Headlines for Wednesday, June 27, 2018

UPDATE:  Tornado Injures 8 People in Small Eastern Kansas Town

EUREKA, Kan. (AP) _ Officials say a tornado that slammed into an eastern Kansas town damaged 175 structures and injured eight people, two of them critically.  Kansas Adjutant General's Office spokeswoman Jane Welch says the twister touched down Tuesday night in the Greenwood County town of Eureka, about 60 miles east of Wichita. Greenwood County Emergency Management said on Twitter that the community of about 2,400 people took a "direct hit.''  Governor Jeff Colyer declared a state of disaster emergency in the county about an hour after the storm. Welch says the damaged structures include the high school, along with homes, businesses and outbuildings. The storm also downed power lines, leaving more than 5,000 utility customers in the dark. Welch says power has been restored to about half of them. 

5 Injured in Tornado in Small Eastern Kansas Town

EUREKA, Kan. (AP) — Officials say five people have been injured in a tornado in a small town in eastern Kansas.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the tornado damaged buildings and uprooted trees when it touched down Tuesday night in the Greenwood County town of Eureka, which is about 60 miles (97 kilometers) east of Wichita. Greenwood County Emergency Management said on Twitter that the community of about 2,400 people took a "direct hit."  Governor Jeff Colyer declared a state of disaster emergency in the county about an hour after the storm hit. Officials are conducting damage assessments.  The state's National Guard says about 5,700 Westar Energy customers are without power. A shelter has been set up at a church for displaced residents.

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Violent Weather Damages Homes in 2 Missouri Counties, but No Injuries Reported

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two Missouri counties have reported weather-related property damage amid severe thunderstorms in several parts of the state.  Officials from Jackson and Johnson counties said Tuesday that there had been no reported injuries.  Deputy Raashid Brown of the Jackson County Sheriff's Office says a mid-day storm around Lake Lotawana damaged several homes and caused power outages.  Troy Armstrong, director of emergency management for Johnson County, says at least one outbuilding was destroyed, power lines were downed, homes were damaged by fallen trees and some road flooding was reported.  Both counties were in the early stages of damage assessment. 

Read more in the Kansas City Star: Tornado near Lee's Summit damages property. Injuries, outages reported elsewhere.

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Kansas Supreme Court: School Funding Inadequate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that the state's spending on public schools remains inadequate despite an increase approved earlier this year, but gave the state another year to come up with more funding.  The high court on Monday rejected arguments from the state that a new law phasing in a $548 million increase in funding over five years is enough to provide a "suitable" education for every child as specified in the state constitution. But the court delayed its mandate until June 30, 2019, or until further order of the court.  It was the third time in two years the court declared education funding inadequate. This year's increase came after the GOP-controlled Legislature boosted funding and raised income taxes last year.  The court ruled in a lawsuit filed in 2010 by four school districts. The districts argued that this year's increase still left the state up to $1.5 billion a year short of adequate spending.

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Family of Man Killed by Police Files Civil Rights Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The family of a black man fatally shot by two white officers in Kansas as he fled from them after a struggle filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Wednesday. The lawsuit alleges that the officers, Michael Cruse and Justin Mackey, fatally shot 30-year-old Dominique White in September near a park in Topeka without legal justification. White was armed and just months out of prison after being prosecuted for burglary and illegal gun possession when the officers responded to a report of gunfire and confronted White. Police body camera footage shows White fleeing from the officers before he was shot. Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay ruled in December that the shooting was justified, saying White moved his hand over a pocket that contained a gun as he fled. An internal police investigation found that Cruse and Mackey followed department policies during the confrontation. Topeka city spokeswoman Molly Hadfield said Wednesday she couldn't comment on pending litigation. White's family said the video shows that White wasn't an immediate threat to the officers. White's death certificate said he died primarily from gunshots in the back. The lawsuit said each officer fired four times and three of the shots hit White in the back. The suit, which seeks more than $75,000 in damages, also accuses the city of providing inadequate training and violating White's constitutional rights to equal protection and due process. The family's attorney, Andrew Stroth, said the lawsuit isn't just about compensation, but also about sending a message to the city and the police department.

"Our focus is reform and addressing unconstitutional and unjustified actions by police," said Stroth, managing partner of Chicago-based Action Injury Law Group, which specializes in police shooting cases. "Across the country there's a pattern and practice of officers using lethal force, especially against African-American men." Topeka police and the FBI investigated the shooting, which led to protests and people camping in front of law enforcement headquarters in Topeka. The U.S. Department of Justice moderated a community forum. The state Legislature changed the law to allow family members to see body-camera footage after White's family had trouble getting permission to view the footage in his case. "The fact that we have video evidence of Dominique getting executed by police is critical to the case," Stroth said. "The video speaks for itself."

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Police: 3 Teens Charged in Party Bus Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Three teenagers have been charged in a drive-by shooting that wounded a 19-year-old woman as she rode on a party bus in Wichita.  Police announced Monday that a 16-, 17- and 18-year-old are accused in the shooting that sent the woman to a hospital earlier this month with a shoulder wound. The youngest teen faces the most serious charge of criminal discharge of a firearm into an occupied vehicle.  Police say riders on a Spots Party Bus were being dropped off when someone outside fired several shots at the bus and a nearby vehicle. The shooting happened near a 44-foot tall steel sculpture called the Keeper of the Plains. The sculpture stands at the point where the Big and Little Arkansas rivers join together in downtown Wichita.

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Attorney: 3 Separated Immigrant Children Still in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Former U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says three immigrant children who were separated from their parents at the border are still in the care of a Kansas nonprofit working under contract with the federal government. Grissom said he met Wednesday with the director of the non-profit The Villages Inc. along with Kansas child welfare officials and some legislators. Grissom had assembled a team of lawyers to provide legal services to the children after reports that separated immigrant children had been brought to Kansas. The group was told 10 or fewer children detained in Kansas had been separated at the border and all but three had been reunited with their families. Those efforts continue for the remaining children. Grissom says all the children had family contact information and other legal representation.

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Federal Judge: Immigrant Families Must be Reunited Within 30 Days

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge in California has ordered U.S. border authorities to reunite separated families within 30 days.  If the children are younger than 5, they must be reunified within 14 days of the order, issued Tuesday.  U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego issued the order in a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union. The lawsuit involves a 7-year-old girl who was separated from her Congolese mother and a 14-year-old boy who was separated from his Brazilian mother.  Sabraw also issued a nationwide injunction on future family separations, unless the parent is deemed unfit.  More than 2,000 children have been separated from their parents in recent weeks and placed in government-contracted shelters. President Donald Trump last week issued an executive order to stop the separation of families and said parents and children will instead be detained together.

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Immigrant Child Removed from Mural Near Brown v. Board Site

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A last-minute addition of an immigrant child clinging to her mother has been removed from a mural near the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic site in Topeka.  The Kansas City Star reports that the image was painted over Monday on a 130-foot wide, 30-foot tall mural across from the former all-black school that tells the story of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that ended segregated education.  Artist bj McBride says she "couldn't help" adding the child Friday in response to the separation of parents and children at the U.S. border, but said later she thinks it was "distracting." The Topeka nonprofit ArtsConnect worked with another nonprofit and raised $100,000 for the project. The group's executive director, Sarah Fizell, says the image didn't fit with the mural's mission.

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Massachusetts Man Sues to Run for Kansas Attorney General

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says the state is hiring a Wichita law firm to defend it against a federal lawsuit filed by a Massachusetts man seeking to appear on the Republican primary ballot for attorney general.  Schmidt said Tuesday that as a candidate himself for attorney general he has a personal interest in the outcome. He says his office has hired the Hinkle Law Firm in Wichita to avoid any potential conflict of interest that could delay the case and risk disruption of the primary.  Political activist Vermin Love Supreme sued Friday arguing he should be allowed to run for Kansas attorney general because residency is not a requirement. He is from Rockport, Massachusetts, and had planned to run for governor but decided instead to run for attorney general.

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Kansas Hotel Developer, Bookkeeper Indicted

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A federal indictment accuses a Lawrence hotel developer and his bookkeeper of a scheme to collect more than $400,000 in fraudulent tax refunds from the city. The U.S. attorney's office for Kansas on Wednesday announced the indictments of 52-year-old Thomas Fritzel and 46-year-old Keela Lam. Both face charges of conspiracy to defraud the city and interstate transportation of stolen funds. Fritzel developed the seven-story Oread Hotel in Lawrence. The city established a Tax Increment Financing district and agreed to reimburse Fritzel for development costs. The indictment alleges that Fritzel and Lam defrauded the city by seeking reimbursements of hundreds of transactions that were not generated within the redevelopment district. A separate indictment accuses Fritzel and others violated the Clean Air Act in the disposal of asbestos.

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Missouri Man Pleads to $4.7 Million Cattle Fraud Scheme

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Prosecutors say a Missouri man has pleaded guilty to a $4.7 million investment scheme in which he defrauded 89 investors who believed they were buying cattle for resale.  The U.S. attorney's office said in a news release Tuesday that 42-year-old Cameron J. Hager of Clinton, Missouri, pleaded guilty to one count each of wire fraud and money laundering.  Hager operated 5A Holdings LLC. He admitted he engaged in a fraud scheme from July 2015 to September 2017. He solicited victims to invest in a "cattle fund" to purchase cattle herds to be sold later at a substantial profit. Prosecutors say he never purchased or intended to purchase any cattle.  He convinced investors he was locating herds that farmers in distress, which he would then fatten and sell to slaughterhouses.

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Bernie Sanders Endorses Ex-Delegate Brent Welder in Kansas Congressional Race

BONNER SPRINGS, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is endorsing one of his 2016 presidential campaign volunteers in the race for a suburban Kansas City congressional seat.  The Kansas City Star reports that Sanders on Monday threw his weight behind lawyer Brent Welder. He's one of six Democrats seeking the Democratic nomination for a Kansas congressional seat currently held by Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder. Yoder's seat is a top target for Democrats because President Donald Trump narrowly lost the district.  Welder served as a delegate for Sanders at the 2016 Democratic National Convention when he was a resident of Missouri. Welder, who now lives in Bonner Springs, Kansas, also worked as a grassroots organizer for Sanders' presidential campaign. Sanders described Welder in a statement as a "bold progressive."  The primary is in August.

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3 Hurt, 7 Cattle Die in Kansas Livestock Truck Crash

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a tractor-trailer hauling a load of livestock crashed in northeast Kansas, killing seven head of cattle and sending three people to a hospital with minor injuries. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the crash happened Tuesday on Kansas 10 in Douglas County, just north of Interstate 70. Douglas County sheriff's Sgt. Kristen Channel says the rig's driver ran a stop sign and went off the road before crashing. The driver was taken to a Lawrence hospital, along with a 10- and 12-year-old in the truck with him. The relationship between the man and children weren't known. Channel says three cattle were killed and a veterinarian was called to the scene to euthanize four others that were injured. The remaining cattle were rounded up and transferred to another truck.

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Autopsy Can't Determine How Wichita Boy Was Killed

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ An autopsy of a 5-year-old Wichita boy couldn't determine how he died. The Wichita Eagle reported Wednesday that the autopsy report of Lucas Hernandez released Wednesday lists both the cause and manner of his death as undetermined.  Lucas was missing for more than three months when his father's live-in girlfriend, Emily Glass, led a private investigator on May 24 to his body under a bridge in rural Harvey County. Glass took her own life two weeks after his body was found, according to her autopsy report that was also released Wednesday.  The report on the boy's body says his body was found ``in a state of advanced decomposition under a pile of debris in a culvert.'' It noted that x-rays showed ``no obvious skeletal trauma.''  District Attorney Marc Bennett says he will make a formal announcement early next week after reviewing the autopsies.  
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12:39 p.m. 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An autopsy has determined that a Kansas woman who led an investigator to the body of her 5-year-old stepson subsequently killed herself. The Wichita Eagle reports that the findings of Emily Glass's autopsy were filed Tuesday in Sedgwick County District Court. Glass's boyfriend, Jonathan Hernandez, found the 27-year-old woman dead this month of a gunshot wound. Police have said they found three suicide notes with her body. Glass reported Hernandez's son, Lucas, missing on February 17. After she was acquitted of child endangerment in an unrelated case involving her own daughter, she led the private investigator to Lucas's body on May 24. She was arrested on suspicion of lying to authorities, but freed. Prosecutors didn't charge her in Lucas's death but described her as a person of interest.

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Man Arrested in Fatal Stabbing of Girlfriend in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man has been arrested in the stabbing death of his girlfriend in Wichita. Police said in a news release that the 25-year-old man called 911 around 2 a.m. Tuesday to report that he had harmed his 22-year-old girlfriend, Mackenzie Payne, in an apartment. The man was armed with a knife when authorities arrived and booked into jail on suspicion of first-degree murder. Payne was pronounced dead at the scene. Police are investigating what led to the stabbing.

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Topeka Zoo Still Waiting on Giraffe Birth 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Topeka Zoo and eager members of the public are still waiting for the birth of a baby giraffe.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that zoo staff members provided an update Tuesday through Facebook Live on Abi, the pregnant giraffe who went into labor early Sunday morning.  The zoo has closed the giraffe barn to the public to give Abi some peace and quiet during the labor process. Topeka residents and people across the country are tuning into ``giraffe cam'' livestreams provided by the zoo and KTWU-TV. Veterinarian Shirley Llizo says there are no concerns with Abi so far, but that the zoo is prepared for any complications that may occur during active labor.  Hope, another pregnant giraffe at the zoo, is expected to give birth about a month after Abi.