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Headlines for Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Voting Rights Advocates Sue over 2 New Kansas Election Laws

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — National and Kansas-based voting rights advocates are suing Kansas state election officials over two Republican-backed election laws passed this year. VoteAmerica and the Voter Participation Center filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday, a day after the League of Women Voters of Kansas, Kansas Appleseed, and Loud Light sued in Shawnee County. The organizations contend the new laws are designed to suppress voter turnout and make it more difficult for groups to help voters navigate the election process. Both lawsuits ask courts to find the laws unconstitutional. Supporters of the election changes, which were pushed by Republican lawmakers, say the laws will help ensure the integrity of elections by reducing fraud.


Kansas to Pay $826,000 to Man's Estate over Wrongful Conviction

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A state-court judge has ordered Kansas to pay more than $826,000 to the estate of a man who died in February following his release from prison after serving more than 12 years over a wrongful murder conviction. The order Wednesday resolves a lawsuit filed in November by Olin “Pete” Coones only days after a Wyandotte County judge threw out his 2009 first-degree murder conviction. Coones received a life sentence in connection with the 2008 death of his late father’s caregiver. His defense argued that she framed him for murder when she killed herself and her husband because of investigations into how she handled money for Coones's father.


Widow of Kansas Man Killed in Evergy Accident Wins Lawsuit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Texas jury has awarded $222 million to the widow of a man who was killed in an accident at Evergy's Jeffrey Energy Center power plant in Kansas. The jury found Team Industrial Services, a Texas-based subcontractor for what was then called Westar Energy, was 90% responsible for the death of Jesse Henson, of Manhattan. Henson and a co-worker, Damien Burchett, of Overbrook, were burned alive by steam at the plant near St. Marys in June 2018. Westar, which is now called Evergy, was found to be 10% responsible. The men were engulfed by hot steam while checking on a loss of power. Burchett's relatives have filed a separate lawsuit.


Police Investigating After Woman's Body Found at Kansas Park

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Police are investigating after a woman's body was found in a Salina park. Television station KAKE reports that police are working to identify the woman, whose body was found early Tuesday morning lying face down near the south entrance of Lakewood Park. Police have not said how she died. Officials say the woman appeared to be in her late 20s.


Police: 2 Killed in Shooting Outside Branson Restaurant

BRANSON, Mo. (AP) — Police have identified two people shot and killed outside a Branson restaurant over the weekend. Branson police say 38-year-old Krystle Buhl, of Forsyth, and 39-year-old Richard McMahan, of Merriam Woods, died in the Saturday night shooting outside of Famous Dave's in Branson. Television station KYTV reports that officers found the pair with gunshot wounds in the restaurant's parking lot. Police say one victim died at the scene and the other died at a hospital. Police say they have no suspects and no motive for the shootings. Branson Police Chief Eric Schmitt says investigators have found no indication that the shooting resulted from a robbery.


Missouri Highway Patrol Reports Six Holiday Weekend Fatalities

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri State Highway Patrol says four people died on Missouri roadways during the Memorial Day weekend, and two others died on the water. The patrol on Tuesday released details of the three-day weekend that began Saturday and ended Monday. The patrol cited 270 accidents on roads, and 10 involving boats. The agency says 112 people were arrested for driving while intoxicated, and eight others were arrested for boating while intoxicated. The patrol also reported 79 drug-related arrests — 77 on the roads and two on water. The water deaths included a drowning on Saturday in Iron County and a fatal boating accident Sunday on a lake in Maries County.


Patient Influx from Other States Increases Number of Kansas Abortions in 2020

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The number of abortions performed in Kansas increased by 9.1% last year. That's largely because more women from Oklahoma and Texas traveled north to terminate pregnancies there than in 2019. Advocates on both sides said Tuesday that much of the increase likely occurred because Republican governors in Oklahoma and Texas sought to ban most abortions last spring. Kansas Democratic Governor Laura Kelly refused to do so. The state reported that 7,542 abortions were performed in Kansas in 2020, up 626 from 2019. The number for patients from Oklahoma and Texas jumped to 566 in 2020 from 110 in 2019.


Man Shot by Olathe Police Charged with Aggravated Assault

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A 43-year-old man who was shot by Olathe police has been charged with aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer. Johnson County prosecutors also charged Jesus Salazar III with possession of a weapon by a convicted felon after the shooting May 26 outside a fast food restaurant. Officers went to Strip's Chicken after a witness reported a man in a car who seem disoriented. Police said when officers approached the car they saw Salazar had a weapon and he refused orders to drop it. At least one officer shot Salazar. No officers were injured.


Wichita Man Who Randomly Stabbed Woman Sentenced to 24 Years

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 32-year-old Wichita man who stabbed a woman in a random attack has been sentenced to about 24 years in prison. Wade Dunn was sentenced Wednesday for attempted second-degree murder and aggravated battery. Police say Dunn stabbed a 28-year-old woman about 30 times as she was loading laundry into her car with her baby left alone inside her house. He did not know the woman. She survived and the child was not injured. Authorities say Dunn escaped from the Mirror Residential Reentry Center hours before the attack. Dunn testified at his trial that he was high on drugs at the time of the attack.


Man Arrested in Memorial Day Crash that Killed Wichita Woman

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police have arrested a 33-year-old man after a crash that killed a woman on Memorial Day. Police say Scott Cabrales was booked into jail on possible charges of driving under the influence, aggravated battery and no proof of insurance. He was being held without bond. Police allege Cabrales was speeding Monday afternoon when his car hit a vehicle driven by 80-year-old Frankie Baxter of Wichita. Baxter was pinned in the vehicle and died at the scene. Cabrales was treated for minor injuries before he was arrested.


Police: Wichita Man Arrested Following Deadly Weekend Crash

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a Wichita man has been arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated and causing a crash that killed a woman and seriously injured others. The Wichita Eagle reports that the crash happened Saturday afternoon in Wichita. Police say a vehicle driven by 32-year-old Michael Wayne Walker was on the wrong side of the road when the crash occurred, killing 74-year-old Rita Hawkins, of Wichita. Police say Hawkins was among three people injured in the wreck who were taken to hospitals. She later died of her injuries. Police say Walker was later booked into the Sedgwick County Jail on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and several other counts.


Kansas City Police Investigate Fatal Shooting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Police in Kansas City, Missouri, say a man has been shot to death in the city's Ivanhoe Northeast neighborhood. Police say officers responded to the area following a report around 2 am Monday of shots fired. Arriving officers found a man in a vacant lot suffering from gunshot wounds. Police say the man was pronounced dead at a hospital. His name has not been released. The Kansas City Star says the death marked the city's 63rd homicide of the year, compared with 76 homicides by May 31, 2020. 


U.S. Supreme Court Justices Reject Johnson & Johnson Appeal of $2 Billion Missouri Case 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is leaving in place a $2 billion verdict in favor of women who say they developed ovarian cancer from using Johnson & Johnson talc products. The justices did not comment Tuesday in rejecting Johnson & Johnson's appeal. The New Jersey-based company argued it was not treated fairly in facing one trial involving 22 cancer sufferers who came from 12 states and different backgrounds. A Missouri jury initially awarded the women $4.7 billion, but a state appeals court dropped two women from the suit and reduced the award to $2 billion. The jury found the company’s talc products contain asbestos and asbestos-laced talc can cause ovarian cancer. The company disputes both points.


Court Upholds $6.5 Million Award for Man Badly Hurt by Police Taser

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — A federal appeals court has upheld a $6.5 million jury award for a man who was injured by a former Independence police officer during an arrest in 2014. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals last week denied former officer' Timothy Runnels' argument that he was entitled to qualified immunity. KCUR Radio reports that Runnels used a Taser on Bryce Masters for up to 20 seconds during a traffic stop. He then dragged an unconscious Masters for several feet before dropping him facedown on the pavement. Masters was 17 at the time. Runnels was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to deprivation of Masters' rights.


Missouri Court Strikes Down Public Labor Union Restrictions

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Supreme Court has struck down a 2018 state law that imposed new requirements on some public sector labor unions. In a 5-2 ruling Tuesday, the Supreme Court said the law violated the constitution's equal protection rights by exempting public safety unions from the new requirements imposed on other types of unions. The law passed by the Republican-led Legislature required other public sector unions to hold recertification elections every three years and to get annual approval from employees to deduct dues from paychecks. The Supreme Court majority said there was no rational basis to treat public safety unions differently.


Kansas Communities Use Mobile Clinics, Teams for COVID Shots

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — With demand for COVID-19 vaccines at mass clinics, some Kansas communities are making their inoculation efforts more mobile. If people can't leave their homes for a COVID-19 vaccination, public health officials in Johnson and Wyandotte counties in the Kansas City area can send someone out. Wyandotte County is signing up churches, businesses and apartment complexes for group shots — and going to them. The state has seven trailers allowing it to set up vaccine clinics at remote sites, including Kansas Speedway and Melvern Lake, south of Topeka, later this week. A University of Kansas Health System official jokingly suggested having ice cream trucks also give vaccinations.


Kansas COVID-19 Case Count Passes 314,000; Death Toll Rises to 5,080

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported Wednesday that there have been 314,523 COVID-19 cases in Kansas, including 5,080 virus-related deaths, since the pandemic began. That's an increase of 526 cases and four new deaths since Friday of last week. Case totals were not updated Monday due to the Memorial Day holiday. Another update is expected Friday.


KDHE Head Says Lottery Prizes Under Discussion to Boost Vaccination Rates 

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) – Kansas health officials are discussing some type of prize drawing to boost COVID-19 vaccination rates. Dr. Lee Norman says the state health department is in talks with Kansas Lottery officials. Norman says the state will not offer a $1 million dollar prize, like Ohio and Colorado are doing. But he says some type of prize drawing for people who are vaccinated is likely. About 42% of Kansans have received at least one dose of the vaccine. That trails the national average of about 50%. Norman says the number of daily vaccinations in Kansas continues to fall.


Man Dies After Shooting at Popular Lake of the Ozarks Bar

LAKE OZARK, Mo. (AP) - A man is dead after a shooting at a popular Lake of the Ozarks bar on Saturday night. The Camden County Sheriff's office said the shooting was reported shortly before 11 pm Saturday at the Lazy Gators entertainment venue near Lake Ozark, Missouri. Authorities said a 27-year-old Black man was found shot. He was taken to a hospital where he died. The sheriff's department has not released his name. Two suspects have been arrested in the shooting, but the sheriff's department said investigators were still looking Sunday for a third person suspected to be involved in the shooting. Authorities did not identify the suspects. 


Ethanol Maker POET Buys Plants from Koch-Owned Flint Hills

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — South Dakota-based ethanol company POET has purchased the biofuels assets of Flint Hills Resources, including five ethanol plants in Iowa and one in Nebraska. The deal announced Tuesday also includes ethanol distribution terminals in Texas and Georgia. POET, based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is increasing its production to 33 biofuels production plants in eight states and will have a capacity to produce 3 billion gallons annually. The Iowa ethanol plants are in Arthur, Fairbank, Iowa Falls, Menlo and Shell Rock. The Nebraska plant is in Fremont, and the ethanol terminals are in Buda, Texas, and Camilla, Georgia. Flint Hills Resources is owned by Wichita-based Koch Industries.


Ex-Postal Worker Fined for Destroying Mail Containing Cash

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former postal worker in eastern Kansas has been ordered to pay $1,100 in fines and restitution for destroying mail and presumably stealing cash contained in that mail. The Wichita Eagle reports that 24-year-old Dennis Tapscott, of Emporia, was fined Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Wichita. He was ordered to pay a $500 fine, $575 in restitution and a $25 special assessment fee. He pleaded guilty last week to one count of delaying mail. Prosecutors say that between August 2019 and January 2020, Tapscott opened and destroyed mail containing cash that was intended for 12 other people in Greenwood and Lyon counties.


Former High School Coach Pleads Guilty to Sex with Student

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former high school coach has admitted to having sex with a former student in Holden. Forty-four-year-old Joshua Hood pleaded guilty Wednesday to eight sex-related felony counts. Hood was sentenced to five years of probation and agreed to forfeit his teaching license. Hood coached in Holden during the 2003-2004 school year. The Jackson County Prosecutor's office said he had several sexual encounters with a student under the age of 17. He has been a coach since 2013 in the Park Hill School District. The district said it is unaware of any similar conduct since Hood was hired at Park Hill.


Missouri Supreme Court Lifts COVID Directives for Judiciary

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Supreme Court is lifting directives for the state’s courts aimed at protecting the safety of employees and the public during the coronavirus pandemic. The Jefferson City News Tribune reports that court officials said the restrictions were being lifted June 15th because of a decrease in the national and local levels of COVID-19 cases and the effectiveness and availability of vaccines. The Supreme Court last revised its directives in March, saying local courts could operate in one of four operating phases. Each phase reflected differing approaches to in-person proceedings, personnel and staffing, and courthouse operations.


With AMC Shares Up 1,100% in 2021, Company Sells Shares

LEAWOOD, Kan. (AP/KPR) - The movie theater chain AMC is raising $230.5 million through an 8.5 million share sale, cashing in on the meme stock frenzy that has sent its stock price up more than 1,100% this year. Theaters and other beleaguered industries like restaurants and concert venues are anticipating the return of crowds over the next few months. But AMC is also part of a Wall Street phenomenon that began this year pitting larger, institutional hedge funds against a cadre of online investors, and shares in the companies have soared. Shares of AMC jumped another 20% Tuesday. AMC is the largest movie theatre chain in the world. Its headquarters are in Leawood, Kansas. 


AMC Looks to Keep in Closer Contact with Investors

LEAWOOD, Kan. (AP) - AMC Entertainment is looking to keep in closer contact with some of its newer investors, as the movie theater chain embraces its meme stock popularity. AMC said Wednesday that it's launching AMC Investor Connect, an initiative that will put the company in direct communication with its individual shareholders to keep them up to date about important company information and provide them with special offers including invitations to special screenings and a free large popcorn at a movie this summer. AMC's retail shareholder base has grown to more than 3 million owners over the last several months.


Midwest Economy Report Stays Strong, Shows Inflation Worries

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new monthly survey shows the economy in nine Midwest and Plains states remaining strong in the wake of a devastating global pandemic, but the survey's index gauging inflation soared to a record high. The Creighton University Mid-America Business Conditions for May released Tuesday came in at 72.3, down slightly from April's record high of 73.9. Any score above 50 on the survey's indexes suggests growth. But the survey's wholesale inflation gauge for the month surged to a record 96.3 from April's previous record of 96.2, and nearly 1 in 3 supply managers surveyed said rapidly rising input prices were their greatest 2021 economic challenge. The monthly survey covers Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.


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