Local KSN News
WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A Wichita family is in mourning, after a murder-suicide left a woman and her unborn baby dead.
Wichita oolice say 21-year old Antrese Bland, who was seven months pregnant at the time with a baby boy, was shot and killed by her boyfriend.
Bland’s boyfriend, 24-year old Aris Brown, then turned the gun and killed himself.
KSN sat down with Bland’s parents this afternoon, who were very emotional as they continue to process everything.
Bessie Evans-Manuel, Antrese’s mother, described her daughter as very outspoken and real.
She says Antrese was loving and fiesty.
Her mother says the whole family was excited about the baby coming, with presents already waiting for him at their home.
Evans-Manuel says Antrese was determined to make the best of herself for her baby.
“We was getting the baby shower ready and she was just ready that night before. We were watching her move around and talking about how long it was and just, I never thought I wouldn’t see her no more,” said Evans-Manuel.
Before Bland was killed, WPD says she went to a neighbor’s house and tried to phone her family.
KSN spoke with her neighbor, Linda Alexander.
Alexander says it wasn’t the first time Bland used her phone, and even this time, nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
“She seemed fine, she used the phone like I said she came back out, she left, she went back over to her apartment, probably like 20 minutes later is when I heard her mom screaming at the top of her lungs, ‘he killed my baby, he killed my baby,” said Alexander.
The family says Bland and Brown did have a rough past.
However, they say they felt Brown was a good man and wonder what went wrong.
“I don’t think Aris was a bad person, I don’t have any bad feelings toward him, you know I know him and Antrese, they tried, you know, they’re young,” said Evans-Manuel.
Evans-Manuel says her daughter was getting ready to start summer classes in hopes of becoming a pharmacist.
She says Bland felt with a new baby boy coming, it was important to get her education.
WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – For the last 24 years, KSN Chief Meteorologist Dave Freeman has been one busy man.
Whether it is tracking severe weather to keep us safe, to giving thousands of school talks.
Dave even milked cows at the Kansas State Fair and slapped on some blue jeans to help the Wichita Symphony.
Recently, Dave helped with the science part of the new Explore Kansas project at Exploration Place.
As you can see, Dave has done a lot for KSN, and he has spent the last two decade being there for the community.
“It is going to be sad to say goodbye, not just to a professional, we’re saying goodbye to a friend,” said Pat Hanrahan, Chief Executive United Way of the Plains.
KSN followed Dave to his very last school talk ever. He did get a bit emotional.
“Well, we feel very privileged that if we’re the last ones that we got that amazing presentation if that really is his last one,” said Jill Doerflinger, 5th grade teacher.
If you know Dave, he has a special passion for helping raise money for the United Way of the Plains.
“What we can tell is he really believes in the United Way, this is not just doing an emcee job he does it because he really cares about people, and you can feel that when he’s at the podium,” said Hanrahan.
Dave came up with the idea for the United Way Crazy Hair Challenge to inspire students to raise money for the non-profit.
“So, 11 years ago, he issued, a, totally volunteered the hair challenge, and so every year afterwards, we’ve seen him on the weather, his hair done up in the colors of the winning school. He loves to do it. You can tell he has fun with it, and the kids love it. He’s helped us raise a lot of money and educated kids on the value of philanthropy.”
With his final weather presentation over, Dave is close to closing this chapter of his life.
“It is bitter-sweet, because I’ve always enjoyed that experience that’s why I loved Exploration Place for the years we were there, cause we’re constantly having that chance to talk to kids and maybe light that spark.”
As he leaves for the final time, Dave takes a moment to reflect on the job he’s done during his time being here for you at KSN News.Dave Freeman throughout the years Meteorologist Dave Freeman tracks the Greensburg tornado (KSN Photo)
ST. JOHN, Kan. (KSNW) – It’s news St. John residents have been waiting for.
“I was ecstatic,” said Dawn Siebert, after learning about the new grocery story coming to town. “I think it’s going to be a wonderful thing.”
Dottie Sheets echoed Siebert’s and said, “I think it’d be really beneficial to the community.”
White’s Foodliner, a family-owned business, signed a Letter of Intent to open a store in St. John.
“It is contingent on our ability to construct and finance a building for them to operate their business in,” said Stafford County Economic Development director Carolyn Dunn. “But providing we can meet all those conditions, they are ready to come here and do business here in St. John.”
For more than a year now, residents have been shopping at the local Dollar General or driving miles and miles to other cities for groceries.
“I know for myself, I use to go to the grocery store, if not daily, you know multiple times a week, and we just don’t have that convenience like we used to,” said Siebert.
For Sheets, who just moved to St. John, she sees the new grocer as a great opportunity for growth.
“The reason I moved here is because it is growing and it’s getting bigger,” she said. “So my hopes is that it does come so that more people will move into the community.”
Officials said White’s Foodliner will be located on Fifth Avenue, along highway 281. It will include a pharmacy and possibly a fuel station.
“By including fuel sales with this grocery story, as many major grocers do, we can increase non-fuel sales at this grocery store by 10 to 15 percent,” Dunn said.
Officials expect the new grocer to be about a $2.5 dollar project — with funding coming from the city, grants and private donations.
County officials started looking for contractors. They expect to begin construction in the fall, with the store opening by spring of 2018.
WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A 23-year-old man was arrested in connection to a shooting on Sunday. It happened in the 2600 block of Piatt Street just after 4:30 p.m.
Police say a 17-year-old man was injured after being shot in the leg at a basketball court. They tell us the suspect got into an argument with one of the players and shot him. Officers say the victim was taken to the hospital.
Police arrested Dijon Lamont Duane Thomas. He was booked into the Sedgwick County Jail on second-degree attempted murder charges.
WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A pair of Wichita programs aim to refurbish and donate bicycles to people in need.
Bike Walk Wichita’s Recylce and Earn a Bike program began about two years ago when a few volunteers started taking bike tools to United Methodist’s Open Door once a week. The volunteers would offer free, basic bicycle maintenance to people waiting in line at Open Door. Now, the volunteers have a space of their own near Wichita’s Old Town where they dedicate three days-a-week to recycling worn-out bicycles into affordable modes of transportation.
“People are using bicycles to get to school, to get to work, to get to resource centers, to get to the doctor and it’s a convenient, affordable way to get around and we just want to make sure that bikes are available and they are safely maintained,” said ReCycle volunteer Geoffrey Kisch.
Geoffrey Kisch said anyone can sign up to earn a refurbished bike at ReCycle.
“For somebody just coming into ReCycle, they work with us, volunteer for 15 hours, just working on different bikes for other people. Once that 15 hours has been accumulated, they can pick a bike out from what is here and fix that up and it’s theirs,” Kisch said. “Part of it is, there is some ownership, we feel, in spending some time earning the bicycle rather than just giving it away.”
“That’s the best thing about this. They are teaching me” said Earn a Bike recipient Joe.
Joe, who did not want to disclose his last name, currently does not have a mode of transportation. He said the ReCycle and Earn a Bike program has allowed him to earn something he said he desperately needed, but could not afford.
“Come down and spend a little time, make it right. No money, but I’ve got time,” Joe said.
“I don’t believe a bike is going to save anybody or going to make anybody’s life super better, but it’s like you mentioned, it’s a tool to help them achieve other important things in life,” Kisch said.
In 2016, more than 100 people earned a bike through the Earn a Bike program. So far in 2017, 56 people have volunteered more than 775 hours of time at ReCycle.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Rookie Kansas CityChiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes escaped injury after being robbed outside a Texas home after attending a college baseball game, authorities said Monday in describing the holdup as random.
Mahomes and the three other people were stepping from a vehicle on a home’s driveway outside Tyler on Friday night when a suspect approached, gestured he had a handgun in his waistband and took unspecified items from the victims before speeding away, the Smith County (Texas) Sheriff’s Office said.
Deputies later arrested two suspects in the reported getaway car and recovered items taken during the holdup. Michael Pinkerton, 34, was charged with aggravated robbery, while Billy Ray Johnson, 58, was accused of two counts of possession of a controlled substance and with tampering with evidence involving one of the items taken during the holdup, sheriff’s Sgt. Darrell Coslin said.
It was not immediately clear Monday whether Pinkerton or Johnson had an attorney.
Coslin said Pinkerton “has a long criminal history and is known to us” and randomly robbed Mahomes and the others as the four returned to a residence after attending a baseball game at the University of Texas-Tyler.
“We have no reason to believe (Mahomes) was being targeted,” Coslin told The Associated Press. “This appears to have been a crime of opportunity.”
Mahomes, 21, played at Texas Tech and last month was selected by the Chiefs with the 10th overall pick in the first round of the NFL draft. Kansas City sent first- and third-round picks this year and their first-round pick next year to Buffalo, climbing from the 27th overall pick to acquire the heir apparent to veteran Alex Smith.
“I can’t really get into the details,” Mahomes told the Tyler Morning Telegraph . “I’m just glad me and my friends are safe and the cops got the suspects.”
Last season, Mahomes threw for more than 5,000 yards and 41 touchdowns at pass-happy Texas Tech. He already has earned gunslinger comparisons to another protege of Chiefs coach Andy Reid during his days in Green Bay — Brett Favre — and his big arm and gaudy numbers have Chiefs fans energized after years of quarterback mediocrity.
Ted Crews, the Chiefs’ vice president of communications, told media outlets that the franchise was aware of the robbery and “is thankful Patrick and everyone involved are safe because that’s what’s most important.”
Mahomes’ hometown, Whitehouse, is about 10 miles from Tyler and about 100 miles southeast of Dallas.
More AP NFL: pro32.ap.org and twitter.com/AP_NFL
WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Bret Blevins was found guilty Monday in a traffic crash that killed two Starkey clients in May 2016. The victims were Dusty Atterbery and Dirk MacMillan.
Sedgwick County jurors found Bret Blevins of Wichita guilty of 14 counts, including second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and multiple charges of aggravated battery.
Officers said Blevins was behind the wheel of an SUV when it slammed into a van carrying the Starkey residents and staff. Blevins was going 49 miles an hour and still accelerating when the crash happened. A blood test also found that Blevins was legally drunk and also tested positive for meth when the SUV hit the van.
During his trial, Blevins testified he wasn’t driving the SUV at the time of the crash.
The judge said he will not allow Blevins out on bond before sentencing next month. Blevins is being held in the Sedgwick County Jail.
KSN’s Craig Andres is following the trial in court. Look for his updates on Twitter.Tweets by CraigAndresKSN
WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Wichita Design Council voted 5-3 to recommend composite material to replace Cowtown’s boardwalks.
The boardwalk has to be removed for drainage improvements. Composite material has a 40 year life span. Brazilian ash wood has a 20 year span.
The city manager asked the Design Council to take a look at two options.
“I think a lot of the members would like real wood, but the extended lifespan of the composite material kind of over won that one for the long-term maintenance of the museum,” said Phil Meyer, Wichita Design Council Chairman.
“The boardwalk has to be removed for drainage improvements. We currently have standing water on the site,” said John D’Angelo, Director of Arts and Cultural Services for the City of Wichita. “As part of that replacement, we also have a requirement to make the site ADA accessible and being ADA accessible will require us using some concrete, which again, we try to be sensitive to making it look the least imposing as we can.”
This is the second group to vote in favor of the composite material, even though some Cowtown re-enactors had argued for keeping real wood.
The recommendation will go to the city council who will have the final say.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s homeland security adviser said Monday that the malware that has infected 300,000 computers in 150 countries is “in the wild,” but so far has not infiltrated U.S. government systems.
Tom Bossert, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, said three variants of the malware have been discovered and the U.S. government was closely monitoring the situation with officials in Britain.
“Overall, the U.S. infection rate has been lower than many parts of the world, but we may still see significant impacts in additional networks as these malware attacks morph and change,” Bossert told reporters at the White House. “We had a small number of affected parties in the U.S., including FedEx. As of today, no federal systems are affected.”
Computers across the world were locked up Friday and users’ files held for ransom when dozens of countries were hit in a cyber-extortion attack that targeted hospitals, companies and government agencies. Cybersecurity experts say the unknown hackers who launched the “ransomware” attacks used a hole in Microsoft software that was discovered by the National Security Agency and exposed when NSA documents were leaked online.
The Department of Homeland Security is taking the lead on the investigation in the United States.
The Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center is keeping the U.S. government informed about classified information concerning the investigation, he said.
If Americans follow the patching information issued by the FBI, Microsoft and the Homeland Security Department, they will be protected from the malware and the variants, Bossert said.
“While it would be satisfying to hold accountable those responsible for this hack — something that we are working on quite seriously — the worm is in the wild, so to speak at this point, and patching is the most important message as a result,” he said. “Despite appearing to be criminal activity intended to raise money, it appears that less than $70,000 has been paid in ransoms and we are not aware of payments that have led to any data recovery.”
Neither the FBI or NSA would comment Monday.
NEW YORK (AP) — A fraternity pledge who was ordered to guzzle alcohol during a hazing ritual and twice fell down a flight of stairs before his death was treated like “roadkill,” his father said Monday, days after criminal charges were filed against 18 of his son’s Penn State fraternity brothers.
Jim Piazza, the father of 19-year-old engineering student Timothy Piazza, said the Beta Theta Pi fraternity members were to blame for his son’s February death.
“They planned this night out,” Piazza said. “They had all the intent to feed these young men lethal doses of alcohol — to bring them to alcohol poisoning levels. This was premeditated. They killed our son.”
The family of the college sophomore from Lebanon, New Jersey, told The Associated Press that they are considering a lawsuit but are focused now on the criminal case against their son’s fraternity brothers.
Eight face the most serious charge of aggravated assault, a felony that carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison. Timothy Piazza consumed what prosecutors said was a life-threatening amount of alcohol —his blood-alcohol content reached nearly .40 percent, doctors estimated — during a hazing ritual on Feb. 2 in State College, Pennsylvania, and he died two days later.
Piazza’s parents said they would likely attend the court proceedings. A preliminary hearing that had been scheduled for this week has been pushed back to June.
Piazza’s mother, Evelyn, said her grief has worsened the more she’s learned about what happened to her son.
“My mind used to go to dark places before. Now I’m imagining more horrors so it’s really hard to fall asleep,” she said.
Jim Piazza said the fraternity brothers “tortured” their son.
“They held him captive and tortured him. They treated him like roadkill,” he said. “Knowing that your son suffered the way he did over such a long period of time, and died a very slow and very painful death, frankly, it’s haunting.”
A grand jury said security camera footage captured events inside the house that night, including pledges being ordered to guzzle alcohol after the ceremony. Piazza appeared to become inebriated and fell face-first down a flight of basement steps.
Fraternity brothers made half-hearted and even counterproductive efforts to help him, and when one member strongly advocated for summoning help, he was shoved into a wall and told to leave, the report said.
Piazza apparently fell down the steps again early the next morning but was not discovered until about 10 a.m. Someone called 911 some 40 minutes later. Piazza later died as a result of severe head injuries.
The Piazzas said no one representing the university or the fraternity attended their son’s wake or funeral services. Jim Piazza called their absence “shameful.” He also noted that none of the students involved has been expelled.
“I am glad they have taken action so far on some things, but they have a long way to go,” he said of the school.
The university had no immediate response.
The Piazzas hope to push Penn State and universities across the nation to adopt changes — and improve enforcement of existing policies — to prevent future deaths. Among them, they suggested a ban on alcohol at fraternity events and a strict ban on hazing.
“This can’t happen to anyone else,” Jim Pizza said. “Tim Piazza is our son, but he represents so much more than that now. He represents everybody’s son and daughter that is thinking about going to college, thinking about participating in Greek life.”
Neither parent would say whether the fraternity members involved should have to serve jail time.
“That’s for a jury to decide,” Jim Piazza said. He added, “What is a life worth? Our son lost the rest of his life. He lost the ability to graduate, to get married, to have kids, to be his brother’s best man.”
Evelyn Piazza said: “He gets to sit in a mausoleum. Everybody else gets to continue living their lives. The world goes on for everybody else.”
Associated Press writer Mark Scolforo in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, contributed to this report.
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – Health officials are investigating a central Kansas man’s death from a virulent form of meningitis.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said in a news release that laboratory tests have confirmed that the death was the result of meningococcal meningitis, an acute infection of the bloodstream caused by a bacteria known as Neisseria meningitides.
Health officials are working to identify people exposed to the man, who was from Barton County. The bacteria can be spread through close contact – such as sharing a drinking glass, kissing or living in close quarters – with an infected person.
Symptoms include fever, intense headache and stiff neck.
WILSON COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – The Kansas Highway Patrol said two people were killed in a head-on crash Sunday. It happened on U.S. 400 around 11:30 p.m.
The patrol said a 1998 Honda Accord went left of center and struck a 2004 Honda CR-V.
The drivers of both vehicles were pronounced dead. They have been identified as 34-year-old Bryan M. Adkins of Dearing and 41-year-old Heather R. Wiegert of Fall River.
WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Wichita police said a 27-year-old man was killed Saturday when he crashed a stolen motorcycle. It happened around 7 p.m. in the 800 block of West Lincoln.
Police said a Sedgwick County Sheriff’s deputy tried to stop the stolen motorcycle. The driver refused to stop, and the deputy lost sight of the motorcycle at Lincoln and McLean. The deputy continued west and found the bike had crashed in the 800 block of West Lincoln.
The driver of the motorcycle, identified as Bryce Reed of Wichita, died at the scene.
The accident is the eleventh fatal accident in the city this year.
BEL AIRE, Kan. (KSNW) – The Bel Aire Police Department has issued a Silver Alert for an 85-year-old man.
William E. Gustin suffers from dementia and Pre-Alzheimer’s. He was last seen on Sunday wearing blue jeans with paint stains, white tennis shoes, a red and blue shirt, blue wind breaker, and Edward Jones baseball cap.
He is possibly driving a 2008 Gold Lexus E35 4 door with Kansas tags EIEIEIO.
If you have seen Gustin please call 911 or the Bel Aire Police Department 316-744-6000.
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – Authorities say an arson fire has killed a dog and caused an estimated $18,000 in damage to a Topeka house.
Fire officials said a passerby notified an officer about the fire late Saturday while police were investigating a report of a shooting in which a vehicle was struck by shotgun pellets.
The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that besides the dog that was killed, another was treated for smoke inhalation. The fire was contained to the house where it started.
A preliminary investigation indicates the blaze was intentionally set. The fire started in the first-floor living area in the southwest area of the home. It wasn’t immediately known if the fire was related to the shooting.
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – Kansas legislators have advanced a proposal to raise a modest amount of new revenue by imposing the state’s sales tax on some services while promising a future cut in the tax on groceries.
The House approved the measure Monday on a 78-42 vote. It goes next to the Senate.
The bill would raise about $115 million over two years. The state faces projected budget shortfalls totaling $887 million through June 2019 and passing the measure would lessen the need for other tax increases.
The tax bill would impose the 6.5 percent sales tax on a few services including towing and pet boarding. It would cut the tax on groceries to 5.5 percent in July 2020.
The tax vote as a House committee considered a bill increasing spending on public schools.
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – The Kansas Legislature’s annual session has reached its 91st day with leaders having budgeted for 100 days.
The session’s 90th day was Sunday. That’s considered the traditional length.
But the Kansas Constitution allows lawmakers to extend sessions past 90 days in even-numbered years and doesn’t limit them in odd-numbered years.
Session lengths have varied widely over the past decade. A 73-day session last year followed a record 114-day session in 2015.
Only six sessions have lasted 100 days or longer, starting with 1990’s 100 days. Sessions were 103 days in 1991; 100 in 1992; 107 in 2002 and 100 in 2012 before 2015’s record.
The 100th day this year is May 24.
Lawmakers this year must close budget shortfalls and respond to a Kansas Supreme Court ruling on education funding.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Mike Moustakas came through with a big homer and thought of his late mother, just like he does every time he goes deep.
Moustakas homered and drove in four runs to help the Kansas City Royals rally from five runs down to beat the Baltimore Orioles 9-8 Sunday.
“A day like today makes me miss my mom even more,” Moustakas said of his mother Connie, who passed way on Aug. 9, 2015. “Mother’s Day is special, but I miss my mom every day. It doesn’t take a day like today to miss her.
“Anytime I hit a home run, I think about my mom and always point up to her. In order to do that, is a pretty cool feeling. Today was no different, just a tie game and thinking about my mom pretty much all the time, so nothing really changes.”
Jorge Soler and Drew Butera also homered for the Royals. Soler’s 464-foot shot to center leading off the seventh was the longest by a Kansas City player this season.
The Royals have won four straight, matching a season high, and six of seven since moving Alcides Escobar to the leadoff spot.
Moustakas homered off Kevin Gausman with Butera and Escobar aboard in a five-run fourth when the Royals sent 11 men to the plate. Gausman was pulled after retiring only 10 of the 21 batters he faced, allowing five runs and nine hits with two walks.
“It’s frustrating,” Gausman said. “I think they started eliminating my curveball early in the game, when I get in those situations where I have to throw a strike, the hitters pretty much have a good idea what they’re going to get. And that’s the biggest thing. They didn’t really miss any pitches that were in the strike zone and even some pitches that were out of the strike zone, they went out there and got it.”
The Royals scored two runs, one unearned, in the fifth, which included Alex Gordon scoring from second on Manny Machado’s throwing error after Escobar’s bunt.
The Orioles jumped on Royals starter Chris Young for five runs in 3 2/3 innings. Young gave up home run to Chris Davis to leadoff the second and a two-run shot in a four-run fourth to Caleb Joseph to finish his day. Ryan Flaherty contributed a two-run double in the fourth.
“The ones that really hurt were the Flaherty and the Joseph, back-to-back,” Young said. “Sliders I didn’t execute. If I make a good pitch to Flaherty, I’d like to think I’d get an out there and keep me at 1-nothing at that point and this win is a lot easier. I didn’t execute and it cost us.”
In two starts this season and 13 starts last year, Young is 1-8 with an 8.74 ERA, allowing 55 runs on 80 hits, including 29 home runs, in 56 2/3 innings.
Davis reached base five times on his homer, RBI single and three walks.
Matt Strahm (1-2), the second of seven Royals pitchers, picked up the victory. Kelvin Herrera, pitching in three consecutive days, finished up for his eighth save in nine chances. After Joseph’s RBI double in the ninth, Herrera struck out Seth Smith and got Jonathan Schoop on a fly ball to strand runners at second and third to end the game.
Richard Bleier (0-1) took the loss as the Baltimore bullpen gave up four runs.
“For the most part our guys have done a tremendous job of holding it there and kind of stopping the bleeding,” Joseph said. “We just weren’t able to bandage it up today.”
The nine runs and 14 hits were season-highs for the Royals.
SORIA’S AMAZING CATCH
Joakim Soria came sprinting off the mound to catch Mark Trumbo’s foul pop up that catcher Butera lost in the sun. “He keeps telling me he wants to catch pop ups and I told him, here’s your chance,” Butera said. “I gave it to him. I thought it was a foul ball straight back and I didn’t see it. The next thing I see Jack running by and said, ‘Thank God, he’s athletic.'”
ORIOLES RECALL BLEIR
The Orioles recalled Bleier from Triple-A Norfolk, where he had a 0.61 ERA, allowing one run in 14 2/3 innings with 15 strikeouts and no walks. Bleier had a 1.96 ERA in 23 relief appearances last season for the Yankees. The Orioles optioned LHP Vidal Nuno, who had a 6.75 ERA in nine bullpen outings, to the Tide.
Orioles: CF Adam Jones was not in the lineup for the first time this season. “He’s pretty banged up,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s got a sore hip. He’s diving, different stuff.” With a day off Monday, this will give Jones two days to rest.
Royals: LF Alex Gordon, who left the game Friday with right groin tightness and sat out Saturday, was back in the Royals’ lineup. Gordon went 0 for 4, dropping his average to .153.
Orioles: LHP Wade Miley will start the series opener Tuesday at Detroit after a day off Monday.
Royals: RHP Jason Hammel, who allowed a career-matching 13 hits in his previous start, draws the starting assignment Tuesday against the Yankees.
MCHENRY, Ill. (AP) — Skeleton in hand, retired biology teacher Jeannie Scown delivered a message to her Republican congressman at his office northwest of Chicago.
“Killed by Trumpcare Plague, May 4, 2017,” her poster read.
In a nod to House Republicans’ recent vote to gut the health care law, Scown had no intention of sparing four-term Rep. Randy Hultgren with subtlety.
“He has to understand that sick people vote, too,” Scown said, “and we are going to go get them and take them to the polls if they can’t get there themselves, because we are tired of being used.”
Americans vented similar frustrations this past week in Republican districts crucial to GOP majority control of the House, sounding off about health care and President Donald Trump’s abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey. Democrats see in these displays evidence of the enthusiasm necessary for them to break the GOP’s monopoly control of Washington in next year’s midterm elections.
Republicans in some districts faced a backlash at raucous town halls over their votes for the House health care bill. There were plenty of complaints about a provision that would allow insurers to charge seriously ill people higher rates if they let their coverage lapse. Other lawmakers avoided holding forums.
Trump added to the tumult by dismissing Comey, raising questions about whether the president was trying to scuttle an FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“He did this as Comey wanted to get closer and closer,” said Sam Weissbard of Westfield, New Jersey. A dentist who practices in Manhattan, Weissbard said he has no ill-will against his five-term congressman, Republican Leonard Lance, who voted against the health bill. Nonetheless, Weissbard will oppose Lance to send a message to the White House.
In Illinois, Scown said Trump’s move shows why “the whole administration scares many of us.” Whatever “displeases him,” she said, “he gets rid of.”
Trump maintains a hold on his core supporters — about 40 percent according to many polls — but the intensity of voters like Scown and Weissbard offer encouragement for Democrats.
The party needs to flip 24 seats to seize control of the House. Democrats’ top targets are some two dozen GOP-held seats around the country in places such as Arizona, Florida, California and Colorado where Democrat Hillary Clinton beat Trump. Of the 217 Republicans who backed the bill, 14 come from districts carried by Clinton.
The first political tests are just weeks away.
In Montana, folk singer-turned-politician Rob Quist is trying to win his state’s at-large House seat in a May 25 special election. In Georgia, Democrat Jon Ossoff has raised more than $10 million ahead of a June special election in a suburban Atlanta district last represented by Trump’s health secretary, Tom Price. But party operatives and their aligned groups are primed for an offensive even if Ossoff and Quist fall short.
Outside groups have started television and digital ads against vulnerable Republicans who voted for the bill, and liberal grassroots groups are organizing “Adopt-A-District” town halls that send Democratic House members into Republican districts where the local representative has no scheduled open forums.
One of the first sessions was Friday in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in House Speaker Paul Ryan’s district. With Ryan elsewhere in Wisconsin — public events but not open town halls — his neighboring Democratic colleague, Mark Pocan, greeted the speaker’s constituents at a union hall.
“Paul is the person who essentially drafted this health care bill,” Pocan said, ahead of the gathering. “We need to know that his constituents have every tool possible to try to influence him in a different direction.”
Defending himself, Ryan told reporters on Friday: “It’s not that I’m not doing town halls. I’m getting around to see constituents all the time. I’m doing office hours, I’m doing telephone town halls, I’m doing business interviews. I’m doing it in a way so constituents don’t go into a harassing environment.”
New Jersey Rep. Tom MacArthur spent five hours last Wednesday fielding intense, sometimes angry inquiries.
Vicky Van Wright, 69, who had never attended a town hall, said she was worried about Trump leading the U.S. “back to a darker time in our history,” but identified the health care bill as her driving concern. She argued it could threaten Medicaid insurance programs for her 35-year-old son with Down’s syndrome.
MacArthur told Van Wright that Republicans want to give states flexibility, not “cut” Medicaid. Van Wright remained unconvinced.
Hultgren said in a statement that the protesters who’ve gathered outside his office are “getting overly dramatic” about the impact of the plan.
In California, about 800 people attended a town hall without Rep. Mimi Walters in Orange County. Demonstrators wearing hospital gowns and wielding crutches visited one of Rep. Darrell Issa’s district offices.
In 15-term Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s nearby district, Patricia Hilaiel-Miller is the kind of voter at-risk Republicans must win over, despite any misgivings over Trump or health care.
A registered Democrat, Hilaiel-Miller, praises Rohrabcher as “proactive.” But the 60-year-old said she and her husband, who is self-employed, benefit from the law and she’s unsure about potential changes.
“The whole thing is a joke,” she said. “I’m just going to move to France.”
Barrow reported from Atlanta. Associated Press writers Michael Catalini in New Jersey, Amy Taxin in California and Scott Bauer in Wisconsin contributed to this report.
RENO COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – A man was struck in the middle of K-96 early Monday in Reno County.
The Reno County Sheriff’s Office says they were called around 2 a.m. to an area about one mile west of Haven on K-96.
They found a man in the middle of the road. A motorist said they did not see the man and attempted to swerve from hitting him.
A portion of the highway was closed but has since reopened.