civil rights Excessive Force FBI Intelwars john albers Kansas Overland park police brutality

Feds open civil rights investigation into teenager who was shot 13 times by police

Federal authorities have launched a civil rights investigation into the death of a teenager shot more than a dozen times by police.

What is the background?

The shooting death of 17-year-old John Albers in Overland Park, Kansas, sparked national outcry in January 2018 and triggered accusations of excessive use of force.

Police were dispatched to Albers’ home on Jan. 20, 2018, to perform a wellness check after they were alerted that he was threatening to hurt himself. The situation quickly escalated when the two officers arrived at the home.

One of the responding officers approached the home’s garage door after it opened. That’s when a minivan began backing out, allegedly toward one of the officers. The officer drew his firearm and ordered the vehicle to stop. The driver inside initially complied.

But then investigators say the driver suddenly accelerated, drove erratically in the neighborhood, then backed over the curb in front of the house and allegedly headed toward the officer. One police officer responded by firing 13 shots at the vehicle, ultimately killing the driver — who was Albers.

Following an investigation, Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe announced the officer responsible for killing Albers would not face criminal charges because the shooting was justified under Kansas state law.

Albers’ family ultimately received a $2.3 million settlement from Kansas City — but Albers’ family, who believes John was a victim of excessive police force, is still seeking answers.

“It should have been we are terminating you and charges brought against him because he didn’t follow the policy and used excessive force and cost my son his life,” Albers’ mom, Sheila, recently told WDAF-TV of the officer who killed her son.

According to KMBC-TV, the Overland Park Police Department has implemented significant policy changes since Albers’ death, including how officers respond to mental health crises as well as adopting a policy that prohibits shooting at moving vehicles, with exceptions in rare circumstances, like an act of terrorism.

What’s happening now?

The Department of Justice revealed last week it has opened a civil rights investigation into Albers’ untimely death.

“The FBI will collect all available facts and evidence and will ensure that the investigation is conducted in a fair, thorough, and impartial manner,” FBI spokeswoman Bridget Patton said.

The FBI’s Kansas City field office, the U.S. attorney’s office in Kansas, and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division are jointly working on the investigation, NBC News reported.

Authorities did not specify which potential violations of Albers’ civil rights they are investigating.

In response, Sheila told KMBC-TV, “I’m stunned. I’m completely stunned. My first thought was, ‘Finally. Finally, there will be some transparency and there will be accountability.'”

Civil rights investigation launched into fatal shooting of Overland Park teen

2nd Amendment guns home invasion Intelwars Kansas Self-Defense

Convicted felon allegedly breaks into home, attacks residents. But homeowner has a gun — and intruder takes a bullet to the face.

Police said a convicted felon allegedly broke into a home in Great Bend, Kansas, on Saturday evening and then proceeded to physically assault the residents, the Great Bend Tribune reported.

But the incident would be short lived, as the homeowner had a gun — and shot the intruder in the face, KAKE-TV reported.

What are the details?

After a preliminary investigation, officers believe 27-year-old Zachary Horyna entered the residence in the 1300 block of Jefferson Street, and then began to physically attack the residents after they confronted him, the station said.

It was at this point that the homeowner shot Horyna, KAKE said.

Officers had been dispatched to the scene for a burglary in progress, and after arriving they located and identified the suspect as Horyna with a gunshot wound to the face, the station said.

The homeowners were treated for their injuries on the scene, KAKE said, adding that Horyna was restrained and treated for his injures by emergency medical services and taken to a Great Bend hospital before he was flown to a Wichita hospital. The paper said Horyna was in stable condition Monday morning.

Police said the pending charge against him is aggravated burglary.

The Tribune, citing the Kansas Department of Corrections website, reported that Zachary Cole Horyna had been discharged from the KDOC when his sentence for previous convictions expired July 26.

His past convictions, no longer active, include drug possession and possession of paraphernalia with five or more plants, committed Nov. 28, 2014, in Saline County, the paper said. He also was convicted of drug possession in Sedgwick County in 2017 and criminal possession of a weapon in Sedgwick County in 2018, the Tribune reported.

What did folks have to say about the incident?

Commenters on the Great Bend police department’s Facebook page were not too sympathetic toward Horyna and decidedly behind the homeowner’s actions:

“He’s lucky he only took a shot to the face….I’d probably have blown his head clean off,” one commenter said.

“I love this family; they are wonderful people; my heart goes out to the both of them to have to experience such a violent act in their own home, so I’m proud of you. I would’ve done exactly the same thing to protect my family!!” another commenter wrote. “Prayers for your recovery.”

Coronavirus COVID-19 face masks Intelwars Kansas Lee norman

Top state official caught using ‘doctored’ chart, data to push face mask mandate

A top Kansas official is facing criticism after he was caught using a “doctored” chart to justify face mask mandates.

Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Lee Norman presented a coronavirus case chart to the media last week to contrast Kansas counties abiding by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s mask mandate and those that have not, The Sentinel reported.

Norman claimed that counties abiding by the mandate are “winning the battle,” suggesting that counties that have not followed the mandate are losing.

“All of the improvement in the case development comes from those counties wearing masks,” Norman said, The Sentinel reported.

However, Norman’s claim only appeared true because he manipulated his chart to create the allusion that counties following the mask mandate are successfully warding off coronavirus.

From the Washington Examiner:

Norman used an axis with a range of 15 to 25 to describe the number of new cases in masked counties and used a range of 4 to 14 to describe the number of new cases in counties without a mask mandate, making it appear as though counties without a mask mandate had more cases. When the two sets of data are placed on a chart with the same axis, counties without a mask mandate have fewer new cases per day than counties with a mask mandate.

As of last week, the vast majority of Kansas counties — 90 of the state’s 105 — rejected the governor’s face covering mandate because so few people in the state have contracted the virus.

Overall, fewer than 1% of Kansans have tested positive for COVID-19.

Kansas Republicans are now speaking out about the lack of transparency from the governor’s administration.

“Governor Kelly and her administration have failed Kansans time and again, but manipulating data to intentionally deceive the entire state is a new low,” Kansas House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins, a Republican, said, The Sentinel reported.

“Tens-of-thousands of Kansans have lost their jobs and businesses as a direct result of Governor Kelly’s politics-first response to the COVID pandemic, and these individuals struggling to make ends meet deserve to know the truth. It is reprehensible for a public servant like Dr. Norman that we trusted to protect our health and safety in a nonpartisan way to intentionally spread misinformation,” he continued. “The Kelly administration has lost all credibility.”

Coronavirus Good News Intelwars Kansas N95 masks New York City

Retired Kansas farmer gets honorary degree after his touching gesture toward NYC medical professionals

Dennis Ruhnke, a retired farmer from Kansas, has been awarded an honorary degree from Kansas State University after his gesture toward New York City medical professionals went viral last month.

Ruhnke first made the news when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) tweeted out a picture of a letter Ruhnke wrote along with an enclosed unused N95 mask that he had kept from his days as a farmer. Cuomo’s tweet has had more than 40,000 retweets and 200,000 likes.

In the letter, which Cuomo praised as “humanity at its best,” Ruhnke says, “I seriously doubt that you will read this letter as I know you are busy beyond belief with the disaster that has befallen our country. We currently (as of March 26, 2020) are a nation in crisis. Of that there is no doubt.”

Ruhnke states in the letter that he is “hunkered down in N.E. Kansas with my wife who has but one lung and occasional problems with her remaining lung. She also has diabetes. We are in our 70’s now and frankly I am afraid for her.”

Ruhnke went on to state, “Enclosed find a solitary N-95 mask left over from my farming days. It has never been used. If you could, would you please give this mask to a nurse or doctor in your city. I have kept four masks for my immediate family. Please keep on doing what you do so well, which is to lead.”

Ruhnke’s story came to the attention of Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D), who attended a presentation Tuesday in which Ruhke was awarded an honorary degree from Kansas State University.

According to a post on Kelly’s Facebook page, “In 1971, [Ruhnke] was two credits away from earning his degree in agriculture when his father passed away. He chose to leave school to take care of his mother and the family farm. Dennis’ kindness and lifelong career in agriculture make him more than qualified to receive a degree.”

Coronavirus Intelwars Kansas Religion religious freedom

Federal judge blocks Democratic governor’s attempt to limit religious gatherings: ‘Religious activity was targeted for stricter treatment’

Kansas Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly issued an executive order April 7 prohibiting mass gatherings of more than 10 people — and explicitly called out religious services. But a federal judge issued a ruling Saturday blocking the governor’s order.

U.S. District Judge John Broomes said that he believes the policy likely violates religious freedom as well as free speech protections, the Associated Press reported.

Broomes’ ruling prevents the enforcement of Kelly’s order as long as church officials and members of the congregation following social distancing guidelines, the AP said.

The case was brought by two Baptist churches — First Baptist Church of Dodge City and Calvary Baptist Church of Junction City — that were represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom.

What did the governor order?

Kelly has issued a string of executive orders addressing “mass gatherings” amid the coronavirus pandemic, with each new order replacing the previous and becoming more restrictive — especially with regard to religious gatherings.

Broomes noted that on March 17, the governor issued an order prohibited “mass gatherings” of 50 or more people. But the order included a list of exemptions, including “Religious gatherings, as long as attendees can engage in appropriate social distancing.”

A week later, on March 24, Kelly issued a new order banning gatherings of 10 or more people. The exemption for religious gatherings was maintained.

And on March 27, the governor actually declared performing or attending religious services as an “essential function.”

Then, on April 7, just days before Easter, Kelly issued a new executive order with an updated list of venues where the “mass gathering” rule applies — and for the first time the list included “churches or other religious facilities.”

But that wasn’t all that was updated.

The new order included new language specifically targeting churches:

With regard to churches or other religious services or activities, this order prohibits gatherings of more than ten congregants or parishioner in the same building or confined or enclosed space. However, the number of individuals – such as preachers, lay readers, choir or musical performer, or liturgists – conducting or performing a religious service may exceed ten as long as those individuals follow appropriate safety protocols, including maintaining a six-foot distance between individuals and following other directive regarding social distancing, hygiene, and other efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

And the order had a long list of exemptions, many of which seemed to be as problematic as church services:

  • Airports;
  • Schools for both instructional and non-instructional purposes;
  • Childcare facilities and group homes;
  • Hotels and motels;
  • Food pantries and shelters;
  • Detox centers;
  • Shopping malls where large numbers of people are present but are not close to each other for more than 10 minutes;
  • Libraries;
  • Senior centers; and
  • Restaurants and bars.

Broomes took a look at the governor’s order that noted that, though the designation of religions gatherings as “essential functions” had not been changed, the governor had added restrictions on churches.

And then he wrote what was clear to any observer: The churches has been “singled out.” He said (emphasis added):

The Governor previously designated the attendance of religious services as an “essential function” that was exempt from the general prohibition on mass gatherings. That designation has not been rescinded or modified, yet in EO 20-18 and EO 20-25 churches and religious activities appear to have been singled out among essential functions for stricter treatment. It appears to be the only essential function whose core purpose — association for the purpose of worship — had been basically eliminated.

The judge then listed a number of “secular facilities that are still exempt from the mass gathering prohibition” or “are given more lenient treatment, despite the apparent likelihood they will involve mass gatherings.”

Broomes made the logical point that the churches were “targeted” because of “the nature of the activity involved.” He wrote (emphasis added):

The legitimate health and safety concerns arising from people attending religious services inside a church would logically be present with respect to most if not all these other essential activities. Defendant has not argued that mass gatherings at churches pose unique health risks that do not arise in mass gatherings at airports, offices, and production facilities. Yet the exemption for religious activities has been eliminated while it remains for a multitude of activities that appear comparable in terms of health risks. Based on the record now before the court, the most reasonable inference from this disparate treatment is that the essential function of religious activity was targeted for stricter treatment due to the nature of the activity involved, rather than because such gatherings pose unique health risks that mass gatherings at commercial and other facilities do not, or because the risks at religious gatherings uniquely cannot be adequately mitigated with safety protocols.

It is also an arbitrary distinction, in the sense that the disparity has been imposed without any apparent explanation for the differing treatment of religious gatherings. These facts undermine Defendant’s contentions and lead the court to conclude that EO 20-18 and EO 20-25 are not neutral laws of general applicability. Instead, they restrict religious practice while failing to “prohibit secular activity that endangers the same interests to a similar or greater degree.”

The judge’s ruling striking down the governor’s order does not permit churches to have restriction-free services. He ordered the churches to follow social distancing guidelines and to continue practices that they had already put in place.

Kelly continued to defend her order, the AP said, quoting her: “This is not about religion. This is about a public health crisis.”

The Alliance Defending Freedom celebrated the ruling. Senior counsel Tyson Langhofer said, “Public safety is important, but so is following the Constitution. We can prioritize the health of safety of ourselves and our neighbors without harming churches and people of faith,” the AP reported.

Crossing guard elementary schools Heroism Intelwars Kansas school

Hero crossing guard struck and killed while saving two grade school kids in Kansas

An 88-year-old crossing guard was struck and killed by a car but he’s being hailed as a hero because he saved the lives of two elementary school boys.

The incident occurred on Tuesday morning near Christ the King Elementary School in Kansas City, Kansas.

“He saved two of our students today,” said principal Cathy Fithian. “I’m confident they would not be here if (he) had not stepped in and we are thankful, we feel very blessed to have had him in our lives for five years. We just pray for his family at this time.”

The two boys were aged seven and eleven years.

The school later identified the crossing guard as Bob Nill. A neighbor to the school said he was well liked by the children, and that it was a shock that he died.

“He had the stop sign in one hand and he yelled stop,” explained Fithian. “The boys listened and they weren’t struck because he saved their lives.”

Police say the driver of the car is cooperating with the investigation.

Nill had worked as a crossing guard for the school for five years.

Here’s more about the tragic incident: