Headlines for Friday, September 9, 2022
No Charges Against Kansas Officer in 2018 Death of Teen
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (KNS) - After a two-year-long investigation, the Justice Department says it will not file criminal civil rights charges against an Overland Park police officer who shot and killed a teenager in 2018. The department concluded that Clayton Jenison, the officer who shot 17-year-old John Albers thirteen times as he was slowly backing out of his garage, did not willfully deprive Albers of his civil rights. Albers’ mother, Sheila Albers, said "this was not the outcome we envisioned while seeking justice for John" but the department’s statement showed "local officials failed in their investigation." Officers were originally called to the Albers home on a mental wellness check after John Albers posted videos indicating he might harm himself. In 2019, Overland Park settled a wrongful death lawsuit brought by Sheila Albers for $2.3 million.
Feds: No Civil Rights Charges in Kansas Police Shooting
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) _ Federal prosecutors say they will not file civil rights charges against a Kansas police officer who shot and killed a 17-year-old in 2018. The Justice Department announced the findings of its investigation into the shooting death of John Albers at his home in Overland Park. An officer said he shot Albers because he was afraid the teen would hit him with the minivan he was backing out of the family's garage. The Justice Department said it agrees with an earlier court finding that officer Clayton Jenison acted with unreasonable force. But investigators could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he did so willfully, which is required to bring federal civil rights charges.
Kris Kobach Resigns from "We Build the Wall' Group
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Kris Kobach, the Republican candidate for Kansas attorney general, has resigned from the board of directors of "We Build the Wall,'' a nonprofit group that raised money it told donors would be used to finish building a wall along the U.S. southern border. The Kansas City Star reports that Kobach resigned after the organization was indicted this week in New York and accused of transferring hundreds of thousands of dollars raised for the wall to third parties. Kobach resigned from the organization's board and as its general counsel. He has not been accused of wrongdoing by federal or New York prosecutors.
KU Study Claims Face Masks Don't Hinder Most Social Interactions
LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) - Wearing a face mask doesn’t hinder most social interactions. That's the claim of a newly-released study from the University of Kansas and Wellesley College. Researchers asked a group of college students in a lecture hall to strike up a conversation with someone they didn’t know. This was in 2012, before the pandemic politicized masks. Half wore face masks and half didn’t - and researchers say that had little effect on the quality of their interactions. Now a decade later, researchers published the data in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology to help combat misinformation about masks during the pandemic. The CDC currently recommends masking in indoor public places in 13 Kansas counties.
Hearing to Determine if Missouri Boarding School Will Close
UNDATED (AP) - A Missouri boarding school, already under scrutiny for allegations of physical and sexual abuse, may soon be shut down, following a judge's ruling. Cedar County Circuit Judge David Munton signed an order this week to close Agape Boarding School in Stockton. This comes after the Missouri attorney general's office and the state Department of Social Services filed petitions citing evidence that someone on the state registry for child abuse and neglect is working at the school. A hearing Monday will determine if the school will be allowed to remain open.
Kansas Supreme Court Ruling Could Shape Foster Care Custody Rights
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - A woman trying to gain custody of her grandchild lost her appeal after the Kansas Supreme Court concluded she didn’t challenge the adoption to another family soon enough. The Kansas News Service reports that the state's highest court did not rule whether the grandmother should have received custody, but rather that she had no ability to appeal the decision. The high court ruled that she did not object to court proceedings as they happened and that placement decisions are not open to appeals. Attorneys for the grandmother say she filed motions to gain custody in time. They also argue the district court ignored state law by not giving family the first chance at custody. The foster family that ultimately adopted the child got custody because they were "young and healthy." ( Read more.)
Boy Scouts' Bankruptcy Plan Approved, Sets Up Largest Sex Abuse Settlement Fund in History
UNDATED (KNS/KCUR) - A bankruptcy judge in Delaware has approved a $2.46 billion reorganization plan by the Boy Scouts of America. KCUR Radio reports that the organization faces tens of thousands of sexual assault lawsuits, including some in Kansas. The Boy Scouts declared bankruptcy in February 2020 after being hit by more than 80,000 sexual abuse lawsuits across the country. Reuters reports that the Coalition of Abused Scouts for Justice, which represents the majority of abuse claimants, said the bankruptcy ruling would set up the largest sexual abuse settlement fund in history. The bankruptcy reorganization plan creates a framework for a survivor trust that will evaluate and pay claims. Individual abuse survivors will be eligible to receive anywhere from $3,500 to $2.7 million, depending on the severity of the abuse, when it occurred and other factors.
Ottawa Man to Stand Trial for Allegedly Raping 13-Year-Old
LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - A 22-year-old will stand trial in Douglas County District Court for allegedly raping a 13-year-old girl. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Ernest F. Ingram II, of Ottawa, is charged with one count of rape of a person under 14. Ingram is also charged with furnishing alcohol to a minor with illicit purposes. The rape charge is an off-grid felony and could result in a life sentence if Ingram is convicted. The charges stem from an incident in September 2021. Prosecutors alledge Ingram met a woman for consensual sex and then later that night, raped a teenager in the same residence.
Ingram was convicted in April in Franklin County for felony aggravated endangerment of a child. He pleaded no contest to the charge as a part of a plea agreement in a case in which he originally faced charges of rape of a minor and furnishing alcohol to a minor.
Kansas Lost $466 Million in Unemployment Fraud but Audit Remains Hidden from Public
TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) - A forensic audit found up to $466 million in potentially fraudulent unemployment payments in Kansas, but the Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the final report wasn't released to the public during a public meeting. The audit had been long awaited amid differing estimates on how much taxpayer money was paid out to fraudsters. A legislative audit put the figure at up to $700 million while the Kansas Department of Labor estimated $290 million. Despite state law requiring the forensic audit " be made publicly available," the document wasn't made public when it was discussed Wednesday by the Unemployment Compensation Modernization and Improvement Council.
Committee chair Rep. Sean Tarwater, a Stilwell Republican, said the report would be handed out to committee members then picked up after the meeting. At least for now, the audit isn't publicly available as the law requires. After the meeting, Tarwater told reporters he didn't agree with the decision. He said the entirety of the report should be public. "There's nothing in there that puts Kansas at risk," he said. "Every single redaction, we have already discussed in this room out loud. It's just that the administration does not want the details of this report out because they are damning."
Labor Secretary Amber Shultz told reporters afterward that "I don't know" why the report wasn't released and who made the decision, directing questions to Tarwater. When told of Shultz's answer, Tarwater said it was Shultz and KDOL who wanted to redact the report. Tarwater said he would have preferred to release an unredacted audit Wednesday but didn't want to be blamed for any fallout.
The attorney general's office advises that, under open meetings law, public records reviewed and discussed during an open meeting generally can't be closed. The report must be disclosed but it could still be appropriate to redact it, said Max Kautsch, a Lawrence First Amendment attorney and legal adviser to the Kansas Press Association. The people making the redactions would have to articulate which exceptions are applicable. He urged the council to release the report. The Topeka Capital-Journal has filed an open records request with KDOL for the complete and unredacted report as provided to the council. ( Read more.)
Topeka High Briefly on Lockdown After Hit and Run Incident
TOPEKA. Kan. (WIBW) — Topeka High School went into lockdown for about an hour Thursday morning after four people fleeing from a hit and run incident were seen running toward the school. WIBW reports that the hit-and-run incident happened several blocks from the school. Police say all four individuals were captured nearby. All four are juveniles and have not been named by authorities. A weapon was recovered from one of the teenagers. Officials at Topeka Public Schools said the high school was placed on lockdown “out of an abundance of caution.” One juvenile was taken into custody while the other three were released to their parents.
13-year-old Charged with Threatening to Bomb Kansas Capitol Building
TOPEKA. Kan. (KSHB ) - A 13-year-old has been arrested for allegedly threatening to bomb the Kansas Capitol in Topeka. KSHB TV reports that the Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office says it received reports about the threat made on social media. As a minor, the teenager has not been named but the sheriff’s office says the youth is from Shawnee County. The threat caused law enforcement to evacuate the Capitol and search the building with bomb detection dogs. No threats were found on Capitol grounds. The 13-year-old was arrested and booked into Shawnee County Juvenile detention center on felony suspicion of aggravated criminal threat.
Body Found in Linn County May Be Remains of Missing Lawrence Man
OTTAWA. Kan. (KSHB ) - A body discovered in Linn County is suspected to be that of a missing Lawrence man. 30-year-old Garrett Russell was reported missing on August 31st. He was last seen leaving his home in west Lawrence on August 24th in a white Toyota Camry. KSHB reports that police received tips that Russell may have been seen in Kansas City, Kansas and in Osawatomie but on Wednesday, his car was located in Linn County. The body of a deceased person was found next to the car. Authorities have not confirmed the person’s identity. Russell’s family lives in Ottawa and anyone with information is asked to contact the Ottawa Police Department at (785) 242-2561.
Wichita School District Plans to Install Special Weapons Detectors
WICHITA, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) - The largest school district in Kansas plans to install weapon detectors in all its high schools. The Kansas News Service reports that the move comes after several students were found with handguns. For years, the Wichita district didn’t use metal detectors in school buildings out of fear they’d create bottlenecks at entrances. Now, officials want high-tech machines designed to spot firearms and explosives. The $20,000 devices won’t require students to unload purses or backpacks. District safety director Terri Moses says five students have been caught with handguns in schools in the first few weeks of school this fall. "This is a sign of our times," she said. "The community is experiencing mental health issues and violence, and occasionally it spills over into our schools. So, we’re going to be proactive and take the initiative to make sure that those weapons don’t get into our buildings." The district plans to buy about 45 screeners for about $1.5 million. The Wichita school board will vote on the plan Monday.
Southwest Kansas Bank Gives Employees Time Off to Substitute Teach
GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KNS) - A southwest Kansas bank is giving its employees a paid day off to work as substitute teachers in public schools this fall semester. The Kansas News Service reports that the Garden City school district is one of many across the state struggling to find substitute teachers. Western State Bank will give an extra paid holiday this fall for employees to work in schools. About half of the bank’s 60 workers in Garden City have substitute teaching licenses and plan to participate. Bank president Tyler Whitham calls the new program a win-win. "They get paid twice, they get to go hang out with their kid or do something other than sitting in a bank all day," he said. "Hopefully, they are able to apply their time in a way that’s exciting to them and beneficial to the students.” Western State Bank is spending about $4,000 on the initiative.
Congress Spends Billions to Help States, Including Kansas, Plug Abandoned Oil and Gas Wells
UNDATED (KNS) - Kansas will speed up its work to seal thousands of abandoned oil and gas wells that can pollute groundwater and the atmosphere. The Kansas News Service reports that the state knows of at least 11,000 abandoned oil and gas wells scattered across the state. Many were originally drilled by companies that no longer exist. Congress has earmarked billions of dollars to address the problem nationally. Kansas will get about $25 million, which will allow it to plug about 2,300 wells over the next few years. These days, oil and gas companies pay a fee to address the problem of plugging abandoned wells . But finding them is often difficult. And record keeping was poor or non-existent in the early days of the state's energy industry. ( Read more.)
Wichita to Decriminalize Fentanyl Test Strips and Small Amounts of Marijuana
The Wichita City Council will vote to revise its city ordinance to decriminalize possessing fentanyl test strips as well as small amounts of marijuana. Fentanyl test strips are currently considered drug paraphernalia under state law. With the new ordinance, people in possession of the strips will no longer be arrested by Wichita police. If approved, the ordinance will also no longer use the city’s municipal courts to prosecute people for possessing small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple says this will help people avoid drug convictions, which can hurt their employment opportunities with the area’s major employers and with the city of Wichita itself. The council will vote on the new ordinance at its meeting next Tuesday. (Read more)
Derby Schools Working on New Diversity Plan
DERBY, Kan. (KNS) - A Wichita area school board is developing a new strategic plan after rejecting one that called for diversity and equity. A majority of board members in the Derby School District say terms like equity and inclusion are political buzzwords. The board is considering new wording that calls for “including everyone to unify our culture.” Marilyn Shaw is a Black parent who says her children were harassed in Derby schools because of their race. She helped craft the plan that was rejected and says terminology shouldn’t change the overall goal. “I want my kid to be able to sit in that classroom safely and receive the same educational experience as the kid sitting next to him,” Shaw said. Board members will meet in coming weeks to discuss parts of the plan focused on mental health and emotional well-being.
Valley Center Will Have First 3D-Printed Community in Kansas
VALLEY CENTER, Kan. (KSNW) — Valley Center is doing something no other Kansas town has done yet. KSNW TV reports the south-central Kansas community is getting a community of 3D-printed homes. Valley Center gave final approval to the plan Tuesday. The community will be called Sunflower Valley. The development company says the name was chosen to honor Kansas and the city of Valley Center. Company officials developing the community say 3D-printed homes provide high-quality, cost-effective and sustainable housing options in less time than traditional construction. The company expects the new homes to be available next year. Brent Clark, the city administrator for Valley Center, says the homes, more than 100 of them, will be built on the southeast side of town.
Kansas Settles Lawsuit with Former Prison Employee Who Claimed Discrimination
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The state of Kansas has settled a lawsuit with a former prison employee who says she was discriminated against because of her gender. The Kansas News Service reports that Erin Peppiatt was fired for having a relationship with a subordinate and lying about it to investigators. But she claimed many other male officers had similar relationships and never got in trouble. State lawmakers agreed to settle the lawsuit behind closed doors. The exact details of the settlement are not yet known.
ESU Brass to Seek Authority to Begin Workforce Restructuring
TOPEKA, Kan. (Kansas Reflector) — Administrators at Emporia State University are preparing to seek permission from the Kansas Board of Regents to put a controversial workforce management policy into effect. The Kansas Reflector reports that ESU president Ken Hush said he will ask KBOR for the authority to put a framework developed by the Board into effect. That set of policies, put in motion by the Board of Regents during the COVID-19 pandemic, was made available to the six state universities through December of 2022. It includes guidelines for the dismissal of some staff, tenured faculty, and for modifying the academic courses on offer at the schools. Hush, who was named as the ESU president nearly a year ago, says the objective of implementing the policy would be to realign campus resources “to address the university’s structural deficits that have been ongoing for several years.” A statement from the university did not reveal the details of any potential workforce reduction or the possibility of closing down specific academic programs. The proposal will be reviewed by the Regents on September 14th. Officials at the University of Kansas say they will not use this policy before it expires in December.
CNN Lists Kansas City as Top Underrated Travel Destination
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KC Star) — CNN’s travel division has listed Kansas City as one of the nation’s top underrated travel destinations. The Kansas City Star reports that the city made CNN's list of 22 lesser-known vacation spots. CNN travel reporter Joe Yogurst says that Missouri’s second largest city is all about sound and flavor. He writes that Kansas City is a cradle of American jazz, boasting more than 40 venues where people can listen to live jazz, blues and other music. The CNN article also touts the city's numerous barbecue joints, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the National WWI Museum and the Steamboat Arabia Museum.
More than 30,000 Kansas Drivers with Suspended Licenses Could Legally Drive Again
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — More than 30,000 Kansas drivers with suspended licenses could have had some driving privileges last year. The Kansas News Service reports that the state program giving those privileges has hardly been used. Kansas will suspend a driver's license if someone fails to pay off a ticket. That means no driving whatsoever. But those drivers can apply for a restricted license, which allows for some driving to work, school or medical appointments. Only 4% of people eligible for those restricted privileges get them. Marilyn Harp of Kansas Legal Services says the application process is too confusing. “The number of people who have suspended drivers' licenses jumps right to the top as a problem," she said. The state says it has now simplified the application process and even removed fees. ( Read more.)
Experts: Kansas Water Resources in Peril
TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) — Kansas aquifers are being depleted by irrigation. Reservoirs are filling with sediment. Fertilizer runoff is contaminating water and feeding toxic algae. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that experts recently provided lawmakers with a sobering overview of water quantity and quality issues facing all areas of the state. While more money and bureaucratic reshuffling were floated as solutions, the Special Committee on Water left Topeka last week without a clear path forward for the 2023 Legislature. "I think it's pretty clear: If we continue business as usual, it's not going to end well," said Jim Butler, a Kansas Geological Survey geohydrologist. "The high plains aquifer in Kansas has been heavily pumped for decades, and that intensive use has come at a price," Butler said. He also said Kansas has only one real option at this point: Reduce pumping and stabilize the water level.
"We're running out of water," said Burke Griggs, a Washburn University law professor and expert on Kansas water law. Griggs was one of many witnesses whose testimony highlighted groundwater depletion in the high plains aquifer. It "should haunt your dreams," he said. In some places, the water will be gone within a generation. In others, it is already depleted to the minimum threshold.
About 2 million acres of farmland sit atop the Ogallala Aquifer, said Earl Lewis, the chief water engineer at the Kansas Department of Agriculture. Much of that is corn, which supports ethanol plants, dairies, feedlots and meatpacking plants. "We've got a multi billion-dollar industry built on that water-based economy," Lewis said. ( Read more.)
Missouri Renews K-State Rivalry with Non-Conference Match-Up
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — It’s been more than a decade since Missouri and Kansas State played each other in football. On Saturday, the longtime conference rivals will finally meet again in an important non-conference game. The Tigers are coming off a season-opening win over Louisiana Tech while the Wildcats are fresh off a blowout of South Dakota. But along with improving to 2-0, the winner also earns some important bragging rights, particularly on the recruiting trail. The game means a lot to players and coaches as well as fans, many of whom still remember the days when Missouri and Kansas State met every year.
KC Chiefs Aim to Improve to 9-1 in Openers Under Andy Reid
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs head into their game at Arizona on Sunday having won seven consecutive openers. That includes three against teams that were destined for the playoffs and one that reached the Super Bowl. Overall, Chiefs coach Andy Reid is 8-1 since taking over the franchise before the 2013 season, including a perfect mark in five openers played on the road. Reid doesn't hazard a guess as to why the Chiefs have been so successful in Week 1, but players such as Chris Jones believe a lot of it has to do with the work they put in during training camp.
Cardinals Place QB McCoy on IR Ahead of KC Chiefs' Season Opener
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — The Arizona Cardinals have put backup quarterback Colt McCoy on injured reserve heading into Sunday’s season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs. Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said McCoy strained a calf at practice on Monday. McCoy’s absence means Trace McSorley is starter Kyler Murray’s primary backup. Injured reserve sidelines players for at least four games. The 36-year-old McCoy went 2-1 as a starter last season for the Cardinals, filling in mid-season when Murray was out with an injury. He completed 75% of his passes for 740 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
Chiefs Opener Will Feature On-Field Reunion
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KNS) — When the Kansas City Chiefs open their regular season at Arizona on Sunday afternoon, there will be a notable reunion on the football field. The head coach of the Arizona Cardinals is Kliff Kingsbury, who was head coach at Texas Tech when Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes played at the college. Mahomes traces their relationship all the way back to when Kingsbury recruited him in high school. “He was the one that came down, saw me, talked to me, talked to my family and believed in me. I think that’s a reason I’m in this position. He gave me that chance,” Mahomes said. This will be the first game the two will be working on the same field since 2016 when Mahomes played his last season at Texas Tech.
Chiefs' Clark Pleads No Contest to Los Angeles Gun Charges
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark has pleaded no contest in Los Angeles to two counts of misdemeanor possession of an assault weapon. Clark was sentenced Thursday to one year of probation and 40 hours of community service. The three-time Pro Bowl pass rusher was arrested in March 2021, when he was pulled over while riding with another man in a vehicle that did not have a front license plate. An officer noticed a weapon in the car and recovered two loaded firearms. Three months later, Clark was pulled over for a code violation and officers discovered another gun in his vehicle. Clark is due back in court early next year, when he will need to show proof that he completed his sentence.
NASCAR Prepares for the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KPR) - The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs are underway. The 2022 Hollywood Casino 400 will take place Sunday and is the second of three races in the Round of 16. The Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas will host the race for the 22nd year in a row. Practice and qualifying will take place Saturday. The race will run at 2 pm Sunday.
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.