Kansas, Missouri Health Officials Working to Sway Virus Vaccine Skeptics
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — As Kansas and Missouri prepare to open up vaccine eligibility to all adults, officials are working to win over skeptics of the COVID-19 shots. Kansas is opening up vaccine eligibility to all adults today (MON), and Missouri is set to do the same on April 9. Health officials want to administer as many shots as possible quickly to build widespread immunity. Officials plan to step up their efforts to convince people to get the shots now. Already, there have been signs of some reluctance during earlier stages of the vaccine campaign.
Kansas Opens Vaccinations to All Adults
MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is making everyone age 16 or older eligible to get the coronavirus vaccine starting today (MON). Governor Laura says the move comes as the state prepares to get more vaccine from the federal government. She encouraged all Kansans to get the vaccine, saying it was crucial to getting “back to normal.” Several other states also have made the vaccine available to all adults, including Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Utah, and West Virginia. As of Friday, 35.1% of the adult population in Kansas had received at least one dose of the vaccine.
More than 301,000 COVID-19 Cases Recorded in Kansas Since Pandemic Began
TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR/AP) – The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reported Friday that there have been 301,433 cases of COVID-19 in the state, including 4,891 deaths since the start of the pandemic. Another update will be released later today (MON).
GOP Lawmakers in Kansas Push to Keep COVID Contact-Tracing Rules
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican legislators are pushing to keep in place specific rules for tracing the close contacts of people exposed to COVID-19 despite public health groups’ opposition. The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a bill making limits on COVID-19 contact tracing permanent, rather than repealing them May 1. The vote Friday sent the measure to the full Senate. The GOP-controlled Legislature enacted special rules last year, and supporters see them as protecting privacy. A key provision prevents people exposed to the novel coronavirus from being forced to disclose their close contacts. Public health officials have complained that the special COVID-19 rules hinder contact tracing.
Criminal Charges Filed Against Kansas Senate Majority Leader
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — One of the Kansas Legislature’s most powerful lawmakers has been charged with driving under the influence and a felony offense for trying to elude law enforcement. Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop is also accused of speeding the wrong way on a highway in Topeka. He faces a total of five criminal charges, including the felony count, the misdemeanor DUI count and a misdemeanor count of reckless driving. The Wichita Republican turned himself in at the local jail. His bond has been set at $5,000. The charges were announced by local Republican District Attorney Mike Kagay. The accusations stem from Suellentrop’s early-morning arrest March 16 on Interstate 70 just blocks east of the Statehouse.
Kansas City Officer Shot by Suspect Out of the Hospital
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City police officer who was shot in the leg Thursday while trying to make an arrest has been released from the hospital. The Missouri Highway Patrol says the officer was wounded while trying to arrest a suspect in an aggravated assault case. The suspect fired at the officer at a gas station in eastern Kansas City Thursday before the officer returned fire and killed the man. Officials have said 31-year-old Malcolm Johnson of Kansas City died in the shootout. Kansas City Police Department spokesman Sgt. Jake Becchina said the officer is doing well and recovering from his injuries.
Driver Arrested in Crash, Possible Shooting of Bicyclist in Wichita
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a bicyclist is dead after a woman struck him with her van as he crossed a Wichita street and then apparently shot him. The Wichita Eagle reports that 31-year-old Charity Charmon Blackmon was booked into jail Friday night on suspicion of first-degree murder, driving with a suspended license, unsafe turning or stopping and failure to give proper signal. Wichita police chief Gordon Ramsay said the victim was either riding or walking his bicycle when he was hit Friday afternoon. Ramsay said the initial reports were that the suspect got out to shoot the man after the crash. Ramsay said police would know definitively if he was shot after an autopsy. The man’s name wasn’t immediately released.
Man Charged in Kansas Crash that Killed Good Samaritan
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A driver has been charged with hitting and killing a Good Samaritan as she tried to help the victim of an earlier crash in Kansas City, Kansas. Prosecutors announced Friday that 42-year-old Ramon Vazquez-Carmona faces one count of involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence in the March 14 crash that killed Cindy Goulding. Vazquez-Carmona also faces a lesser charge of driving without a valid license. Kansas City, Kansas, police said Goulding exited her car to help after a sedan struck a sport utility vehicle. She then was struck by a pickup truck and declared dead at the scene.
Police: Possible Topeka Shooting Leaves Woman Dead
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A woman has been killed in a possible Topeka shooting, and police are trying to determine whether a nearby two-vehicle wreck is connected. Police said 39-year-old Kristi Rodriguez, of Chanute, was pronounced dead at the scene Friday night. Police said two other people were rushed to hospital with injuries but are expected to recover. Police also are seeking two persons of interest in the case.
2 Members of Oklahoma Panhandle State University Rodeo Team Killed in Kansas Crash
HASKELL COUNTY, Kan. (KOCO) — Two members of the Oklahoma Panhandle State University rodeo team have been killed in a crash in southwest Kansas. According to the Kansas Highway Patrol, a Dodge Ram and a dump truck were traveling east on U.S. Highway 56 Friday morning in Haskell County. KOCO TV reports that the Ram went to pass the dump truck, but officials said the vehicle made contact with the front bumper on the driver’s side of the dump truck. The contact caused the dump truck to go into a south ditch and the Ram to go into a north ditch, where it rolled and caused a trailer to detach. Two of the passengers in the Dodge Ram died. Kansas Highway Patrol officials have identified them as Hadly McCormick and Cade Bullock. KAKE-TV in Wichita reports that the two were members of the Oklahoma Panhandle State University rodeo team. University officials posted on social media that they are saddened by the loss of Bullock and McCormick and that they hold their families and friends in their prayers. School officials also said a third member of the team was involved in the crash. The third person in the Dodge Ram was taken to a hospital with suspected minor injuries. (Read more.)
Shooter at Kansas Jewish Centers Appeals Death Sentence
LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — An avowed anti-Semite who fatally shot three people at two suburban Kansas City Jewish sites in 2014 is asking the Kansas Supreme Court to overturn his death sentence. The court is scheduled to hear arguments today (MON) in Frazier Glenn Miller Jr.’s appeal. He is also known as Frazier Glenn Close. He represented himself at trial and during the penalty phase. Miller’s attorneys in the appeal argue the trial court should not have let him represent himself, and that the death penalty is unconstitutional. Miller says he shot the victims because he wanted to kill Jews. His victims were all Christian.
Kansas City Residents Arrested After Theft, Multi-County Chase
JEFFERSON CITY, MO. (The News Tribune) — Two Kansas City women and one juvenile have been arrested for robbery and assault at a Kohl’s store in Jefferson City. Officers arrived while the theft was still in progress. According to a news release from the Jefferson City Police Department, responding officers were told three female suspects had assaulted several people while trying to get in their vehicle with stolen items. Witnesses said one suspect struck and bit a Loss Prevention Officer during the encounter. He sustained injuries that required medical attention. No other individuals required medical attention. The News Tribune reports that arriving officers obtained a vehicle description, including the license plate, and the information was broadcast to other officers. Moments later, another Jefferson City police officer stationed near the Missouri River Bridge observed the suspects’ vehicle and attempted a traffic stop. The suspect failed to yield to the emergency vehicle and fled. The vehicle eventually began traveling northbound onto U.S. Highway 63 toward Columbia. The pursuit continued north on U.S. 63, and a request was made for assistance from other agencies. The Missouri Highway Patrol advised an aviation unit was available and heading to the area. Once the aviation unit was overhead, the Jefferson City pursuit was terminated. The suspects entered Ashland where police pursued the suspects until reaching the intersection of U.S. 63 and Grindstone Parkway where the Boone County Sheriff’s Department deployed tire deflation devices. The three suspects were taken into custody and transported back to Jefferson City for processing. The $2,000 worth of merchandise was recovered. Two of the suspects, a 24-year-old and a 29-year-old, are in custody on charges of first-degree robbery, assault, stealing and felony resisting arrest. The third suspect, a juvenile, was taken to the Prenger Center and held for second-degree robbery, stealing and third-degree assault.
Fallen Sedgwick County Deputy Awarded Congressional Badge of Bravery, the First in Kansas
WICHITA, Kan. (WDAF) — Two and a half years after his death, a fallen Sedgwick County deputy has been honored for his final moments. Deputy Robert Kunze was shot in the line of duty in September 2018 in rural Sedgwick County. He returned fire, killing the suspect. Kunze died at the hospital. “It’s horrible, it is one of the worse things I’ve had to do in my 32 years is lose somebody that you know, and I know him personally, that you command and that you’re putting out there in harm’s way every night and every day,” said Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter. WDAF TV reports that many were in attendance Friday as Kunze was awarded the Congressional Badge of Bravery at the Sedgwick County Law Enforcement Memorial. Kansas Senator Jerry Moran, Representative Ron Estes, Sheriff Easter, family members, and officers from the area were on hand for the ceremony. “It’s kind of a bittersweet event because it does bring you back to the day that that occurred which was very bitter, but the fact of the matter is, he is the first law enforcement officer in the state of Kansas to be awarded this,” added Sheriff Easter. “We have a lot of support for law enforcement in this community and we cannot thank them enough and so again it’s an honor for him to recieve this award.”
Kansas County Mulls Changing Creek’s Racially Loaded Name
LEAWOOD, Kan. (AP) — A group working to change the name of a stream called Negro Creek that runs through parts of suburban Kansas City hopes to expand the effort to include other Kansas geographical sites that have the term in their names. So far, the work has focused on a creek that flows through a golf course in Leawood and parts of Overland Park in Johnson County. Historians aren’t sure how the creek was named in the 1850s, but a leading theory is that it was named after an escaped Black slave who killed himself near the waterway rather than be recaptured. A committee comprised of county officials, historians and activists has begun the lengthy process of renaming the creek.
Kansas Man Convicted in Triple Murder Dies in Prison
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (KOAM / The Hutch News) – A Kansas man convicted of killing an 18-year-old woman and the 2-year-old twins she was baby-sitting in 1984 has died in an Oklahoma prison. KOAM TV reports that 54-year-old Arnold Ruebke Jr., of Kingman, died last week. He’d been in Oklahoma under an intrastate compact between the two states’ prison systems since shortly after his 1985 conviction. The Hutchinson News reports that a Reno County jury found Ruebke guilty of three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of kidnapping for the deaths of 18-year-old Tammy Mooney and the two young boys, Andrew and James Vogelsang. Their bodies were found three days after they went missing in a wooded area near the Vogelsang home in the small Reno County town of Arlington. Ruebke has always maintained his innocence. The state built its case largely on circumstantial evidence around the theory that Mooney, a babysitter, interrupted a burglary of the trailer and Ruebke, who had a prior conviction, killed her in order to avoid going to prison. She was holding the twins when she was killed.
Prosecutors Add 3 Fraud Charges Against Missouri Lawmaker
LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri state legislator already named in a 20-count fraud indictment is now facing three more charges. Federal prosecutors announced Friday that a grand jury issued the new charges this week against Rep. Tricia Derges, a Republican from Nixa. Derges was indicted in February on fraud charges alleging she promoted a treatment she was selling at medical clinics as containing stem cells that could treat various diseases including COVID-19. The new charges unveiled Friday during Derges’ arraignment allege she sought nearly $900,000 in federal CARES Act funding for COVID-19 services that were either not performed or were already reimbursed.
Prosecutor: Ex-Public Defender Employee Indicted
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal grand jury has indicted a former Missouri public defender employee on charges that she smuggled heroin into a state prison. The indictment says that 43-year-old Juliane Colby, of Shawnee, hid the drugs in 2019 in an envelope marked “Legal Mail” that contained other information related to a criminal court case. The Kansas City Star reports that she faces charges of conspiracy to distribute heroin, illegal use of a communication facility and attempted distribution of heroin. Colby also is accused of trying to bring other contraband into the Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron.
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