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Headlines for Wednesday, July 21, 2021


KU Health System Declining to Take Patient Transfers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A major Kansas health system is declining to take patients from outside hospitals because it has too few open beds with cases of the faster-spreading COVID-19 delta variant surging. Chief Medical Officer Steve Stites at the University of Kansas Health System said Wednesday that the space problem now at the system's main hospital in Kansas City, Kansas, is worse than it was last fall. He said the hospital had open beds then because people were wearing masks and social distancing and doctors weren’t seeing other infections. Stites said the health system is turning down between one and six patient transfers a day. Statistics released by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment on Wednesday showed a total of 325,728 COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with an increase of 1,541 cases since Monday.  The death toll stands at 5,218, which is an increase of 20 deaths since Monday. 


Kansas Debate Intensifies over Nursing Homes' Visitor Rules

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Families and advocates for the elderly in Kansas argue that with most nursing home residents vaccinated against COVID-19, some facilities’ visiting rules need to be relaxed. A state official who investigates complaints against nursing homes and the elder-care focused Kansas Advocates for Better Care called on the state Tuesday to intervene when nursing homes aren’t open enough. Some industry officials still see a need for caution because of the growing presence in Kansas of the faster-spreading delta variant. Operators feel they're still facing tough choices after nursing homes were COVID-19 hot spots earlier in the pandemic, but advocates for residents worry that the delta variant could cause homes to lock down again.


Kansas City Area Doctors Urge Mask Use in School for the Unvaccinated

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KNS) — A group of Kansas City-area doctors is urging school districts to require masks for non-vaccinated students and teachers this fall. The open letter to school leaders is signed by 100 physicians. It comes as outbreaks of the fast-spreading delta variant continue to increase across Kansas and Missouri. The doctors say districts should open schools but follow strict COVID protocols. That means mandatory masks for all students and teachers in preschool through sixth grade, where children are not yet eligible to be vaccinated. The letter echoes recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Many districts in Kansas, including Wichita and several near Kansas City, have already announced plans to make masks optional.


Johnson County Health Department: Schools Should Mandate Masks for Unvaccinated

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The health department in the most populous county in Kansas is urging the county's public schools to require students and staff who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19 to wear masks indoors when classes resume for the fall. The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment’s guidance comes with confirmed cases of the faster-spreading delta variant continuing to rise across Kansas and fueling larger numbers of new COVID-19 cases overall. The state reported Monday that confirmed delta variant cases increased by 20% since Friday, up 158 to 950. State data also showed that Kansas averaged 440 new COVID-19 cases for the seven days ending Monday.


Lawsuit: Kansas Altered Software to Hide Election Records

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — A judge is considering whether Kansas’s Republican secretary of state ran afoul of the state’s open records law by ordering the removal of an election database function that generates a statewide report showing which provisional ballots were not counted. Civil rights advocates say the decision will have far-reaching implications for government transparency. Shawnee County District Judge Teresa Watson heard arguments last week in a lawsuit filed by voting rights activist Davis Hammet. Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab has ordered the removal of a database function after a court last year ruled that the information is a public record.


Kansas GOP State Representative Ron Howard of Wichita Dies at Age 67

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House speaker's office says conservative Republican state Rep. Ron Howard of Wichita has died. He was 67. The speaker’s office and fellow legislators said Howard died Tuesday from a lengthy illness. Howard missed most of the GOP-controlled Legislature’s annual session this year but returned to Topeka in early May to help Republicans override Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s veto of income tax cuts. Supporters had just enough votes for the necessary two-thirds majority in the House. Howard was a former employee of aircraft manufacturer Boeing when he began serving in the House in January 2019 after unseating a Democratic incumbent in 2018.


UPDATE: Rabid Bat Found in Shawnee County

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas county health department says it found a rabid bat. A spokesman says the Shawnee County Health Department was notified that the bat tested positive for rabies Tuesday. A Shawnee County health official says a dog pulled the bat out of a tree July 12. There are no signs that the bat had contact with humans. But the dog will be monitored for 50 days as a precaution. The health department says people should not touch wild animals and should get their pets vaccinated.


Spirit AeroSystems Plans to Hire 4,600 Workers by 2024

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Spirit AeroSystems says it plans to hire more than 4,600 workers in Wichita by 2024 and expand its manufacturing plant in south Wichita. It's a turnaround for the aviation company, which lost more than 5,000 jobs after the 737 Max was grounded and because of the coronavirus pandemic. The City Council received the company's hiring forecast on Tuesday. Spirit ended 2019 with more than 13,200 employees in Wichita, which dropped to about 8,000 by the end of 2020. The company said it plans to have 12,619 employees in Wichita by 2024.


Man Convicted in Deaths of Two Victims in Topeka in 2018

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 34-year-old Washington County man has been convicted in the deaths of a woman and her cousin in Topeka. Richard Showalter, of Greenleaf, was convicted Tuesday for his role in the beating and stabbing deaths of 28-year-old Lisa Sportsman and her 17-year-old cousin, Jesse Polinskey in July 2018. Showalter was the third man convicted in the case. Lisa Sportsman was the estranged wife of 43-year-old Bradley Sportsman, of Hollenberg, who pleaded guilty in October to two counts of second-degree murder and was sentenced to almost 46 years in prison. The third suspect, 22-year-old Matthew Hutto, of Clay Center, was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences.


Suspect Arrested in Homicide Near Great Bend Hotel

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Great Bend police say a 36-year-old suspect is in custody after a man was killed over the weekend. Police went to the Best Western Angus Inn just before midnight Sunday and found 39-year-old Micah Merryman-Scifres dead on the ground. Elias Trejo was arrested after a traffic stop Monday and is being held on a possible charge of second-degree murder. His bond was set at $500,000. No further information has been released.


UPDATE: Police Say Man's Shooting Death at Wichita Apartment Was Accidental

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say the shooting death of a 19-year-old man at a central Wichita apartment complex was accidental, and officers have arrested an acquaintance of the victim. Police say in a news release that the shooting happened around 8 p.m. Tuesday when 21-year-old Jordan Williams of Wichita was handling a handgun inside an apartment and it accidentally fired. The bullet hit 19-year-old Jyrez Ricks of Wichita, who was later found dead in the apartment complex parking lot. Police say Williams remained at the scene and was arrested on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter.

(–Earlier Reporting–)

Police: Man Killed in Shooting at Wichita Apartment Complex

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a 19-year-old man is dead following a shooting at an apartment complex in central Wichita's Riverside neighborhood. Police say the shooting happened Tuesday night in an apartment complex parking lot, where officers found the man with a gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Police say they're investigating to try to learn what led up to the shooting. Police say they have made no arrests and don't yet have any suspects.


Wichita Police Say Man Dies in Crash While Fleeing Police

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a 28-year-old man died in a crash near Park City while he was fleeing from officers. Police spokesman Charley Davidson said the crash happened Wednesday afternoon when the man's vehicle collided with a pickup truck. The truck driver suffered injuries that are not considered life threatening. Davidson said officers began looking for the man after a report he might have been involved in drug trafficking while armed. KAKE-TV reports police pulled the suspect over for a traffic violation but he drove off and then collided with the truck. Davidson said after the collision, police found possible evidence of drug trafficking in the suspect's car. No names have been released.


Abuse Claims Against Missouri Reform School Settled

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Four civil lawsuits alleging sexual and physical assault by the owners of a southwest Missouri reform school have been settled. An attorney for four former Circle of Hope Girls Ranch students told The Kansas City Star that the settlement amounts are confidential. About two dozen girls were removed from the Christian boarding school last year during an investigation into abuse allegations. Boyd and Stephanie Householder own the school. They now face 100 criminal charges including statutory rape, sodomy, physical abuse and neglect. The plaintiffs in the civil suits allege they were raped, thrown against walls and starved.


Officials: Man Shot 2-Year-Old as Girlfriend Flees Attack

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man has been accused of kidnapping his girlfriend and her two young children, then shooting the woman's 2-year-old daughter as the woman fled when he threatened her with a knife. The Reno County Sheriff's Office says it happened Monday, accusing 21-year-old Kamden Campos, of Wichita, of driving the woman and her children to Cheney Lake, where police say he forced the woman at knifepoint to the edge of the lake. Investigators say the woman bolted when Campos became briefly distracted, jumped into the car and sped off. Deputies say as she fled, Campos fired shots at the car, and one bullet hit the 2-year-old in the back seat. The child later underwent surgery for her injuries, and deputies arrested Campos after a manhunt.


Man Sentenced for Woman's Death at Kansas City Arts Event

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 20-year-old man has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for the death of a woman struck by a stray bullet at a Kansas City arts event. The Kansas City Star reports a judge on Tuesday sentenced Deon’te Copkney to 18 years for second-degree murder for his role in Erin Langhofer's 2019 death. The Overland Park woman was shot in the head during a First Friday event. Thousands of people were mingling in the city’s Crossroads District when gunfire erupted. Police say she wasn't connected to the fight that prompted the shooting.


Teen Arrested in Another Teen's Shooting Death in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 16-year-old boy has been arrested in connection with the fatal shooting of another teen in Wichita. Police said officers discovered a 16-year-old with gunshot wounds Thursday night when they were responding to a reported burglary at a home in north Wichita. That teen was taken to a Wichita hospital where he died. His name wasn’t immediately released. After a 16-year-old and a 20-year-old showed up at a hospital with gunshot wounds, police arrested that 16-year-old after learning there had been a fight between those two men and the victim before the shooting.


Police: Man Walking on KC Interstate Hit and Killed Tuesday

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police say a man walking in a northbound lane of Interstate 435 in Kansas City was hit by a vehicle and killed early Tuesday. Police say the crash happened around 1 am near Front Street when a northbound car on I-435 entered a construction zone, which narrowed travel to a single lane in which the man was walking. Police say the man killed was wearing all dark clothing and the car's driver didn't see him until it was too late. The man was pronounced dead at the scene. His name has not yet been released.


Kansas Immigration Advocates Speak Out on New DACA Ruling

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) — A federal judge in Texas ruled last week that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program is unlawful.  Undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children, known as Dreamers, are still protected under DACA but the judge ruled that new applications can no longer be processed or approved. Yeni Telles is with the group Sunflower Community Action in Wichita. She says when the ruling came, several people contacted her, worried for their safety. “This decision broke dreams; the dream of being able to obtain a job, the dream of obtaining a social security card, a driver’s license, all those things the dreamers have been waiting for.” Telles says.  Sunflower has been able to help about 20 people with applications this year. Now, the status of those applications is uncertain.


Watchdog Group Files FEC Complaint About Out-of-State PAC Money

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS) — The Washington, D.C.-based, Campaign Legal Center has filed a federal complaint against two Kansas political action committees. The complaint says the political groups did not disclose ties to national organizations connected to party leaders. Erin Chlopak is Director of Campaign Finance Strategy at the non-profit group. “They were set up in a way so that they sort of appeared as if they were local super PACS, spent lots of money to influence elections and didn’t disclose that they were essentially completely funded by these national super PACS,” Chlopak said.  The center alleges the Plains PAC and Sunflower State PAC were actually funded with more than $8 million that came from national Republican and Democratic groups. Chlopak says she hopes the complaint will help make it clear when national advocacy groups are funneling money into Kansas races such as the races for governor and Congress next year.” The groups have not responded publicly to the complaint.


Independence Council Rejects Ban on Conversion Therapy

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — The Independence City Council rejected a proposal to ban conversion therapy for minors. The council voted 4-3 Monday night to turn down an ordinance that was proposed by the city's Human Relations Commission. Conversion therapy seeks to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. Council members who voted against the proposal said it was too broad, and could be used to ban counseling, They also said some methods of conversion therapy are already banned and the ordinance did not properly define how the ban would be enforced. Other cities in Missouri, such as Kansas City, St. Louis, St. Joseph and Columbia have banned conversion therapy.


Full Federal Appeals Court to Consider Missouri Abortion Law

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to rehear a case over Missouri abortion restrictions. The court last week decided to take up the case on its own motion. At issue is a 2019 state law that would ban abortions as early as the eighth week of pregnancy and prohibit abortions based on a Down syndrome diagnosis. A three-judge panel of the court last month upheld a lower court's injunction prohibiting Missouri from enforcing the provisions. Missouri’s Republican attorney general, Eric Schmitt, earlier this month asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case and to use it to decide whether to overturn its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which established a nationwide right to abortion.


No Black Voices Heard During Missouri Hearing on Racism Teachings

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri legislative committee has held a hearing on how race and racism is taught in schools without hearing from any Black Missourians. No Black parents, teachers or scholars testified Monday to the Joint Committee on Education during the invite-only hearing on critical race theory. Critical race theory is a way of thinking about America’s history through the lens of racism. Republican Senator Cindy O'Laughlin says she wanted to raise voices of critical parents who feel they haven't been heard by their local schools. Democratic lawmakers and Missouri's NAACP president say the hearing was one-sided.


Kansas City Chiefs Re-Sign DE Alex Okafor to 1-Year Deal

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Veteran defensive end Alex Okafor has signed a one-year deal to return to the Kansas City Chiefs, just days before the first players begin reporting for training camp. The Chiefs did not disclose financial terms in announcing the deal Tuesday. The 30-year-old Okafor has 30 sacks and 183 tackles in eight NFL seasons, including the past two with the Chiefs. He joined the club as a free agent from New Orleans in March 2019, signing a three-year, $18 million contract. He missed playing in the team’s victory over San Francisco in Super Bowl LIV because of a torn pectoral muscle.


Texas, Oklahoma Reportedly Reach out to SEC About Joining

HOOVER, Ala. (AP) — The University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma have reportedly expressed interest in leaving the Big 12 to join the Southeastern Conference. The Houston Chronicle newspaper cited an unidentified official and says an announcement could come in the next couple of weeks. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey and the two schools all declined comment and Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby did not return messages. Such a move would give the SEC 16 football teams. It would be a devastating blow to the 10-member Big 12.


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 and by 1 pm on weekends. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today!   


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