UPDATE: Governor Kelly Renews Mask Mandate, Signs Orders to Prohibit Evictions, Foreclosures
TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) – Governor Laura Kelly has issued several executive orders to maintain her administration’s pandemic response efforts. One of them extends her statewide face mask mandate. The orders she issued today (THUR) extend provisions put in place by previous executive orders and include some updated provisions. Several executive orders related to the pandemic were set to expire March 31 in conjunction with the expiration of the state of disaster emergency. Senate Bill 40 includes a provision that revoked all executive orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the governor retains the authority to re-issue orders under the new process imposed by the bill. One of the orders temporarily prohibits certain foreclosures and evictions. The governor’s orders will generally remain in effect until rescinded or until the statewide state of disaster emergency expires.
Republicans in Kansas Senate Oppose Statewide Mask Mandate
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republicans in the Kansas Senate have made a point of publicly opposing Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s plan for encouraging counties to retain COVID-19 mask mandates. The Senate on Wednesday voted 29-11 along party lines for a resolution urging legislative leaders to revoke any order issued by Kelly setting a statewide mask policy. The House passed a similar resolution Tuesday, also along party lines. GOP senators argued a statewide policy is unnecessary because of declining numbers of new COVID-19 cases. Democrats argued a state policy still will help check the virus. A mask order from Kelly expired Wednesday but she has said she will issue a new order today (THUR).
More than 302,000 COVID-19 Cases and 4,900 Deaths Recorded in Kansas Since Pandemic Began
TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR/AP) – The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reports that there have been 302,372 cases of COVID-19 in the state, including 4,913 deaths, since the start of the pandemic. That’s an increase of 510 cases and 11 deaths since Monday. Johnson County still has the highest number of total cases reported in the state, with more than 56,000. Another update will be released Friday.
Classes Resume in One of Last Still-Virtual Kansas Districts
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Students in Kansas City, Kansas, are back in classrooms for the first time in more than a year. In-person classes resumed Wednesday in one of the last districts in the state still learning mostly virtually because of the pandemic. Wednesday was the date lawmakers set for public schools to begin offering in-person classes in a bill that Governor Laura Kelly has not yet signed. Most schools already had returned to in-person classes. But because the Kansas City, Kansas, area was hit particularly hard by the pandemic, the district had allowed only a small number of students to return in person before now.
GOP Says Pandemic Justifies Special Tracing Rules in Kansas
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican lawmakers argue that the pandemic justifies special rules in Kansas for protecting the privacy of people exposed to COVID-19. They have advanced a proposal to preserve them over public health groups’ objections. The Senate voted 26-14 Wednesday to approve a bill that would make contact tracing rules for the novel coronavirus permanent. That sets COVID-19 apart from other infectious diseases, such as syphilis or hepatitis. The GOP-controlled Legislature enacted the special privacy rules at Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s urging, but they are set to expire May 1. Critics say it makes little sense to have different rules for different diseases. The measure went to the Kansas House.
GOP Lawmakers Advance Measure to Tighten Kansas Voting Laws
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican lawmakers in Kansas are joining GOP colleagues nationwide in efforts to tighten voting laws. The state Senate gave first round approval Wednesday to a bill that would make it harder for churches, civic groups, neighbors and candidates to collect and return absentee ballots for voters. Candidates would be limited to delivering ballots for immediate family members. Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature argue that they’re trying to prevent “ballot harvesting” that could lead to fraud. They presented no evidence that current policies lead to fraud, and critics say the measure would prevent disabled and some elderly voters from returning their ballots.
Driver Killed After Car Was Hit by Train in Johnson County
GARDNER, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man has died after the car he was driving was hit by a freight train in eastern Kansas. The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office says the crash happened Wednesday afternoon at Waverly Road near Gardner. Investigators say the train carried and dragged the car for nearly half a mile before it was able to stop. Officials have not released the name of the man killed or details about how the crash occurred. The sheriff’s office is leading the investigation.
Topeka Police Arrest Man Accused of Killing 2-Year-Old Girl
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police have arrested a man accused of killing his 2-year-old daughter. Her body was found by first responders called to the family home in January. Police say 45-year-old Jeffrey Exon was arrested Tuesday afternoon on suspicion of first-degree murder, aggravated endangerment of a child and failure to report the death of a child. Police and paramedics were called to the home on January 5 for reports of an unresponsive toddler and found 2-year-old Aurora Exon dead. Paramedics said it appeared the child had been dead for several days, and a medical examiner later determined her death to be a homicide.
Police: Man in Home Killed by Stray Bullet from Firefight
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police in Kansas City, Kansas, say a man inside his home was killed by a stray bullet from a gun battle that took place outside on the street. Police say the shooting happened shortly after 3 pm, when an argument involving a group of people erupted in gunfire. Police have not given other details of the shooting, but witnesses along the stretch of Farrow Avenue told news outlets they heard at least a dozen gunshots. Police have not released the name of the man killed. The Kansas City Star reports that the death marked the city’s fifth homicide this year. Kansas City, Kansas, saw 55 homicides in all of 2020.
Patrol: Teen Worker Killed on Shoulder of Kansas Highway
MANKATO, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a teenage worker was killed as he loaded traffic-control equipment onto a trailer on the side of a north-central Kansas highway. The Kansas Highway Patrol says the accident happened around 10:30 am Tuesday along U.S. Highway 36 in Jewell County. Investigators say 18-year-old Gabriel Rupp, of Hays, was on the north shoulder of the highway loading traffic control equipment when he was hit by a westbound semitrailer. The semi ended up in the north ditch of the highway. KSNW TV reports that Rupp was declared dead at the scene. Investigators say the 55-year-old driver of the semi was not injured.
Suburban Kansas City Man Charged in March 6 Fatal Crash
LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. (AP) — Authorities have charged a suburban Kansas City man with driving drunk at the time of a crash earlier this month that killed another man. The Kansas City Star reports that 34-year-old Joseph Cook, of Lee’s Summit, is charged with driving while intoxicated resulting in a death. Investigators say that late the night of March 6, Cook was driving a pickup truck the wrong way on U.S. Highway 50 when he collided head-on with another pickup, killing its driver, Kevin Daniels. Cook was injured and taken to an area hospital, where police say blood tests showed his blood alcohol level was 0.261 — more than three times the legal limit to drive.
Abilene Man Sentenced in Attempted Robbery Resulting in Death
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A 21-year-old Abilene man has been sentenced to nearly 24 years in prison for the death of a Manhattan man during an attempted robbery. Dylan Allan Hitsman was sentenced Tuesday in the November 2019 shooting death of 24-year-old Tanner Zamecnik, of Manhattan. Prosecutors said Hitsman and three others robbed Zamecnik during an alleged marijuana sale. Zamecnik and another man were shot inside his car and he died later at a hospital. Hitsman was originally charged with first-degree murder but pleaded guilty in February to second-degree murder and four other charges. Court cases against the other three suspects are ongoing.
Man Accused of Tampering with Ellsworth County Water System
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors have charged a 22-year-old man with tampering with a public water system. Acting U.S. Attorney Duston Slinkard said Wednesday that Wyatt Travnichek, of Ellsworth County, accessed the Ellsworth County Rural Water District’s computers in March 2019. He allegedly was able to shut down processes that affect cleaning and disinfecting procedures. He was charged with tampering with a public water system and reckless damage to a protected computer during unauthorized access. Travnichek could face up to 25 years in prison if he is convicted.
Authorities Identify Body Found in 1990 in Missouri as Girl from Kansas
ANDERSON, Mo. (AP) — Authorities in McDonald County, Missouri, say they have identified a woman whose body was found in 1990. The sheriff’s office said Wednesday forensic testing identified the woman, who had been dubbed “Grace Doe,” as Shawna Beth Garber of Kansas. Her decomposed remains were found in December 1990 in southwestern McDonald County. An autopsy revealed she had been raped and strangled about two months before her body was found. In 2020, Othram, a forensics company, extracted DNA from the remains. McDonald County authorities eventually found a half-sister who donated DNA. On Monday, the sheriff’s department was notified that the two women’s DNA matched.
Two Officers Who Shot Topeka Man Won’t Be Added to Lawsuit
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two Topeka police officers who shot and killed a man in 2017 will not be added to a lawsuit filed by the man’s family. Attorneys for Dominique White’s family acknowledged this week that a legal rule prevents them from pursuing a wrongful death count against the officers. A federal judge signed an order Tuesday making the effort moot. Officers Justin Mackey and Michael Cruse shot White in the back as he ran away from them in September 2017 in a Topeka park. The officers were cleared of criminal wrongdoing. The family’s lawsuit alleging the city failed to train its police officers adequately is proceeding.
Wichita Police Say Officer Shot Woman After She Pointed Gun
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a woman was shot after she pointed a gun at an officer. The woman who was shot Wednesday at a hotel is expected to survive. Captain Kevin Kochenderfer said officers were at a Red Roof Inn in east Wichita investigating a stolen vehicle report. He says police were talking to the woman near the car when she pulled a handgun and pointed it at an officer. The officer’s partner fired one shot at the woman, who was taken to a hospital. Her name was not released.
State Board Wants Sedgwick County EMS Director Investigated
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A state board wants the head of the Sedgwick County Emergency Medical Services to be investigated over the handling of a suicide case in Wichita in 2019. The Kansas Board of Emergency Medical Services also is proposing that seven Wichita-area emergency responders be disciplined in the case. The Wichita Eagle reports that records show the man who had shot himself was not taken to a hospital five minutes from where he lived, even though he had a pulse and labored breathing. The board said EMS Medical Director Dr. John Gallagher decided the man could not be saved. After several hours, the man was taken to a hospice, where he died.
Kansas City Council Member Charged with Assault
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City Councilman Brandon Ellington has been charged with assault after allegedly confronting a city activist. The Kansas City Star reports the charge against Ellington alleges he poked a person in the chest several times outside a restaurant in the city’s 18th & Vine district. Rodney Bland, who is part of Freedom Inc., a Black political club, says Ellington confronted him and threatened him on March 20. He declined to provide more details. Ellington denied that he physically threatened anyone. He is due in court on April 29. He is in his first term on the city council after previously serving in the Missouri House.
Lawsuit Accuses 2 Kansas City Officers of Excessive Force
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City activist is suing two city police officers, alleging they used excessive force when they arrested him in August 2019. Troy Robertson sued Officers Charles Prichard and Matthew Brummett on Tuesday. The officers already are facing felony assault charges in a separate, unrelated arrest in 2019. Robertson alleges the officers threw him on the hood of a car, handcuffed him, struck him and kneeled on him. He said he was peacefully protesting at the time. Robertson is seeking $5 million in damages. A Kansas City spokeswoman said the department does not comment on pending lawsuits.
Missouri’s Governor Issues 17 More Pardons, 1 Commutation
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Governor Mike Parson has issued 17 more pardons and commuted the sentence of one person. The governor’s office announced the move Tuesday but said it would provide details after the families of those involved are notified. The announcement is part of Parson’s effort to reduce a backlog of thousands of clemency requests he inherited when he became governor in 2018. The governor has previously issued other pardons and commutations in February and December. The governor’s office says he has reduced pending clemency requests to 3,250 from nearly 3,700 in December.
Former KU Basketball Coach Roy Williams Retiring at North Carolina
UNDATED (AP) – North Carolina says Hall of Fame basketball coach Roy Williams is retiring. The school announced Williams’ decision this (THUR) morning. The news came two weeks after he closed his 18th season with the Tar Heels and 33rd season as a head coach overall going back to his time at the University of Kansas. Williams won 903 games in a career that included three national championships with the Tar Heels in 2005, 2009 and 2017.
Powerball Ticket Sold in South-Central Kansas Worth $50,000
TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) — Someone who bought a Powerball ticket in south-central Kansas has won $50,000 from the Wednesday night drawing.
The ticket matched four numbers and the Powerball to win. The winning numbers for last night’s drawing are 3 – 10 – 44 – 55 – 68 Powerball 24 and PowerPlay 2X. The Kansas Lottery says the ticket was purchased in one of these counties: Barton, Rice, McPherson, Marion, Stafford, Reno, Harvey, Pratt, Kingman, Sedgwick, Butler, Barber, Harper, Sumner, and Cowley. No tickets matched all the numbers, so the jackpot grows to $32 million for the Saturday drawing.
KPR’s daily headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays and updated throughout the day. KPR’s weekend summary is usually published by 1 pm Saturdays and Sundays.