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Headlines for Thursday, July 21, 2022



UPDATE: Man Accused of Killing North Kansas City Police Officer Pleads Not Guilty 

UNDATED (KC Star) – A judge at the Clay County Circuit Court has entered a not guilty plea on behalf of Joshua Rocha, the man accused of fatally shooting a North Kansas City police officer during a traffic stop.  The Kansas City Star reports that Rocha made his first court appearance Thursday, where he was charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action for allegedly shooting and killing North Kansas City police officer Daniel Vasquez during a traffic stop Tuesday. Rocha is being held on $2 million bail at the Clay County jail. Rocha could face the death penalty or life in prison without parole if convicted of first-degree murder. Clay County Prosecutor Dan White said Wednesday that he would wait for the investigation to be completed before deciding whether to seek the death penalty. White said he would review the results of the inquiry, then consult with Vasquez's family, the North Kansas City Police Department, and prosecutorial office staff before making a decision on further actions. 

(–Earlier Reporting–) 

Suspect Charged with Fatally Shooting North KC Police Officer

NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KPR) - The man suspected of fatally shooting a North Kansas City police officer is now facing the death penalty... or life in prison if convicted. Joshua Rocha will be arraigned today (THUR) in Clay County, Missouri.  He's charged with 1st-degree murder and armed criminal action. Prosecutors say he shot officer Daniel Vasquez late Tuesday morning after being pulled over for having an expired temporary license tag. Officer Vasquez died later at a Kansas City area hospital.


U.S. Disrupts North Korean Hackers that Targeted American Hospitals

NEW YORK (AP / KPR) - The FBI recently disrupted the activities of a hacking group sponsored by the North Korean government and money laundering groups in China.  The hackers targeted U.S. hospitals -- including some in Kansas and Colorado -- with ransomware. An unidentified hospital in Kansas was hacked in May 2021, leaving healthcare workers unable to perform X-rays and diagnostic imaging. The hospital eventually paid about $100,000 in Bitcoin to get its system back up and running. The FBI was able to recover half a million dollars in ransom payments made by U.S. hospitals. Authorities encourage organizations hit by ransomware to report the crime to law enforcement so officials can investigate and so that they can help victim companies try to get ransom payments back.


3 Wichita Officers Suspended for Inappropriate Tweets

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita officials say they have suspended three police officers who were among several law enforcement officers who exchanged racist, homophobic or inappropriate tweets. City Manager Robert Layton ordered the officers be suspended for 15 days, rejecting interim police chief Lemuel Moore’s planned eight-day suspensions. An investigation began after The Wichita Eagle reported in March about the messages and that no officers had been disciplined. The investigation found 13 Wichita police officers, three Sedgwick County sheriff’s deputies and two Wichita firefighters sent and received inappropriate text messages. Layton said the officers will need to undergo psychological exams when they return before they can be moved from desk work to regular duties.


Sky-High Diesel Prices Squeeze Truckers, Farmers, Consumers

NEW YORK (AP/KPR) - Sky high diesel prices are driving up the cost of everything, from groceries to Amazon orders to furniture. That's because nearly everything that's delivered, whether by truck, rail or ship, uses diesel fuel. Farmers harvesting hay and planting corn with diesel-fired tractors are taking a hit of thousands of dollars per week. And many of these high costs are passed down to consumers. In June, the average cost of diesel fuel in the U.S. was $5.75 a gallon. In Kansas, the average price of diesel was $5.15 a gallon.


Sedgwick County to Launch New Eviction Resolution Program

WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW/KNS) - Sedgwick County’s District Court will soon have an eviction resolution program. The court is the beneficiary of a $260,000 dollar grant that the state of Kansas received to strengthen eviction diversion efforts. Sedgwick County has the most eviction cases in the state. The grant will fund a program manager. The manager will connect landlords and tenants with legal help, rental assistance or educational resources about the eviction process. Judge Robert Woods oversees eviction proceedings in Sedgwick County. He says that tenants and landlords don’t understand the eviction process well, which the grant program should address. "The focus would be on education to help both landlords and tenants make well educated decisions as they go through that process," he said. In about 50% of eviction cases statewide, tenants do not appear in court or file an answer to the eviction notice. When that happens, the landlord can proceed with eviction by default. State officials hope to expand the program to other district courts in Kansas.


Two Cowboys Accused of Rustling Cattle in Central Kansas

PAWNEE COUNTY, Kan. (Hays Post) — Two central Kansas men are accused of trying to steal cattle from a feedlot. The men, 42-year-old Ruben Lopez-Lupercio and 24-year-old Axel Elian Gomez-Saldana, both of Larned, are accused of stealing eleven heifers. The Hays Post reports that the two men appeared in Pawnee County District Court Tuesday for a preliminary hearing. According to Pawnee County Attorney Doug McNett, the men are charged with one count of felony theft of property worth between $1,500 and $25,000. Evidence presented at the hearing indicated an investigation was opened after a State Cattle Brand Inspector recognized feedlot finished heifers attempting to be sold at the La Crosse sale barn on December 10, 2021.


Kansas Vote Could Lead to Ban, but Abortion Foes Mum on Future Plans

OLATHE, Kan. (AP / KPR) — A vote is looming in Kansas that could clear the way for the Legislature to more strictly regulate or perhaps even ban abortion, but abortion opponents are hesitating to say what they intend to do if they win. Early voting has begun for an August 2 election on a proposed change in the state constitution to give the Republican-controlled Legislature the power to make the decision. The state Supreme Court has ruled the current constitutional language protects abortion rights. It's the first such vote in the nation since the U.S. Supreme Court declared last month that states can restrict or prohibit abortion. Several other states are poised to vote on the issue later this year, and new fights loom elsewhere. Kansas abortion opponents are making a pitch to centrist voters that avoids talking about an outright ban.


Poll Suggests Abortion Amendment Vote in Kansas Will Be Close but Leaning Toward Yes Vote

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - New polling suggests the vote on a proposed Kansas constitutional amendment on abortion will be close.  But the new poll suggests more Kansans are in favor of the "Value Them Both" amendment, which could open the door for tighter abortion restrictions. The first publicly released poll of the campaign was conducted by co/efficient and reported by the website FiveThirtyEight. It shows 47% of likely voters in the August 2nd election support the change that would strip abortion rights from the Kansas Constitution. The poll shows 43% plan to vote against it. The new poll also suggests that Democrats are more energized than Republicans by the abortion issue, with 94% of Democrats saying the amendment has increased the importance of voting in the upcoming election, compared with 78% of Republicans.

Both Sides Raise Millions to Sway Voters on Kansas Abortion Amendment

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS) - A group called Kansans for Constitutional Freedom has raised $6.5 million for its campaign opposing the state's "Value Them Both" constitutional amendment. Planned Parenthood has provided more than a million of that amount. Meanwhile, Catholic organizations in Kansas are providing millions to support the amendment that would change the state constitution to say the document does not include a right to abortion. The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas contributed nearly $2.5 million to the Value Them Both coalition. That makes up more than half of the group’s total fundraising of $4.6 million. Early voting is already underway and election day is August 2nd.


Kansas' Derek Schmidt Among GOP AGs Asking Google Not to Limit Anti-Abortion Center Results

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Some federal lawmakers urged Google last month to limit the appearance of anti-abortion pregnancy centers in certain abortion-related search results. Now 17 Republican attorneys general are warning the company that doing so could invite legal action. Their letter Thursday to the CEO of Google parent Alphabet Inc. criticizes the letter signed by 21 members of Congress, which points to the prominence of anti-abortion pregnancy centers in searches for abortion services. Sometimes known as crisis pregnancy centers, these offices are often religiously affiliated and counsel clients against having an abortion. The attorneys general say suppressing such search results would squelch what they call “pro-life and pro-mother voices." The signatories to the letter are the attorneys general of Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia. 


Let's Learn Russian! Grant Will Help Kansas High School Students Do Just That

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS) - More Kansas high school students will have a chance to learn Russian through a grant awarded to the University of Kansas. The program will also explore Russian culture and politics. The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine is one reason Ani Kokobobo wants more young people to learn about Russia. The head of KU’s Department of Slavic, German and Eurasian Studies says the online courses will give high school students deeper insight into current events. "There are things like this that are important for students to kind of keep at the forefront of their mind, and approach both the language and the culture with a critical mindset," she said. The American-based U.S. Russia Foundation recently awarded KU $220,000 to offer free Russian language courses next school year. Any Kansas high school student can apply to participate by emailing slavic@ku.edu


Filming of Children at Garden City Pool Leads to Arrest

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KSNW) - Someone reported a man filming children at Garden City’s swimming pool and live-streaming it to the internet. That report led to a police investigation and a child sexual exploitation arrest. The Garden City Police Department got a report on July 7 that the man had been live-streaming children at the Big Pool. Police did not say if there was anything unusual about what was being live-streamed. The department began an investigation, and police say they identified 57-year-old William Joe Bolin, of Garden City, as a suspect. This week, authorities served a search warrant on Bolin’s home, where they seized several electronic items, suspected drugs and drug paraphernalia. In addition, they say a preliminary search of the electronic items resulted in the location of numerous items of child pornography. Officers say Bolin was arrested and booked into the Finney County Jail on suspicion of multiple counts of child sexual exploitation and drug possession charges.


Lawrence Police Transition to Non-Lethal Shotguns

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - The Lawrence Police Department has transitioned to non-lethal shotguns.  Officers have retired their old shotguns and replaced them with weapons that shoot beanbags. The department held a demonstration of the new, non-lethal weapons for the media today (THUR). Many law enforcement agencies across the nation have also made the switch to non-lethal shotguns.


Judgment: Evergy Kansas Central to Pay Kansas $500,000

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) — A Sedgwick County district court judge has approved a plan for Evergy Kansas Central to pay for alleged violations of the Kansas Consumer Protection Act (KCPA). That's according to Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett. KSNW TV reports that the company will pay $500,000 to the State of Kansas as part of a consent judgment. Evergy Kansas Central is a subsidiary of Evergy, Inc., and was formerly known as Westar Energy Inc. It is the area that includes Wichita, Topeka and Manhattan. Schmidt and Bennett say the judgment relates to interior and exterior electrical home warranties offered through Evergy Kansas Central’s affiliation with HomeServe USA from September 2014 through December 2019. The consent judgment is a court-approved agreement between the parties, and Evergy Kansas Central Inc. does not admit to any allegations. Sedgwick County District Court Judge Eric Commer approved the judgment on July 15. ( Read more.)


Iowa Man Convicted of Rigging Lottery Drawings Gets Paroled

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A former lottery computer technician convicted in a scheme to rig computers to win jackpots for himself, friends and family has been paroled after serving more than five years in an Iowa prison. Online prisoner records show 59-year-old Eddie Tipton was released from prison Friday. Tipton pleaded guilty to ongoing criminal conduct in 2017 and was ordered to pay restitution of $2.2 million to Colorado, Wisconsin, Kansas and Oklahoma. He shared some of the restitution obligation with his brother in Texas, who collected some of the winnings and served a 75-day jail sentence. Tipton is suing Iowa, claiming he was placed under duress to plead guilty. He says Iowa officials had no authority to charge him for restitution in other states.


Former Colombian President to Receive Dole Leadership Prize

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW / KPR) - Former president of Colombia and KU alumnus Juan Manuel Santos has been selected to receive the 2022 Dole Leadership Prize. Santos, the 2016 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, will receive the prize at a public program September 20 at the Dole Institute of Politics. The Dole Leadership Prize is a bipartisan award presented annually to an individual who demonstrates the importance of involvement in political and civic affairs. Santos graduated from the University of Kansas with degrees in business and economics. He served two terms as president of Colombia from 2010 to 2018. Santos is only the third foreign recipient of the Dole Leadership Prize.


Kansas Public Radio Hosts Ice Cream Social

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) — Kansas Public Radio, based at the University of Kansas, will host an ice cream social this month to show appreciation to its listener-member community. The public radio station will serve complimentary Hy-Vee ice cream treats while supplies last from 5-7 pm July 28 at Maceli’s in downtown Lawrence. Local artist Sky Smeed will perform live music.  This is a KPR member-exclusive event, and members will have the chance to claim their own KPR mug commemorating the station’s 70th anniversary. KPR will offer one mug per household, while supplies last. All listeners have the opportunity to become a member by contributing to KPR.


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. And follow  KPR News on Twitter.