Headlines for Friday, December 2, 2022
UPDATE: Authorities ID Victim in Officer-Involved Fatal Shooting in Topeka
SHAWNEE COUNTY, Kan. (KPR) – The Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) has identified the man who died Thursday morning in an officer-involved shooting in Topeka. Authorities say 28-year-old Dylan Walstrom, of Topeka, died after he was shot during a violent struggle with an officer from the Topeka Police Department. The KBI continues to conduct an independent investigation into this shooting. Once the investigation concludes, the findings will be presented to the Shawnee County District Attorney for review.
KBI Identifies Man Shot and Killed by Topeka Police Officer
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation has identified a man who was shot and killed by a Topeka police officer. The KBI says 28-year-old Dylan Walstrom, of Topeka, was shot while he struggled with the officer for control of a handgun. The KBI says the officer was investigating a report of a car blocking an alley on Thursday when the driver refused several of the officer's commands. The KBI says Walstrom had a handgun when he got out of the vehicle. During the struggle, Walstrom fired once at the officer, who fired several shots in return. Walstrom died at the scene. The officer was not injured.
Topeka Chief: Man Killed by Officer After Struggle over Gun
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police say an officer shot and killed a man during a struggle over a gun. Police Chief Bryan Wheeles says the man was shot early Thursday as the officer was investigating a car, which was stolen, blocking an alley in central Topeka. Wheeles says the man in the car did not comply with several orders from the officer, resisted arrest and produced a handgun. The chief says the officer shot the suspect in self-defense. The man died at the scene. The officer was not hurt. No names have been released. It was the fourth time since June that Topeka officers have shot a suspect.
Prosecutor: Fatal Shooting by Lawrence Police Was Justified
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Douglas County District Attorney Suzanne Valdez said the fatal shooting of a Lawrence man by police officers was legally justified. Valdez announced Thursday that a Kansas Bureau of Investigation inquiry found that 43-year-old Michael Scott Blanck was shot after he pointed a gun at officers on October 2. He was shot several times by three officers. Valdez said officers had been called to the home of Blanck's father several times in the days before the shooting by family members worried about his mental health. He had previous criminal complaints and was under bond restrictions to stay away from his family.
Crews Battle Large Grass Fire in Marion County
MARION COUNTY, Kan. (KWCH) - Crews fought to contain a grass fire near Florence, sparing homes that were threatened. KWCH TV reports that the Kansas fire marshal is investigating what caused Thursday's large grass fire to erupt. The fire was first reported in southeast Marion County, just outside of Florence. With strong and gusty south winds at 30 to 50 mph, the National Weather Services warned motorists in the area to be alert for the fire and dense smoke. As strong winds continue across the state, the National Weather Service predicts a high grassland fire danger Friday, especially in parts of central, eastern and southeastern Kansas.
Kansas Tax Revenue Falls 5.3% Short of Expectations in November
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas collected 5.3% less in taxes than it expected in November. Thursday's report from the Kansas Department of Revenue marked the first time in more than two years that collections have fallen short of the state’s monthly target. The shortfall was $36 million, but the department's report came only three weeks after state officials and university economists revised the state’s revenue projections to make them more optimistic. The new fiscal forecast predicted Kansas would collect $678 million in general tax revenues in November, and it took in $642 million. That was the first time tax collections failed to hit a monthly projection since July 2020.
Court Hopes to Address Lack of Rural Attorneys in Kansas
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas court officials are working to address a shortage of attorneys in rural areas. The Kansas News Service reports a new group will look for solutions. The Kansas Supreme Court created a committee of lawyers, judges and lawmakers to figure out why rural Kansas has so few attorneys. The lack of attorneys can make it harder to file for divorce, run a business or deal with any court process in general. Chief justice of the state Supreme Court, Marla Luckert, says revitalizing rural Kansas is a key part of the answer. “Vibrancy is an important part of the solution," she said. The group will look at the issue for more than a year before offering recommendations.
Higher Ed Study Shows Multiple Redundant Degree Programs in Kansas
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - A company reviewing higher education programs in Kansas has identified about 175 degrees that are offered at multiple universities across the state. Yet during a meeting with Kansas Board of Regents members, officials with RPK Group said they don’t plan to recommend eliminating any programs. Regent Shelly Kiblinger says the information could guide decisions moving forward. “I don’t want to approve a new program, you know, at Institution No. 3, if Institution No. 1 and 2 and 4 already have that program and it’s struggling," she said. The academic consulting company RPK is looking at areas of duplication, workforce needs and demand for programs at the state’s six major universities. It will present its report to the Regents next month
Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Resigns
WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW) – Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Angela Caudillo has resigned from her role, according to the Kansas Secretary of State’s office. Caudillo has been in the role since 2021 when she replaced former commissioner Tabitha Lehman. County officials say Caudillo resigned due to personal reasons. A release from the secretary’s office says it will work with the county on selecting a replacement for Caudillo and release more details in coming days. The secretary of state’s office selects an election commissioner for the state’s largest counties, including Sedgwick, Johnson, Wyandotte and Shawnee Counties.
Wichita School Installs Weapons Detectors
WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW/KNS) - A new weapons detection system will be at the entrances of Wichita West High School this morning. The Kansas News Service reports that the new safety system comes after five guns were found at Wichita high schools at the start of this school year. The scanner can detect firearms in backpacks without requiring students or faculty to remove items from their bags or pockets. Terri Moses is director of safety services with Wichita public schools. She says schools nationwide are using the scanners. "We’ve talked to schools in the east coast, west coast and Texas, so I would say we’re paving the way in Kansas, but not nationally," Moses said. All 13 Wichita Public High Schools will eventually have the scanners. But district officials say they don't know a timeline for when they will receive more scanners, due to supply chain issues. The district is spending about $1.5 million on the devices.
Lawrence Opens Emergency Winter Shelter but Volunteers Still Needed
LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - The City of Lawrence is set to open an emergency shelter for the winter season, which will have enough space to accommodate 75 people with limited overflow available at the Lawrence Community Shelter. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that this is the second year the city will operate the Winter Emergency Shelter in the Community Building (115 West 11th St.) in downtown Lawrence.
City staff will be evaluating the use of the shelter and the city-run campsite in North Lawrence to determine whether the camp is still needed. Originally, the city estimated the camp would be in place until March 12, at which time the city anticipates opening a longer-term campsite in another, yet-to-be-determined location. City officials say there are currently 62 people living at the North Lawrence site.
The city continues to seek volunteers to help staff the shelter, as fewer than a quarter of available shifts throughout the 3.5-month operation period are currently filled. The city is also accepting donations of individually wrapped, single-serve snacks as well as cold weather gear and toiletries. Volunteer information and donation lists are available on the shelter’s website.
Kansas Food Bank in Need of Volunteers, Donations as Demand for Assistance Grows
WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) - Volunteers at the Kansas Food Bank in Wichita spent Wednesday sorting food and packing boxes. It's work that CEO Brian Walker says is being done at a vital time. “With inflation and higher prices, we've seen an increase in demand, we're actually seeing the same type of numbers that we saw during COVID," he said. According to KAKE TV in Wichita, food donations are down and the Kansas Food Bank's expenses are up. Walker says there are two ways to help the non-profit at this time. One way is to donate either food or money. The other way is to volunteer. To volunteer or donate, you can visit the Kansas Food Bank website. If you're in need of help getting food, click here.
EPA Seeks to Mandate More Use of Ethanol and Other Biofuels
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed increasing ethanol and other biofuels that must be blended into the nation’s fuel supplies over the next three years. Thursday's announcement was welcomed by renewable fuel and farm groups but condemned by environmentalists and oil industry groups. The proposal also includes incentives for the use of biogas from farms and landfills, and biomass such as wood, to generate electricity to charge electric vehicles. It’s the first time the EPA has set biofuel targets on its own instead deferring to Congress. The agency opened a public comment period and will hold a hearing in January.
GOP Elections Chief in Kansas Decries 'Horrible Environment'
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas’s Republican elections chief is decrying what he calls a “horrible environment” for local officials overseeing voting and counting ballots this year. Secretary of State Scott Schwab made his comments Thursday as he, Democratic Governor Laura Kelly and Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt certified the results from the Nov. 8 election. Schwab aggressively defends the integrity of Kansas elections despite the wide circulation of baseless claims of problems among fellow Republicans. That task took the three officials about five minutes in their meeting as the State Board of Canvassers. Schwab said if there seemed to be turmoil around this year's elections, it was because of people's rhetoric.
Kansas Scores Low on Health Care Affordability
WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - Health care is less affordable in Kansas than nearly anywhere else in the country, according to a new report by the nonprofit research group Altarum. The Kansas News Service reports that's partially driven by overpriced medical care. Kansas ranked 49 out of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., indicating that state policies are doing little to make health care affordable. One figure — private payers in Kansas pay nearly triple Medicare rates for the same medical services. Dr. Justin Moore with the Kansas Business Group on Health helps employers design health insurance plans. He says high prices make people less likely to get the care they need. “It's simple math," he said. "If it's going to cost you more out of pocket to go see your family doctor, you're just less likely to do it.” To curb prices, the report recommends changes like health care price transparency tools and creating a state health spending oversight group.
KPR Still Seeking Kansas Statehouse Bureau Chief to Join Station's Award-Winning News Team
TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Kansas Public Radio, located at the University of Kansas, is looking for a new Kansas Statehouse Bureau Chief to cover all aspects of state government in Topeka for KPR and its statewide reporting partners. This exciting position requires skill, professional experience and curiosity. To apply, log on to: https://employment.ku.edu/staff/23463BR. A review of applications began in October and will continue until a robust pool of qualified applicants is identified.
KU is an EO/AAE. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), age, national origin, disability, genetic information or protected Veteran status.
Kansas Justice Chides KU Law School for 'Closed' Climate
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Supreme Court justice has resigned in protest from a part-time teaching job at the University of Kansas law school following what he says was an unsuccessful university attempt to pressure students into canceling an event featuring a leader of a group that opposes LGBTQ rights. Justice Caleb Stegall’s protest last week came amid ongoing national debates over free speech on college campuses and what’s taught in colleges and in K-12 classrooms. Stegall decried what he called the law school's closed culture. The law school's dean disagreed with that assessment but said it values Stegall's views. Disputes in other states have prompted lawmakers to pass laws dealing with free speech.
Weeks After Two Bodies Were Found in East Lawrence, Authorities Release No New Details
LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - Two weeks after two bodies were found at Lawrence's Oak Hill Cemetery, police have released no new details on an incident that they indicated may have been a case of murder-suicide. According to the Lawrence Journal-World, autopsy reports for both individuals, which could shed more light on the incident, have been suppressed, pending completion of the investigation. On the morning of November 16, two bodies were found at Oak Hill Cemetery. Investigators indicated then that the deaths may have been a case of murder-suicide. Later that day, police identified the deceased as 22-year-old Ana Marie Jessee, of Lawrence, and 36-year-old Robert Sowders, of Overland Park. Police said the two had died of gunshot wounds, but no further information was released.
According to a GoFundMe page to raise funds for funeral expenses, Jessee, whose funeral was Saturday, was “a talented violinist.” The page, created by a family member, says: “On November 16, 2022, our beautiful, spirited daughter, Ana Maria Jessee, age 22, and her unborn child were taken from us.”
According to an obituary for Sowders, whose funeral was Monday, he was a U.S. Army veteran who had been deployed to multiple combat zones. “While in combat, Robert was wounded and was awarded the Purple Heart. Ultimately, the physical and mental injuries he sustained in combat were carried with him through his life,” the obituary said. He is survived by a wife and two children.
KBI Director Kirk Thompson Announces Retirement
TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) – The director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) has announced his retirement. Kirk Thompson will step down from the KBI in January. Thompson has served as KBI Director for more than 11 years. His career in law enforcement spanned more than 46 years. Thompson first entered law enforcement in 1976, at the age of 19, as a deputy sheriff with the Barton County Sheriff’s Office in Great Bend. He moved to Topeka in 1979, after joining the KBI as a special agent. Thompson is a graduate of Washburn University, the FBI National Academy and the Kansas Certified Public Manager program. Attorney General Derek Schmidt appointed Thompson as the agency's 12th director in 2011. “Serving as Director of the KBI has been the highpoint of my career," Thompson said. "I am grateful to Attorney General Schmidt for allowing me the opportunity to work with the exceptional men and women of the KBI, and alongside our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners."
Midwest Drought's Wide-Ranging Impact
UNDATED (KNS/HPM) - As climate change fuels more frequent, more intense droughts, it’s hard to count all the ways this historically dry, hot, windy year is wreaking havoc. In the Great Plains, widespread drought has dried up lakes and rivers, decimated crop harvests and left cattle with no grass to eat. And as farmers pump more water from underground aquifer to make up for a lack of rain, some areas are considering new limits on irrigation. Nate Jenkins, with the natural resources district in southwest Nebraska, says a year like this highlights the need to conserve. “When it gets this hot and dry and windy, you know, I think some people kind of shake their head and say ‘Geez, it’s getting kind of ridiculous, isn't it? When's it gonna stop?," he said. ( Read more.)
- How Drought Has Battered the Midwest and What It Might Mean for Next Year (Part 1)
- A Hotter, Drier Future Could Change How We Eat, How We Breathe and Where We Get Our Water (Part 2)
Kansas Man Sentenced, Must Pay $7.2 Million in Check Kiting Scheme
WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A Plainville, Kansas, man has been sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay $7.2 million in restitution after being convicted by a federal jury of multiple fraud charges in a scheme that caused a loss of over $10 million to multiple banks. KSNW TV reports that Tyler Gillum was convicted of 31 counts of bank fraud, one count of making a false statement in connection with a Small Business Administration guaranteed loan, and one count of making a false statement in a loan or credit card application in April 2022.
Court documents and evidence presented at trial show Gillum owned and operated Plainville Livestock Commission, Inc. for 13 years, from 2006 to 2019. Between January 2015 and August 2017, Gillum moved money between multiple banks in a scheme known as check kiting. Check kiting happens when checks are continually written back and forth between banks to “inflate” an account, making it appear that there's more money available in an account than there actually is. The scheme cost the banking system $10 million and led to the failure of the Plainville Livestock Commission. Tyler’s wife, Camden, was a co-defendant in the case. In July 2020, the indictments against her were dismissed with prejudice. ( Read more.)
Lawrence Police Release Name of 53-Year-Old Who Died at City-Run Campsite for Homeless
LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - Lawrence police have released the name of a woman who was found dead last week at the city-run camp for people experiencing homelessness. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 53-year-old Susan Ford was found dead in her tent at the campsite, behind Johnny's Tavern, near the Kansas River in North Lawrence. Police have released few details about Ford’s death but don't believe foul play was involved. Crime scene investigators found no obvious injuries to Ford when they examined her body. Investigators are awaiting autopsy results to determine a cause of death.
Guilty Plea in Boy's Death That Sparked Federal Task Force
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A man has pleaded guilty in the death of a 4-year-old Kansas City boy, whose killing led to a federal anti-crime task force. Ryson Ellis, 24, of Kansas City, pleaded guilty Friday to second-degree murder and other charges in the shooting death of LeGend Taliferro in June 2020. Ellis was sentenced to 22 years in prison. The child was killed by a bullet fired into his father's apartment while he slept. Shortly after his death, the administration of Donald Trump launched a nationwide crackdown on violent crime and named it Operation Legend to honor the boy. Federal agents were sent to Kansas City and other U.S. cities to help investigate violent crimes.
KU Women's Volleyball Team Defeats Miami in NCAA Tournament Opener
LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) – Kansas Volleyball won its first-round match in the NCAA Tournament as the Jayhawks defeated the University of Miami Hurricanes 3-0 on Thursday at the Devaney Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Jayhawks improved their record to 19-10 on the year. KU plays its next match Friday at 7 pm in Lincoln, against Nebraska, which defeated Delaware State. WithThursday's victory, the Jayhawks improve to 8-3 all-time in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Coach Chris Klieman Winning Games, Winning over Fans at No. 13 K-State
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Chris Klieman received a rather tepid reception when Kansas State hired him away from North Dakota State. Wildcat fans pined for someone from the Bill Snyder coaching tree, and the longtime small college coach hardly fit the bill. Four years later, Klieman has the No. 13 Wildcats playing third-ranked TCU for a Big 12 title. Everything about his program, from the hard-nosed and mistake-free football to the lack of ego or selfishness, also seems to fit seamlessly in his new home. And wouldn't you know it? Klieman has won over even the most ardent of naysayers.
Big 12 Title Game RBs Look Different, Have Similar Results
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — TCU’s Kendre Miller and Kansas State’s 5-foot-6 dynamo Deuce Vaughn have much different body types. But the third-year running backs that will be featured in the Big 12 championship game Saturday look pretty similar in what they do on the field. Like Vaughn, the 6-foot, 220-pound Miller can be shifty, elusive and quick. Vaughn can also be hard to tackle and doesn’t shy from contact even though he is nearly 50 pounds lighter. Vaughn has 1,295 yards rushing. Miller has rushed for 1,260 yards and 16 touchdowns, running for a score in every game this season for third-ranked TCU.
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.