Wichita — Veterans from across the U.S. have offered to come to the aid of a disabled Kansas vet who is accused of conspiracy to commit aggravated battery against a church that protests at military funerals.
Some said they don’t condone what Marion resident Ryan Newell, 26, is accused of doing, but they understand what he must be going through after losing his legs in Afghanistan.
Newell was arrested Tuesday after sheriff’s officers said they saw him following members of Westboro Baptist Church after they left a protest in Mulvane. Officers found an M4 rifle, .45-caliber Glock handgun and a .38-caliber Smith and Wesson handgun, along with more than 90 rounds of ammunition, in Newell’s vehicle.
The Wichita Eagle reported Sunday that Michael O’Connell, a Vietnam veteran from New Jersey, said he will fly to Kansas to help Newell, if necessary.
“He’s probably struggling, and I understand his anger,” O’Connell said of Newell. “He’s a patriot. He probably needs help. You can’t go through that change in your life ... without help.”
Westboro members routinely protest at military funerals, saying soldiers are killed because of the country’s tolerance of homosexuality.
Several veterans contacted The Eagle last week asking how to help pay to get Newell out of jail and pay for his lawyers.