fatal shooting though "no officers or civilians were ever in any danger." The lawsuit contends Overland Park doesn't have adequate policies or didn't enforce policies prohibiting shooting into a moving vehicle except in self-defense or in defense of other people.

Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe ruled in February that the shooting was justified. Overland Park officials said the officer resigned for personal reasons after the shooting. Michael Seck, attorney for the city and Jenison, did not immediately return a phone call Wednesday. Overland Park spokesman Sean Reilly said he could not discuss the lawsuit. Police knew Albers had a history of mental health distress, though before Jan. 20 he had not threatened suicide, according to the lawsuit. Police didn't bring in officers trained in crisis intervention although they had time to do so, the lawsuit says.

Mike Rader, an attorney for the Albers family, said they want the police department to reform its policies on the use of deadly force and to change how it responds to calls for help with someone in mental distress. "They want the officer and department to be held accountable for unnecessarily killing their son," Rader said.

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Former Kansas Sheriff's Detective Pleads Guilty to Theft

LARNED, Kan. (AP) — A former Pawnee County Sheriff's detective has admitted to stealing from the department, where his brother is sheriff. The Hays Post reports 43-year-old Jeffrey Allen King of Larned pleaded guilty Monday to three felonies for thefts that occurred between Jan. 9, 2015, and Oct. 13, 2017. A total of $20,318 was stolen from the sheriff's department. King is the brother of Pawnee County Sheriff Scott King. Jeffrey King resigned from the department in February. His sentencing was scheduled for May 25.

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New Jersey Man Banned from Working in Kansas After School Book Scam

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A New Jersey man who sent fake invoices for school books to hundreds of Kansas schools has been banned from doing business in the state.  The Kansas Attorney General's office said Tuesday that Robert Armstrong, of Franklinville, New Jersey, posed as a textbook retailer for Scholastic School Supply, which is not affiliated with children's book publisher Scholastic Inc.  Court documents indicate Armstrong sent invoices to 317 public schools in Kansas between September and December 2014. None of the schools ordered textbooks from him.  Under a consent judgment approved last week in Shawnee County, Armstrong agreed not to do business in Kansas in exchange for having $634,000 in state penalties suspended.  Armstrong was sentenced in 2015 to nearly five years in prison for mailing fraudulent invoices to more than 73,000 schools throughout the U.S.

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Police: Details Emerge in Fatal Wichita Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say more than six people were in a home when a 40-year-old man was shot and killed. Police say Emmitt Lee Olson died in the shooting Tuesday afternoon in the city's Planeview neighborhood. Lt. Todd Ojile says a witness who called to report the shooting was gone when officers arrived. The Wichita Eagle reports neighbors told police people came and went from the house at all times of the day and night. Ojile says officers previously have been to the house, were drugs are frequently used. Ojile says investigators didn't know what prompted the shooting.

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Wichita Police Look for Suspects in Fatal Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say they are investigating the shooting death of a 39-year-old man. A neighbor who crawled through a window in a Wichita home Tuesday found Trenton Custer dead inside the house. Police say Custer had been shot several times sometime during the weekend. Witnesses told police there was some type of disturbance late Friday or early Saturday and gunshots were heard. Police are looking for two or three people who lived at the home with Custer.

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Jackson County, Missouri Sheriff Resigns

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The sheriff in Kansas City's Jackson County is resigning after recently released court documents described him having a sexual and financial relationship with a female employee who's suing the county. Sheriff Mike Sharp released a written statement Wednesday saying he was "accountable" for his actions after court documents said he had acknowledged giving administrative assistant Christine Lynde $8,000 as a down payment for a house. The court records, which were filed last week, said Sharp took Lynde on taxpayer-funded trips and approved so many raises for her that she became the highest-paid civilian sheriff's office employee, The Kansas City Star reports. "I allowed my judgment as Sheriff and my obligations to Jackson County (to) be clouded because of my feelings for someone I cared very deeply for in the past," the statement said. "This was a personal failing and is entirely my responsibility." 

Sgt. John Payne, a sheriff's office spokesman, said in a written statement that Sharp's resignation will take effect Thursday. Lynde, who's co-owned a house with Sharp since last year, sued the county in 2016, alleging sexual harassment by two female co-workers, as well as Sharp's then second-in-command, Col. Hugh Mills. Lynde said the harassment began shortly after she began working at the department in September 2013. The hostile atmosphere intensified, she said, after one of the female co-workers alleged to Lee's Summit police that Lynde sexually assaulting her at a motel room that fall after a night out drinking.

According to the police report, the female co-worker accused Lynde of removing the woman's shirt and encouraging a male friend to take photographs of her on a bed in the motel. The woman told police she was unsure what happened next, but awoke to find her pants had been removed. She then quickly left the motel. When she told Sharp about the incident, he showed "resentment" toward her, according to the police report. The woman told police that she believed "this was a result of Lynde and Sheriff Sharp being friends." No charges were ever filed. In Lynde's suit, she said she told Mills that she had been falsely accused but that Mills "retaliated" against her. She also said in the suit that an unnamed male co-worker later made "inappropriate comments" and "touched her inappropriately" and that someone slashed her tires when her vehicle was parked in the sheriff's department lot in 2014.

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Royals Lose Doubleheader to Bluejays

The Kansas City Royals lost both games of yesterday's (TUE) doubleheader.  The Royals fell to the Bluejays 5 to 4 and 11 to 3 in Toronto.  The Royals are in last place in the AL Central Division with a record of  3 and 12.  The good news? That's just six games back... and it's still early!

 

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