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Headlines for Wednesday, June 8, 2022


Crews Cleaning Up After Tornado Tears Through Johnson County

JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. (KPR/KC Star/WDAF-TV) - Residents of Johnson County are picking up the pieces and assessing the damage after violent storms passed through the Kansas City area early this (WED) morning.  The National Weather Service issued a radar-indicated Tornado Warning for Overland Park just after 1 am.  The Kansas City Star reports that strong storms knocked over trees, downed power lines and snapped some power poles in half. No serious injuries or major structural damage have been reported so far, but about 75,000 people - mostly in the Kansas City area - lost power. Some residents remained without electricity late this (WED) morning. The National Weather Service said this (WED) afternoon that preliminary survey results indicate the storm spawned an EF-1 tornado with wind speeds of 100 miles per hour, which moved through portions of Johnson County, Kansas and Jackson County, Missouri. This is a developing story and some details may change. (Read more in the Kansas City Star.)


City of De Soto Considers Proposals for Possible $4 Billion Manufacturing Plant

DE SOTO, Kan. (KCTV) - The site of the former Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant in rural Johnson County could once again become a major manufacturing hub, if the area can successfully court an unnamed company. KCTV reports that for several months, local and state officials have hinted that a location in Kansas is a finalist for a $4-billion manufacturing plant. The state passed an APEX bill in February with more than $1 billion in potential incentives. At the time, Lt. Governor Dave Toland told reporters: “An opportunity of this kind doesn’t come along very often. When it has in the past, we haven’t had the right tools in Kansas to be competitive for it.” Details of the site and the potential investor have not been made public. But on Monday night, the De Soto Planning Commission examined two proposals for the site of the former ammunition plant, which appeared to match the size and scope of the facilities that have been discussed. The proposals suggested the manufacturing facilities could employ more than 4,000 workers. The city had previously annexed thousands of acres of the property in early 2022 and created a special TIF district to encourage redevelopment. City officials in De Soto would not confirm further details. (Read more.)


Union Representing Government Workers, Veterans Protests Possible V-A Closures

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCUR) -  Veterans and members of the American Federation of Government Employees union are protesting the possible closure of nearly 200 VA facilities nationwide.  Potential closures in the region could funnel more patients to the Kansas City VA. KCUR Radio reports that the Department of Veteran Affairs proposed the closure of facilities due to a decrease in demand and recruitment challenges. Closures in Topeka and Leavenworth and Platte City, Missouri, would force more veterans to travel for appointments. Janet Constance, a psychologist at the VA Medical Center in Kansas City, says regional closures will decrease access for veterans in rural areas and those who need specialized care. “If more veterans come to Kansas city, that's gonna lead to potentially a decrease in, in timely care for everyone," she said. If approved, the decision would cause mass layoffs and force many veterans into more expensive, private care. (Read more.)


Kansas Woman Pleads Guilty to Training an ISIS Battalion of 100 Women in Syria

UNDATED (Business Insider / Washington Post) - A former Kansas woman has pleaded guilty in federal court to organizing and leading an all-women ISIS battalion in Syria and providing material support to a terrorist organization.  According to the U.S. Department of Justice, former Lawrence resident Allison Fluke-Ekren trained at least 100 women in Syria and worked with the Islamic State for several years. Business Insider magazine reports that, according to federal prosecutors, Fluke-Ekren repeatedly expressed interest in conducting a terrorist attack at an American mall or on a college campus.  According to the Washington Post, friends and family from Fluke-Ekren’s days in Kansas City and Topeka, where she grew up as Allison Elizabeth Brooks, have said they are shocked she turned to extremism. After studying biology at the University of Kansas and pursuing a master’s degree in teaching at an Indiana college, Fluke-Ekren moved with her children and second husband to Egypt in 2008 and aided terrorist groups for more than six years while in Iraq, Libya and Syria. Fluke-Ekren told witnesses that she considered any attack without mass casualties "to be a waste of resources."  She's facing a 20-year prison term when she's sentenced in October.


State Senator Dennis Pyle Declares Candidacy for Kansas Governor
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - A conservative state senator is running for Kansas governor after recently leaving the Republican Party. State Senator Dennis Pyle, of Hiawatha, is jumping into a race for governor where the current leaders are Republican Derek Schmidt and incumbent Democrat Laura Kelly. Pyle has served in the Kansas Senate since 2005 as a conservative Republican. But he had often clashed with Republican leaders. Pyle’s candidacy for governor as an independent may hurt Schmidt. While he’s unlikely to win, Pyle could split the conservative vote. Schmidt’s campaign said Pyle is helping Kelly by running and called Pyle a "fake conservative.” Pyle will need to collect 5,000 signatures to appear on the ballot.

(AP version...)

Conservative State Senator Dennis Pyle Runs for Kansas Governor as Independent

HIAWATHA, Kan. (AP) — A state senator who recently left the Republican Party has begun campaigning for Kansas governor as an independent. The Kansas City Star reports that grain and livestock farmer Dennis Pyle, of Hiawatha, appointed a campaign treasurer Monday. Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Democratic Governor Laura Kelly are expected to win their parties' nominations for governor in the August 2 primary. Pyle will need to gather 5,000 signatures to appear on the November general election ballot. No independent or third-party candidate has come close to winning an election for governor in modern times, but they sometimes draw enough votes to influence close elections. Pyle's running mate is Clearwater school board member Kathleen Garrison.


Oracle Announces Finalized Acquisition of Kansas City-Based Cerner

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - One of the country’s largest tech companies is set to acquire Kansas city-based Cerner Corporation. According to a report from KCTV, Oracle has announced that a majority of the outstanding shares of Cerner were “validly tendered.” The deal is expected to close today (WED). The tech company stated in a release that 69.2% of all Cerner shares will be tendered. Cerner is an industry leader in healthcare technology. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas previously said he would speak with Cerner about the impact of the acquisition on the 13,000 Cerner associates in the Kansas City area.


Wichita Authorities Arrest 32 People in Child Sex Crime Case

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCUR/KPR) - Thirty-two people in the Kansas City area and in Wichita have been arrested in an undercover federal operation that targeted adults who were willing to travel to have sex with children.  According to the Department of Homeland Security, 15 of the 32 people arrested by a joint task force are from the Kansas City area - Independence, Clay County and Platte County, Missouri. Scott Titus, with Homeland Security, says the task force primarily focused on people using cybertools to lure and entice underage victims. “These online predators have the opportunity to expand their potential likelihood to victimize minors who are unwitting and not understanding what an individual is attempting to accomplish by reaching out to them," he said. Officials say the individuals are accused of numerous crimes, including enticement of a minor, human trafficking, promoting prostitution and other sex crimes.


Lifeguard Shortage Hits Kansas Cities and Towns

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS) - City pools in Lawrence only have half the lifeguards they need to run at optimal capacity. It's a problem many Kansas communities are facing this summer. Kent Rettig, with Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department, says they've increased wages and offered hiring bonuses, but they are still struggling. He says that pools being closed during the pandemic prevented departments from retaining employees. “So, we are rebuilding from scratch," he said. "It's going to take time to get enough employees and get the training and get everybody in place.” Even pools that have sufficient staff to open regular hours might lack enough workers to cover sick leave or vacation days. Rettig believes the issue won’t be as bad next summer.


Missouri Judge Throws Out $4 Million Verdict for Trans Student

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP/KCUR) - A judge in Jackson County, Missouri, has thrown out a $4 million verdict awarded to a transgender student in the Blue Springs School District who sued over being denied access to male bathrooms and locker rooms. Judge Cory Atkins ruled the student's attorneys did not prove that his male sex was "a contributing factor" in the district's banning him from male facilities. The ruling said the student was barred from those facilities solely because of his female genitalia. The student, identified in court documents as R.M.A., sued in 2015. He was allowed to participate in male sports but was required to dress in separate unisex bathrooms.  (Read more from KCUR Radio.) 


Kansas Man Sentenced to Prison for 2018 Killing of Baby Daughter

HAYSVILLE, Kan. (AP) - A southern Kansas man has been sentenced to more than 20 years in prison for the killing of his 4-month-old daughter in 2018. Television station KAKE reports that 36-year-old Andrew Franklin, of Haysville, was sentenced Monday to 250 months in prison. Franklin pleaded no contest in April to second-degree murder and child abuse in the death of 4-month-old Brexley Grace Franklin. Police say the baby girl died on September 13, 2018, five days after she was admitted to a hospital suffering from a skull fracture, retinal hemorrhages and bruises to her jaw. Franklin was initially charged with first-degree murder and two counts of child abuse and has been behind bars since his arrest in January 2019 related to the baby's death.  


Kansas City Dealing with Shortage of 911 Dispatchers  

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCUR) - A number of 911 calls in Kansas City are going unanswered.  That's the result of a shortage of 911 dispatchers.  KCUR Radio reports(link is external)(link is external) that a year ago, the Kansas City Police Department had three vacancies for 911 dispatchers.  That number has grown to 22 unfilled positions. Dispatchers are now working extended shifts of mandatory overtime. Kansas City's 911 hiring dilemma is not a new problem, but it has worsened in recent times. According to figures compiled by the Mid-America Regional Council, the industry standard is to answer 90% of incoming 911 calls within 15 seconds.  But in Kansas City, 911 dispatchers are struggling to answer 75% of incoming calls within that 15 second time frame.  


Body Found Set on Fire in Longview Lake Area of Missouri 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - Police have asked for the public's help in connection with the discovery of a body that had been set on fire.  KCTV reports(link is external)(link is external) that the body was discovered early Monday morning. The Kansas City Police Department stated that someone driving in the area of Raytown Road between Longview Road and Longview Parkway saw a body on fire on the side of the road around 12:40 am. On scene, police confirmed a deceased body that had been apparently set on fire. The fire department also responded to put out the flames. The victim has been identified as 32-year-old Timothy Grigsby. The initial investigation indicates he was shot. A vehicle was towed from the scene but police are still investigating its connection to the victim and the scene. Anyone with information has been asked to call Kansas City police at (816) 234-5043. To remain anonymous, callers can use the TIPS hotline at 474-TIPS. A reward of up to $25,000 has been offered in the case.


Kansas Woman Accused in Bizarre Bank Robbery Attempt  

SMITH COUNTY, Kan. (Hays Post) – The Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) and the Smith County Sheriff’s Office arrested a woman for attempting to rob a bank in Kensington. The KBI says a woman robbed the Farmers National Bank in Kensington late Monday morning. The Smith County Sheriff’s Office responded to the bank and found 51-year-old Jennie R. Aanenson, of Agra, outside of the bank. The Hays Post reports(link is external) Aanenson was detained. The KBI was asked to assist in the case.  When questioned, Aanenson reported that she was forced by two men to rob the bank while armed with a bomb that was in her bag. She also claimed that her infant daughter was abducted by the men who left the area while she was inside the bank. The Kansas Highway Patrol (KHP) and the Smith County Sheriff’s Office immediately began searching for the reported vehicles. Also assisting in the case were the Phillips County Sheriff’s Office and the Osborne County Sheriff’s Office. KBI agents concluded that no child was abducted and that Aanenson does not have an infant daughter. Authorities also determined that the device the woman used to allegedly rob the bank was not a bomb. Aanenson was arrested for suspected aggravated robbery with a dangerous weapon, aggravated criminal threat, and two counts of interference with law enforcement. She was booked into the Smith County Jail.


Wichita to Settle Lawsuit over 2012 Fatal Police Shooting  

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The city of Wichita plans to settle a lawsuit over the fatal shooting of a man by police in 2012. The City Council is expected to approve a $175,000 settlement this week with the mother of 24-year-old Troy Lanning. He was killed by officer Randy Williamson in April 2012 after a police pursuit and foot chase. The lawsuit claimed Lanning was shot as he raised his hands to comply with the officer's demands, and then was shot again as he lay on the ground. The city admitted no liability in the case.  City attorneys argued Williamson was justified in using force because he believed Lanning was a threat.


KU Sports Great, Wichita Native Jim Ryun Honored

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - Former Olympic runner Jim Ryan, a Wichita native who competed at the University of Kansas, has been honored by a national track and field organization. Ryun has been inducted to the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Collegiate Hall. He was one of 30 in the inaugural class honored Monday night.  The event took place in Eugene, Oregon, where the world track and field championships will take place later this year.  Ryun won five NCAA titles while competing at KU. As a teenager in Wichita, he became the first high school athlete to run a mile in under four minutes. He later became a world record holder and a three-time Olympian. Later in life, Ryun served in Congress, representing the 2nd District of eastern Kansas. 


K-State Athletic Great Veryl Switzer Dies at 89 

UNDATED (KCUR) - A legendary Kansas State University sports pioneer has died. Veryl Switzer, a multi-sport athlete who was the first African-American scholarship player to graduate from K-State, died over the weekend. On the Wildcats' football teams of the early 1950s, Switzer was a halfback and punt returner. In track and field, he was a long jumper.  He graduated in 1954. In the 1954 NFL draft, Switzer was taken fourth overall, still the highest pick ever for a K-State player. His football career was interrupted by military service and he concluded his playing career in the Canadian Football League. In 1974, Switzer got his masters in education and later worked in Kansas State athletics. He was 89.


Laurent Duvernay-Tardif Putting NFL Career on Hold Again

MONTREAL (AP) — Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is putting his NFL career on hold — again. The 31-year-old Canadian offensive lineman told The Canadian Press on Wednesday that he will begin a residency program at a Montreal-area hospital next month. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif has been an unrestricted NFL free agent since March after finishing last season with the New York Jets. He said he’s not retiring from football, just taking care of medical requirements needed to become a physician. Shortly after helping the Kansas City Chiefs win the Super Bowl in February 2020, Duvernay-Tardif became the first NFL player to opt out of the following season, leaving the team to battle the COVID-19 pandemic working at a Montreal long-term care facility.


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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