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Headlines for Wednesday, June 15, 2022

 

Mass Shooting Threat Suspect Behind Metro-Area School Cancellations in Custody

BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. (KMBC) - The Blue Springs Police Department says a suspect believed to be behind a mass school shooting threat has been taken into custody. KMBC TV reports that multiple Kansas City area school districts canceled summer school classes after an FBI-warned threat of a mass shooting.

       CLASS CANCELED FOR:

  • Blue Springs School District
  • Lee's Summit School District
  • Independence School District
  • Fort Osage School District
  • Grain Valley School District
  • Odessa School District
  • Oak Grove School District
  • Lone Jack School District
  • Hickman Mills School District
  • KC International Academy

The Blue Springs, Missouri, School District first announced Tuesday night that it would cancel summer school and all school activities "until further notice" due to a possible threat of a mass shooting. The Blue Springs Police Department notified the FBI of a possible threat related to an unspecific mass shooting. The FBI confirmed that the individual in question in regard to the threat was missing and believed to be dangerous. But that person is now in custody.

(-Related-)

Kansas School District Ramps Up System for Tracking Threats

WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW/KNS) - Weeks after a deadly school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, a Kansas school district is ramping up its system for tracking threats. Wichita schools already have a process in place to identify students who present a potential threat to themselves or others. This might involve aggressive or violent outbursts, self-harm or other troubling behavior. Next school year, officials will have new software designed to better track those cases if students move from one school to another. Terri Moses is director of safety services for Wichita schools. She says a team of psychologists, counselors and social workers goes into action any time a threat is made. “If you have a second-grader that says, ‘I’m going to do something,’ … Did they hear it on TV, especially after you’ve had an incident like we had?,” she said. Wichita plans to use about $78,000 of its federal COVID-relief funds on the new threat assessment software.

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Kansas AG's Race: Kobach Backs Lowering Drinking Age to 18

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) - Republican attorney general candidate Kris Kobach has endorsed lowering Kansas's legal drinking age to 18. He promised Wednesday that if he's elected this year, he will challenge the federal policy preventing the move. Kobach criticized a 1980s federal law that threatens states with the loss of highway dollars if their drinking ages are below 21. He said he believes the U.S. Supreme Court would now overturn that law. The issue arose during a debate for GOP attorney general candidates in Overland Park with Kobach, state Senator Kellie Warren and ex-federal prosecutor Tony Mattivi. Kobach said if 18-year-olds can go to war, they should have all the rights other citizens enjoy. 

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California Law Officers Won't Be Charged for KCK Man's Death at Fire Checkpoint

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Four officers won’t face criminal charges for shooting and killing a man armed with a gun who tried to drive through a wildfire evacuation checkpoint near illegal Northern California marijuana farms last summer. The Siskiyou County district attorney has exonerated the officers for the death of Soobleej Hawj near Big Springs. Authorities say Hawj, who was from Kansas City, Kansas, pulled a gun and had other guns and 132 pounds of pot in his pickup truck when he ignored orders at the checkpoint on June 24. The checkpoint was set up as a wildfire sparked by lightning forced thousands to flee.

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Report: Kansas Could Do More to Protect Patients from High Medical Bills

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - A report from the University of Arizona and Pew Charitable Trusts says Kansas could do more to protect people facing large medical bills. The Kansas News Service reports that according to researchers, Kansas should require hospitals to tell patients about free charity care - and make clear that health care providers can’t send bills to collections while patients are still negotiating the amount owed. Gabriela Elizondo-Craig is a postgraduate fellow at the University of Arizona College of Law. She says states don’t need to wait for Congress to act. "There are so many important protections that can be put in place by the state legislatures," she said. Most debt lawsuits in the U.S. are about medical bills.  The new report also found Missouri has weak consumer protections. (Read more.)

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KC Area "Proud Boy" Pleads Guilty to Charge Related to January 6 Riot

Kansas City, Mo. (KCUR/KNS) - A second Kansas City area member of the Proud Boys who breached the Capitol on January 6th, 2021, has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge. Ryan Ashlock, a resident of Gardner, Kansas, entered a plea to trespassing on restricted grounds and faces up to a year in prison. The 23-year-old Ashlock admitted that he traveled with three other Proud Boys to Washington and then linked up with two others. As part of his plea, Ashlock has agreed to cooperate with authorities. Federal prosecutors have charged the chairman of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, with seditious conspiracy to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

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Man Facing Charge for Issuing Threat Against Amusement Park Patrons, Staff

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Kansas City Star) – A man is accused of threatening to use explosives and kill children at the Kansas City-area Worlds of Fun amusement park. The Kansas City Star reports that officials say Johnathan G. Smith on Sunday allegedly made a phone call to a person and said he wanted to "kill kids" and staff at the park. He also allegedly threatened to blow up a hotel where he was apparently staying, and allegedly telephoned the North Kansas City Police Department saying that he wanted to have "a Texas style shooting," which may have been a reference to the school massacre in Uvalde, Texas last month. Kansas City police located Smith Sunday at a truck stop a few miles from Worlds of Fun. Court records indicate that he was taken to Liberty Hospital for a mental evaluation.  The 59-year-old Smith was charged Tuesday with one count of making a terrorist threat. He's also accused of attempting to purchase a firearm from a person who was a sheriff's office informant. (Read more.)

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Starbucks Workers in Wichita May Vote to Form a Union

WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW/KNS) - Starbucks workers trying to unionize in Wichita now have a date for their union election. Workers at the 21st and Amidon store filed for a union vote in May. Organizers say they want better pay, more consistent hours, and a private space for breastfeeding employees to pump breast milk. Workers will get their ballots next month and will have to mail them in by the end of July. They’ll get their final tally on August 1.  Organizers say about 70% of the store’s 26 employees support the union effort. They’ll need more than 50% to secure a union. It’s the first group of Starbucks workers in Wichita to file for a union vote. But nearly 100 Starbucks stores across the country have unionized in the last year, including one in Lawrence.

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KU Gets Federal Grant to Search for Rare Earth Minerals

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS) - A federal grant will help pay for University of Kansas staff to search for rare earth materials critical for high-tech manufacturing. The $1.5 million grant comes from the Department of Energy. The Kansas News Service reports that the ground in Kansas and nearby states will become part of the search area because material leftover in mines from Iowa to Arkansas could still hold rare earth elements. Franek Hasiuk, one of the scientists involved with the project, says researchers will sample old mines and leftover mine waste for the minerals critical for making electronics and high-tech products. Researchers will use stratigraphy, the process of studying layers of earth to look for the elements. “When I lived up in Iowa, they like to say, in the hog industry they use everything but the squeal," he said.  "And what we're trying to do here with our stratigraphy is use it all." Hasiuk works for the Kansas Geological Survey, based at the University of Kansas.  The rare earth industry is dominated by China, and U.S. officials want to boost domestic production to reduce supply chain disruptions.

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More than a Dozen KC Hospital Nurses Pregnant at Same Time Get Surprise Baby Shower from GMA

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KPR) - Hospital officials at Saint Luke's in Kansas City say 15 of their nurses are expecting babies at the same time. ABC's Good Morning America (GMA) threw a surprise baby shower for 15 NICU and Labor & Delivery nurses at Saint Luke's East Hospital. The TV program also spoke with nurses about their journey and what it means to be pregnant with their co-workers.  Each nurse was surprised with special gifts from GMA, including baby clothes, carriers and gift cards. (Read more.)

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Four EF-1 Tornadoes Struck Northeast Kansas Saturday

TOPEKA, Kan. (Topeka Capital-Journal) - Four small tornadoes moved late Saturday through parts of Pottawatomie and Marshall counties in northeast Kansas, the National Weather Service said. No one was hurt or killed. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the twisters derailed train cars and damaged trees, power poles and a barn. The tornadoes came on a night when severe storms moved south from southeast Nebraska into northeast Kansas.

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Governor Issues Disaster Declaration for Finney County Wildfire

FINNEY, COUNTY, Kan. (KAKE) – Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has issued a State of Disaster Emergency declaration for Finney County due to a wildland fire. The declaration authorizes the use of state resources and personnel to assist local authorities with response and recovery operations. Kelly says that despite recent rains, there is still a risk of wildland fires across the state, and she is urging all Kansans to avoid outdoor burning. 
 
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Kansas Highway Patrol: 2 Dead in Jefferson County Car Crash

JEFFERSON COUNTY (KSNT) – The Kansas Highway Patrol says two people were killed Monday in a car crash in Jefferson County. KSNT reports that the two-vehicle crash happened Monday afternoon near Kansas Highway 4 and Northeast 31st Street. The Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office responded to the accident.  A state trooper told a KSNT reporter that a southbound truck on K-4 veered towards the middle lane which caused the oncoming northbound traffic to turn to the shoulder. The oncoming vehicle lost control and went left of center. The truck smashed into one car head-on during the crash.

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Suspect in Fatal Hit-and-Run Booked into Douglas County Jail, Charged with 2nd-Degree Murder

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - The suspect in a hit-and-run that killed a Eudora 10-year-old has been transferred to the Douglas County Jail from Indiana, where he was arrested. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that on Monday, he appeared in Douglas County District Court to face three felony charges: second-degree murder, aggravated battery and leaving the scene of an accident. The suspect, 28-year-old Jose Alfredo Galiano Meza, of Overland Park, arrived at the jail Sunday night. Meza was booked around 11:30 pm with an ICE hold, according to the jail booking log. ICE refers to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

On Monday, he made his first appearance in court via video from the jail. Judge Blake Glover set his bond at $500,000. The sheriff’s office was notified on June 4 that Meza was taken into custody in Martinsville, Indiana, by U.S. Marshals and Indiana state troopers. The sheriff’s office had a warrant for Meza’s arrest as the suspected driver of a van that struck a motorcycle May 14 near Kansas Highway 10.  A 10-year-old Eudora girl, Brooklyn Brouhard, later died from injuries suffered in the crash. She was a passenger on the motorcycle driven by her grandfather 54-year-old Barry Larson, of Eudora, who was also injured. (Read more.)

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Oklahoma Public School Students Learn Cherokee Language, Culture

KANSAS, Okla. – Since a Cherokee language class was introduced at public schools in Kansas, Oklahoma, for eighth through 12th grades, Cherokee students have had an interest in learning more about their Native language and how the language is part of their culture. Cherokee Nation (CN) citizen and eighth-grader Hailey Bowlin knows she is Cherokee, with ties to her great-grandfather, and took the language class to further her knowledge of being Cherokee. According to the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper, CN citizen and teacher Sedi Eastwood is teaching the class. Eastwood has a Cherokee education degree from Northeastern State University and graduated from the Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program in February of this year. Eastwood teaches an immersion-style class with barely any spoken English. She said body language is a tool she uses to get the students to better understand what she is talking about. In addition to body language and immersion-style teaching, Eastwood’s classroom is filled with posters to convey the Cherokee language.  Eastwood said the course is currently an elective. (Read more.)

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Paramedic Overcomes Health Issues, Domestic Violence to Teach Other First Responders How to Help

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Survivors of domestic violence likely have some type of head trauma, yet first responders might not know how those side effects can affect someone. The Kansas News Service reports that head trauma can make someone's memory hazy. Misremembering details is natural after traumatic events.  But paramedic Paula Walters says that can make survivors of domestic violence look suspicious. “We often think of her maybe adding to it, embellishing, lying," she said.  But Walters says that is not the case. She was recently in Emporia, teaching first responders about how to work with people who’ve just undergone a trauma. "The stories are evolving over the next two or three days because people are able to start processing that stuff," she said. Walters says police should do a better job encouraging people to share details days later. (Read more.)

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Missouri Man Accused of Illegal Dig at Native American Site

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal indictment accuses a Missouri man and others of breaking into a prehistoric Native American archeological site and using shovels, rakes and other tools to dig up artifacts, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. Seventy-year-old Johnny Lee Brown of Clinton was charged in an 11-count indictment filed April 26 but unsealed and made public on Tuesday. The indictment alleges that Brown, two known co-conspirators and others, excavated archeological items from federal land at Truman Lake near the town of Tightwad, Missouri, at least 10 times from June 2016 through September. It's unclear what was done with the items allegedly taken from the site.

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#ChurchToo Revelations Growing, Years After Movement Began

UNDATED (AP/KPR) - Recent weeks have seen an especially intense set of revelations about sexual assault and misconduct in U.S. churches. An independent investigation found that Southern Baptist Convention leaders mishandled abuse cases and stonewalled victims. A woman from an independent Christian church confronted her pastor in a viral video for sexually preying on her as a teen. A documentary exposed sex abuse among the Amish and Mennonites. These and other reckonings are occurring five years after the rise of the hashtag #ChurchToo, part of the wider #MeToo movement. Says one advocate for survivors, “There is an absolute epidemic of abuse in the church.” Abuse allegations have plagued nearly all religious denominations.

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Governors Forming Task Force to Address Mass Shootings

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The National Governors Association says it's forming a working group of governors to come up with recommendations to stop mass shootings following the Texas school massacre. Reaching consensus could be a tall order given that the nation's governors have been divided along partisan lines on how to approach issues of gun control and school safety. Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy told the White House in a letter that their group is creating a panel of six to 10 governors to look at the issue. Kansas Governor Laura Kelly could be part of that group. Their letter left open the possibility the recommendations could include gun control proposals.

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Wichita State Hires Murray State Athletic Director Saal

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State has hired Murray State athletic director Kevin Saal as its athletic director. Wichita State President Rick Muma announced Wednesday that Saal, a 44-year-old Kansas native, will take over the job in mid-July. Saal replaces Darron Boatright, who was fired in May in part over the university’s lack of preparation to compete in the new market of name, image and likeness payments to athletes. Before going to Murray State, Saal spent 12 years at Kentucky, where he held various roles before becoming executive associate director of athletics. He was event coordinator and had administrative responsibilities for golf and rowing at Kansas State from 2000 to 2005, and director of operations at Missouri-Kansas City from 2005 to 2007.

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Royals End Giants’ 5-Game Winning Streak, 3-2

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Whit Merrifield broke a 2-2 tie with an eighth-inning sacrifice fly and the Kansas City Royals edged the San Francisco Giants 3-2 to avoid a three-game sweep. Andrew Benintendi led off the inning with a pinch-hit double off Giants reliever John Brebbia. Nicky Lopez moved him to third on a sacrifice bunt and Merrifield brought him home. Brandon Belt homered for the Giants, whose five-game winning streak ended. Royals reliever Jose Cuas retired three batters to earn his first career victory. Scott Barlow recorded the last five outs for his seventh save in eight opportunities. Kansas City snapped a four-game losing streak.

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Chiefs' New-Look Offense Misses Pieces in Mandatory Minicamp

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes walked onto the field for the start of the Kansas City Chiefs’ mandatory three-day minicamp with his right tackle standing off to the side in a bucket hat and his Pro Bowl left tackle nowhere to be found. Lucas Niang was present but didn't work out as he continues to recover from knee surgery. Missing entirely was Orlando Brown Jr., who has yet to sign his franchise tender. The Chiefs and the Pro Bowler are working on a long-term deal and both sides are optimistic that it will get done before the July 15th deadline.

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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, 11 am weekends. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today

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