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Headlines for Friday, December 16, 2022

Area news headlines from staff and wire reports, as compiled by the KPR news staff.
Kansas Public Radio
Kansas Public Radio

KCI Officer Shot at Kansas City Airport

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDAF) — A Kansas City International Airport officer has been shot and wounded. WDAF TV reports that police received a call around 4:45 am Friday about a shooting at N.W. Cookingham Drive and N. Bern Street, where a KCI officer had located a suspicious vehicle in a parking lot. The officer attempted to pull the car over, but the driver fled the scene and crashed with the officer’s vehicle a short distance away. Backup officers responded to help and took a male and a female suspect into custody. A KCPD spokesperson said as KCI officers were putting the suspects in a police car, a struggle broke out between one of the backup officers and the suspects. That’s when the officer was shot, suffering non-life threatening injuries.

It’s not clear at this time if the gun belonged to the suspects or the officer. According to Aviation Department spokesman Joe McBride, this is the first time in 30 years a KCI officer has been shot. The officer who was shot went to the hospital, and the officer involved in the crash also suffered minor injuries. The two suspects were uninjured and have been taken into custody. Police say there was no disruption to traffic into the terminals or any other airport operations.

The Kansas City Aviation Department provides its own police services, covering the Kansas City International Airport and Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport. Last year, the Kansas City Police Department stopped patrolling KCI due to staffing shortages.


Not Just Any Oil Spill. Keystone Pipeline Dumped Notoriously Hard-to-Clean "Dilbit"' in Kansas

WASHINTON COUNTY, Kan. (KNS) - The oil spill in Kansas is now the second-largest spill of tar sands crude on U.S. soil. And scientists say this stuff comes with major complications for containing and cleaning it. Each day that passes, the hundreds of thousands of gallons of sludgy oil coating Mill Creek in north-central Kansas become harder to clean up. That’s because the pipeline that busted in Washington County on December 7 doesn’t carry conventional crude oil. It carries a product of the Canadian tar sands called diluted bitumen that changes dramatically in chemical composition and behavior soon after escaping from pipes. A National Academies of Sciences study found that transformation means the crude oil can start sinking below the water’s surface in a matter of days.

The Environmental Protection Agency acknowledged Thursday morning that the crude was diluted bitumen, also known as "dilbit." But the agency wouldn’t respond to questions about the implications of that fact for cleaning and containing the notoriously elusive crude oil. And it wouldn’t disclose what methods were being used to verify the material is truly contained, even as Mill Creek continues to flow downstream. TC Energy won’t answer those questions either. (Read more.)


Canadian Company Reopens Most of Keystone Pipeline Following Kansas Oil Spill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The operator of a pipeline with the largest onshore crude oil spill in nine years has reopened all of it except for the stretch in Kansas and northern Oklahoma that includes the site of the rupture. Canada-based T.C. Energy said in a statement Wednesday night that its Keystone system has restarted operations from Canada to southern Nebraska and from there to south-central Illinois. It also is operating the pipeline from northern Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast.

The December 7 spill forced the company to shut down the Keystone system and dumped about 14,000 barrels of heavy crude oil into a north-central Kansas creek running through rural pastureland in Washington County. Each barrel is 42 gallons, the size of a household bathtub.

"The affected segment of the Keystone Pipeline System remains safely isolated as investigation, recovery, repair and remediation continues to advance," the company said in a statement. "This segment will not be restarted until it is safe to do so."

According to U.S. Department of Transportation data, last week's spill in Kansas was the largest on the 2,700-mile Keystone system since it began operating in 2010. And it's the largest onshore oil spill since a Tesoro Corporation pipeline rupture in North Dakota leaked 20,600 barrels in September 2013.

The crude carried by the pipeline is extracted from tar sands in western Canada, can sink in water and can be harder to clean up than more conventional crude oil, according to experts and environmentalists. A 2016 National Academies of Sciences study said the tar sands oil has an "exceptionally high density" compared with other crude oils that can "pose particular challenges when they reach water bodies."

Company officials have said no drinking water supplies were affected, the oil didn't reach larger waterways and no one was evacuated. But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that four dead animals and 71 dead fish had been recovered. The EPA also said the company has recovered 5,567 barrels of oil and water and 5,000 cubic yards of oil-contaminated soil, or enough to fill about 24,000 bathtubs.

Concerns that spills could pollute waterways spurred opposition to plans by TC Energy to build another crude oil pipeline in the same system, the 1,200-mile Keystone XL, across Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. President Joe Biden's cancelation of a permit for the project led the company to pull the plug last year.


ACLU Sues Kansas Town over Latino Voting Representation

UNDATED (AP) – The American Civil Liberties Union alleges in a federal lawsuit that Dodge City, Kansas, is denying Latino voters a fair opportunity to elect representatives to its city commission. In a lawsuit filed Thursday night, the ACLU and other groups argue the city should be divided into five separate voting districts, replacing the current system of allowing everyone to vote for all five commissioners. The petition contends the change would allow Latino voters to elect their preferred representatives in at least two of the five districts. The lawsuit notes no Latino candidate has been elected to the commission since at least 2000. Nickolaus Hernandez, the city manager for Dodge City, said the lawsuit doesn't give a complete picture of the city's election process.


Kansas Governor Lauds Water Board's Vote to Curtail Depletion of Western Kansas Aquifer

HAYS, Kan. (KNS/HPPR) - Governor Laura Kelly is applauding a Kansas advisory board for recommending water conservation in western Kansas. The Kansas News Service reports that Kelly said action is needed sooner rather than later. The board that advises Kansas lawmakers and the governor says the state needs to change course when it comes to depleting the Ogallala Aquifer. Board members say the state should not pump the aquifer dry to support crop irrigation. Kelly says water conservation has been talked about for decades without enough action. She says Kansans need to come together to find a solution, and that involves farmers and ranchers. “Farmers and ranchers are the best conservators of our land. And so yes, they do have to have a seat at the table and input on to the solution that we come up with," she said. Parts of the aquifer that supplies water to western Kansas could be largely depleted in 10 years. Kelly hopes state action changes that. (Read more.)


Kansas City Police Board Names KCPD Veteran Stacey Graves as Chief

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCUR) - Kansas City Police veteran Stacey Graves was sworn in as chief of police Thursday after the Board of Police Commissioners selected her during a closed door meeting. Graves, just the third woman to hold the top cop job, is the 48th chief in KCPD's 148-year history. KCPD has not hired a chief from outside the department since 1973. KCUR Radio reports that two women have served as interim KCPD chief in the past, but Graves is the first female to get the position permanently, a milestone she hopes will inspire girls who aspire to a law enforcement career. Both of Kansas City's top public safety jobs are now held by women. Donna Lake took over as chief of the Kansas City Fire Department in 2019.


Who Should Control the Kansas Highway Patrol? Some Lawmakers Say the Attorney General

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Some state lawmakers want to put the Kansas Highway Patrol under the control of the attorney general’s office if Governor Laura Kelly does not fire the head of the law enforcement agency. The Kansas Highway Patrol is being sued for gender discrimination and a hostile work environment. It's the latest in years of challenges at the agency. Lawmakers want to move the office, hoping incoming attorney general Kris Kobach could fix problems and improve hiring. Kelly says the move is political. “There's a lot of pressure from the legislature – from specific legislators, who would like for me to replace the superintendent, and they're using this as leverage," she said. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is already housed under the attorney general's office. Kelly says the departments must be kept separate because the KBI investigates the Highway Patrol when there are issues within the agency.


Kansas Legislative Committee Considers Pay Hikes for State Employees

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - A special legislative committee is recommending Kansas lawmakers consider pay raises for state employees. The Kansas News Service reports that officials from several departments recently told lawmakers that low salaries make it harder to hire and retain state workers. Lawmakers say state employee jobs in Kansas may have good benefits, but the numbers show that pay can lag similar private sector jobs in the state by as much as 27%. Republican Representative Leo Delperdang says it’s time that the state steps up to address the gap. “Today we heard about a pay raise of 15.29% for the judges. I struggle with that. But it may be reasonable, or even necessary, for some of the other departments," he said. The committee heard that state employees being paid less than market value include driver's license examiners, facilities maintenance and social workers.


Groups Ask Kansas Lawmakers to Review State's "Stand Your Ground" Law

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) - Multiple groups asked Kansas lawmakers at a community forum in Wichita this week to review the state's "Stand Your Ground" law. Kansas Moms Demand Action, a group asking for more gun regulations, and members of a Sedgwick County task force on juvenile justice are both seeking change to the law. The Kansas News Service reports that the law allows the use of deadly force if it's in self defense. It's under increased scrutiny after the Sedgwick Count y District Attorney cited the law in the decision not to charge corrections workers in the death of 17-year-old Cedric Lofton. He died after corrections workers held him face down for more than 30 minutes. Jazmine Rogers is a part of the task force formed after Lofton’s death. "I think there is appetite from all of you across the political spectrum that have said that the 'stand your ground' was never passed with the intent of allowing correction staff to murder people and never have their day in court," she said.


Kansas Educators Hope to Address Increase in Chronic Student Absenteeism

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Data from the Kansas State Department of Education show a significant jump in chronic absenteeism - an increase of about 14% five years ago to about 24.5% last school year. KWCH TV reports that this means nearly one in four students was considered chronically absent, missing 10% or more days in a school year, including excused and unexcused absences. Across the state, many children are missing school because of illnesses. But this is an issue involving more than just that and the COVID-19 pandemic. Factors like transportation, mental health
and family situations are also in play.


City Reverses Course, Keeps Temporary Homeless Shelter Open in North Lawrence

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR/LJW) - Lawrence city officials now say they will keep open a temporary homeless encampment along the Kansas River through March 12, 2023. Officials say people staying at the temporary site behind Johnny's Tavern will be able to choose to shelter at the Winter Emergency Shelter on cold nights as shelter space allows. The Winter Emergency Shelter will also remain open through March 12, 2023. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the Winter Emergency Shelter and the temporary support site are both scheduled to cease operations in March.


Police: Suburban Kansas City Officer Kills Armed Suspect

BELTON, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say a northwest Missouri police officer shot and killed a 25-year-old man after he pointed a weapon at officers during a confrontation. The shooting occurred Thursday night in Belton, about 22 miles south of Kansas City. The man was identified Friday as William Blakely. Belton police say that officers responding to a call of a disturbance found a man armed with a handgun. Authorities say the man refused to drop the weapon, so officers used a stun gun on him. Police say Blakely continued to hold the gun and raised it toward officers, prompting one officer to fatally shoot him. The Missouri State Highway Patrol will investigate the shooting.


Public Universities in Kansas Face $1.2 Billion in Deferred Maintenance Costs

TOPEKA, Kan. (Kansas Reflector) — Public universities in Kansas are facing about $1.2 billion in deferred maintenance costs. The Kansas Reflector reports that nearly 500 buildings on state university campuses in the Kansas Board of Regents system need some kind of repair, restoration or maintenance. Board member Wint Winter, a former state senator, said progress on campus building maintenance was tied to the Kansas Legislature’s ability to finance the work. State lawmakers supplemented university building management budgets earlier this year with grants of $35 million that must be matched with private money raised by the universities. In addition, the Legislature allocated $10 million for demolition of structures that have outlived their usefulness.


Topeka Man Indicted for Child Porn

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) – A federal grand jury has returned an indictment charging a Kansas man with producing and distributing child pornography. According to court documents, 20-year-old Andrew Joseph Greeve, of Topeka, was indicted on three counts of sexual exploitation of a child and other, similar charges. The FBI and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation are investigating the case. Anyone with additional information related to this case is asked to contact the FBI's Topeka Office at (785) 231-1700 or at tips.fbi.gov.


Parsons Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Child Sex Crimes

PARSONS, Kan. (KPR/KAKE) - A southeast Kansas man has been sentenced to life in prison for sex crimes against two children. On Tuesday, a Labette County judge sentenced 38-year-old Jered Bybee, of Parsons, under Jessica's Law, meaning he won't be eligible for parole for 25 years. KAKE TV reports that Bybee pleaded no contest in April to two counts of aggravated criminal sodomy. The crimes occurred between 2013 and 2016 and involved two different victims under the age of 10. The case was investigated by the Parsons Police Department, Kansas Department for Children and Families and the Heart of America Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory.


Lawrence Man Accused of Child Sexual Assault on Wisconsin Indian Reservation

MILWAUKEE (WLUK) -- A Kansas man is facing federal charges for allegedly sexually assaulting a child in 2019 on the Menominee Indian Reservation. WLUK reports
that 54-year-old Gerlad Pamaska Jr. is charged with aggravated sexual abuse, which carries a minimum prison sentence of 30 years. He could face life in prison if convicted. According to court documents, Pamaska "engaged in a sexual act" with a child under the age of 12 on the reservation around July 25, 2019. Pamaska used to live in Keshena, Wisconsin, but now lives in Lawrence.


Atchison Man Faces Child Sex Charges in Kansas After Serving Prison Time in Missouri

ATCHISON, Kan. (Atchison Globe) - After serving prison time in Missouri for child pornography, a Kansas man has been returned to Atchison to face an aggravated sex charge involving a child. The Atchison Globe reports that Austin K. Kau, of Atchison, was arrested this week on charges filed in 2015 for aggravated criminal sodomy. Kau is now in the Atchison County Jail in lieu of a $500,000 bond. Atchison Police Chief Mike Wilson said Kau was taken into custody for alleged sexual activity that involved a child younger than age 14. A St. Joseph News-Press report from December 8, 2014, indicates Kau was charged in Missouri for promoting child pornography. As the Missouri child porn case was unfolding, Atchison authorities became aware of allegations involving a young boy that occurred in Atchison.


Woman Gets 10 Years in Prison for Fatal Stabbing of Fiancé in Leavenworth

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (KC Star) - A 41-year-old woman has been sentenced to 10 years in a Kansas prison for the fatal stabbing of her fiancé in Leavenworth in 2021. Prosecutors say Eva Olisha Banks, of Leavenworth, pleaded guilty in November to voluntary manslaughter and two counts of aggravated battery in the killing of Jerrold Jermaine Rhodes. The Kansas City Star reports that she was sentenced Wednesday to 93 months for the voluntary manslaughter conviction and a combined 13 months for the assault convictions. On June 12, 2021, Leavenworth police were called to the 2500 block of Fourth Avenue after Banks called 911 saying her fiancé had been stabbed and needed help. Banks and Rhodes were found in the master bedroom.

Rhodes had been stabbed in the abdomen, according to prosecutors, and Banks was holding a towel against the wound. Rhodes was pronounced dead by medical personnel. During early police interviews, authorities say Banks reported she and Rhodes had an argument at a convenience store and she returned home to find him stabbed — a story prosecutors say was disproved. She later admitted that she stabbed him in the bathroom with a paring knife in response to a long history of domestic abuse, prosecutors said.


Long-Term Care Pharmacy in Lenexa Agrees to Pay $3 Million Settlement

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (WIBW) - A Kansas-based long-term care pharmacy will pay $3 million as part of a settlement that resolves allegations that it illegally dispensed controlled substances. WIBW TV reports that PharmScript of Kansas, a long-term care pharmacy in Lenexa, has agreed to pay $3 million to resolve allegations that it violated the law by dispensing controlled substances to residents without a valid prescription. The settlement resolves allegations that the company was wrongfully reimbursed by Medicare and Medicaid programs. Federal officials say PharmScript is a wholly owned subsidiary of PharmScript Holdco, LLC, and provides medication and services to those in skilled nursing facilities and to residents in assisted living facilities in
both Kansas and Missouri.


Disgraced FTX Founder Sam Bankman-Fried Donated to Kansas Democratic Party

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) - The Kansas Democratic Party was a recipient earlier this year of a contribution from Sam Bankman-Fried, the now-indicted former head of cryptocurrency giant FTX. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Bankman-Fried was a prolific donor to political causes, mostly supporting Democrats, a habit that has increasingly come under scrutiny following the demise of his former companies. The Washington Post reported he gave $40 million to political campaigns in the most recent election cycle. That included a $10,000 donation to KDP on August 31, 2022. Federal Elections Commission records show that the only donation with apparent Kansas connections in the most recent election cycle. A spokesperson for the KDP did not immediately respond as to what the party did with the money and whether it has been donated or returned in recent days. FTX, an international cryptocurrency exchange, and its affiliates filed for bankruptcy on November 11 in one of the most high-profile casualties of the nascent cryptocurrency industry.


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.

KUis 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.


USDA Invests $256,000 to Rehabilitate Residential and Community Buildings in Rural Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - U.S. Department of Agriculture officials say they are investing $255,662 to improve lives and strengthen communities in southeast Kansas. Christy Davis, the USDA's Rural Development Director in Kansas, said improving the living space of rural homes and community facilities "can strengthen our towns and support our rural Kansas character." The details of the four Kansas investments are:

  • A $59,200 grant will help rehabilitate the exterior of the Independence Historical Museum. Located in the historic post office building, the museum celebrates the community’s culture through history, arts, and activities.
  • A $73,230 grant will be used to continue phase two of the rehabilitation process of two multi-unit housing complexes located in the cities of Uniontown and McCune.
  • A $50,000 grant will help rehabilitate approximately 20 owner-occupied homes (10 percent low income and 90 percent very-low income) in Coffey County. The projects consist of new roofs, electrical and plumbing upgrades, foundation repairs, heating systems and other general home rehabilitation needs.
  • A $73,232 grant will help homeowners and landlords make necessary repairs to properties that house low and very low-income rural residents in Allen County.

California Woman’s Missing Dog Found 1,600 Miles Away in Kansas Field

LOUISBURG, Kan. (KCTV) — A Northern California woman lost her beloved dog and, after months of searching, she thought she’d never see him again. Now, he might be home just in time for Christmas. KCTV reports that Heather Reichart finds strays in her Kansas pasture all the time. But something told her this one was different. “I went out to the pasture to see what our dog was barking at and found him,” Reichart recalled. Reichart brought the dog, who is named Zeppelin, to the Wildcat Vet Clinic in Louisburg. They were able to identify Zeppelin through his microchip.

“You just scan it and the number that comes up,” said Aaron Stohs, a veterinarian. “It’s pretty cool. You just type it in on the web.” It turns out that Zeppelin’s home is 1,625 miles away in Sacramento, California. His owner, Sandra O’Neil, got to see Zeppelin on FaceTime. It was the first time she’d seen him since he went missing 14 months ago. She said hope was never fully lost. The day before he was found, she sent up a prayer for his return.


Kansas City Chiefs Can Clinch AFC West Title with Win over Houston Texans

HOUSTON (AP) — The only thing standing between the Kansas City Chiefs and their seventh straight AFC West title are the lowly Houston Texans. But the Chiefs know better than to overlook the one-win Texans, especially after they nearly pulled off a huge upset over Dallas last week. "They played a great team with the Cowboys, and they were down there where they probably should've won," Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. "In this league, you can take no one for granted. Those are NFL players. They have a lot of talented, young guys that play hard. "We understand it's going to be a great challenge for us, so we're going to go out there and play our best football to win." The Chiefs (10-3) have won six of their last seven games. Meanwhile, the Texans (1-11-1) need a win to avoid losing nine straight for the first time since dropping the final 14 games of the 2013 season.

After dealing with Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott last week, Houston coach Lovie Smith knows his team faces another huge challenge this week in Mahomes, who leads the NFL in yards passing (4,160) and touchdowns (33). "He can just do it all, and he's got a history in the league now of that," Smith said. "When you have a player like that, it makes everyone look better."

The Texans returned to Davis Mills at quarterback last week after benching him for two games. But instead of only relying on him to run the offense, Houston used a two-quarterback system with Jeff Driskel taking some of the snaps. Smith wouldn't say if they plan to use the same plan at quarterback this week, but Mills said he liked how it worked against Dallas.


Mahomes grew up in Tyler, Texas, and starred at Texas Tech, before becoming a first-round pick of the Chiefs, and has such an affinity for his home state that he has a home there for the offseason. But the closest he's come to playing in Texas over his first five-plus seasons in the league was in 2017, when he rode the bench behind Alex Smith for a game in Dallas. "Houston is about a three-hour trip from Tyler," he said, "so I'm sure there's a lot more people coming than I even know. It'll be cool for them to see me playing in my home state for sure."


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.