I’ve seen quite a few deer on my drive into work lately on the Kansas Turnpike — one on the back of a trailer, a couple in the median about a car-length from each other, and one right in the middle of my lane (well, part of one).
Luckily I wasn’t the driver who turned any of those deer into roadkill, but unfortunately someone else out there did. It’s that time of year, authorities say, when deer are most likely to be out on the road.
Kansas typically sees the highest number of deer-vehicle crashes in mid-November, when the “rut” — or mating season — peaks, according to the Kansas Highway Patrol. Also in the fall, deer are increasingly active seeking new food sources and shelter, as their habitat transforms with crops being harvested and leaves falling from trees and shrubs.
• The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has been handling on average four or five deer-related crashes a day in the past couple weeks, the office said in a Facebook post this week.
• 10,235, or 16 percent, of all 62,150 vehicle crashes reported in Kansas in 2016 were deer-related, according to Kansas Department of Transportation figures shared by the highway patrol. In those crashes, seven people were killed.
• Douglas County had 262 deer-related crashes in 2016, in which 14 people were injured, according to the highway patrol.
And some safety tips for drivers, from the Turnpike and other authorities:
• Be especially cautious from sunset to midnight and shortly before and after sunrise. This is when deer are most active.
• If you see one deer, watch for others. They seldom run alone.
• At night, use high beams when there’s no oncoming traffic.
• To frighten deer away, slow down and blow your horn with one long blast.
• Avoid exaggerated maneuvers to avoid a deer in the road. “If you are unfortunate enough to have a deer enter the highway in front of your car, it is best to hit the animal and not swerve to avoid it,” highway patrol Lt. Adam Winters said, in the news release. “Often we find more serious crashes occur when you swerve to miss the deer, potentially losing control of your vehicle, leaving the road or veering into oncoming traffic.”
• If you do hit a deer, pull over on the shoulder or nearby parking lot, turn on your flashers and call law enforcement, the sheriff’s office suggests. Stay buckled up, but if you must wait outside your car stand as far away from the road as possible. Leave the deer alone, law enforcement will handle it.
— I’m the Journal-World’s public safety reporter. Reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 785-832-7187. I’m also on Twitter, @saramarieshep.
Brazen alleged thieves take TVs from Wal-Mart; ‘pirate’ fight on Mass Street; Dollar General break-in attempt; industrial accident leaves man in critical condition
It generally takes me about a day to get information on weekend incidents posted to Lights & Sirens. Poor Sgt. Trent McKinley, the Lawrence police spokesman; I always have a huge list of calls from the weekend that I ask him to check on for me on Mondays.
He was gracious enough, as always, to tell me about the following incidents from Friday through Sunday. So without further ado, here are a few weekend antics, plus one horrific story from yesterday:
A couple of Wal-Mart customers allegedly pushed a store cart filled with three TVs out of the store at 550 Congressional Drive without paying for them around 10 p.m. Sunday. McKinley said the pair allegedly loaded their loot into a car, which made it all the way to the intersection of Ninth and Iowa streets before officers stopped the vehicle.
Police recovered the TVs – and several other items allegedly stolen from Wal-Mart’s south Iowa Street store earlier that day, McKinley said. The two were issued notices to appear in court on suspicion of theft.
Someone broke a window at the Dollar General at 1811 W. Sixth St. just before 10:30 p.m. Saturday, and an employee saw a person “run past the front door of the store,” McKinley said. The call was initially reported as a burglary, though McKinley said it didn’t look like the alleged suspect actually entered the store. Police continue to investigate and are reviewing security footage.
I heard over the scanner yesterday that an industrial accident at Brown Industries LLC at 807 E. 29th St. left one young man in critical condition with his head stuck between two trucks — possibly between one truck’s axle and another truck.
The victim, a 29-year-old man, was taken by air ambulance to Kansas University Hospital with life-threatening injuries, Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical Division Chief Eve Tolefree said Tuesday. She would not disclose the victim’s name or further detail, but I’ll keep following. If you hear of any more information about this man, please let me know. What a horrifying accident.
Downtown was the scene of a number of violent incidents over the weekend. The first involved a panhandling man and another man dressed as a pirate.
Some time after 8 p.m. Friday, a man dressed as a pirate approached a man asking passersby for financial assistance in front of Weaver’s Department Store at 901 Massachusetts St. The “pirate” allegedly then stood “directly in front of the man’s sign” that he was holding to solicit donations, McKinley said.
This allegedly ticked off the man, “who belligerently confronted the man dressed as the pirate” and the two began physically fighting. Police issued the two men notices to appear in court on suspicion of disorderly conduct.
And the second: A man was knocked out near Ninth and Massachusetts streets around 1:45 a.m. Sunday after another man confronted him amid an argument with his girlfriend. The second man punched the boyfriend once, McKinley said, and he fell to the ground unconscious. An ambulance was called, and the alleged puncher ran from the scene. Police did not locate him.
And now for our regular roundup of police calls. As always, I’ll remind you that this is a list of noteworthy calls I pulled from the Lawrence Police Department call log. Not all calls yielded police reports, and many may have gone unsubstantiated. The list is meant to give you an idea of what kinds of calls police are responding to within a given time period.
This list is a collection of calls that police responded to between Monday and Tuesday mornings.
Also: Pay attention to how many auto burglaries there were last night. I’ll try to find out more on my end. If your car was broken into last night, let me know.
Disturbance (verbal or physical arguments): 4
Domestic disturbance: 2
Domestic battery: 1
Fight in progress:
- Noninjury accident: 8
Suicide threat: 3
Suspicious activity: 6
Suspicious activity with weapons: 1
Police pursuit: 1
Auto burglary: 9
Holidays tend to bring out the worst in some of us (which doesn’t bode well for a crime reporter trying to enjoy her day off.) In Lawrence, we had a homicide on Memorial Day this year, and another on Christmas 2013. On Father's Day, we had a police standoff in a residential neighborhood, and last year on Mother's Day, we had a fatal shooting.
Luckily, no homicides were reported on the Fourth of July in Lawrence this year, but Lawrence police spokeswoman Kim Murphree told me about a few wackadoodle crimes that allegedly occurred over the holiday weekend.
Friday, 12:24 a.m.: Two motorcyclists are out for a ride together, headed southbound on Massachusetts Street. Motorcyclist No. 1 rides through the stoplight at Ninth and Massachusetts street, but Motorcyclist No. 2, a 20-year-old, stops at the light. Motorcyclist No. 1 waits for his friend on the other side of the light.
Out of seemingly nowhere, Kyle Eric Flynn, 30, of Overbrook, allegedly “runs across Massachusetts Street from the corner of Ninth and Mass,” Murphree said, and tackles Motorcyclist No. 2 stopped at the light. Flynn allegedly pushed the 20-year-old off his bike, and the motorcycle landed on his leg.
The alleged victim and Flynn begin struggling, the light turns green and Motorcyclist No. 1 retreats to the 20-year-old and calms down the fight “without getting physical with the suspect until officers arrive,” Murphree said.
Police arrest Flynn, who sustained minor injuries, and book him into the Douglas County Jail on suspicion of municipal battery, criminal damage to property and disorderly conduct on a $300 bond, according to jail booking logs.
Murphree said that “there was no indication” that the victim and Flynn knew each other before the incident.
Friday, 8:36 p.m.: Officers respond to a report of a man chasing another man running north behind Lawrence Memorial Hospital. Police stop a car in the area and question the driver and passenger, who was hurt. The passenger, a man from Ottawa, told police he was riding along with his cousin when another man called her.
The Ottawa man and his cousin pick up the man, but somewhere along the line the man allegedly jumps out of the car “with items that did not belong to him,” Murphree said. The Ottawa man jumps out of the car and catches up with him, and the suspect allegedly drops a wallet stolen from the car and whacks the Ottawa man over the head with a tire iron.
The suspect then flees on foot, and the Ottawa man grabs the dropped tire iron, wallet and other items and gets back into the car. When he tells police the story, he says he didn’t want to press charges or be listed as a victim. He said he “did not care” about the $80 allegedly taken from the wallet, and officers photograph the man’s injuries and let him and the cousin go.
Saturday, 9:58 p.m.: Officers respond to a report of a disturbance in the 700 block on North Street. They pull into the cul de sac and find “evidence that a weapon had been fired,” Murphree said. A witness told officers that a man fired two shots from a shotgun into the air, then left in an unidentified vehicle. Murphree said she had no updates to the report as of Monday afternoon.
Maybe the guy just wanted to make his own firework? This reminded of the “American Flag Shotgun Guy” meme I’ve seen around social media:
Sunday, 1:21 a.m.: Several folks flag down a police officer outside Replay Lounge at 946 Massachusetts. A man tells the officer that he’d come to the bar with a friend, and another man struck up a conversation with him when he stepped outside.
The man said that when he told the other man that he was with someone, “the man allegedly punched him in the side of the head and walked away,” Murphree said. The victim declined medical attention and officers didn’t issue any citations, as the victim had not called police.
On Thursday afternoon, I joined Douglas County Chief District Judge Robert Fairchild, Wichita attorney Richard Ney (who represented Martin Miller in his recent retrial), Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett and Kansas Press Association Executive Director Doug Anstaett on a discussion panel about the issue of public access to arrest and search warrant affidavits at the 2015 state judicial conference in Overland Park.
The five of us had a variety of viewpoints on the nearly one-year-old statute that presumes arrest and search warrant affidavits to be open, with the option of sealing or redacting the documents if attorneys can prove that the case would be harmed by the release of certain information.
You’re probably familiar with the Journal-World’s advocacy for open arrest affidavits in Douglas County. We have seen a number of affidavits sealed. We have filed motions to intervene in two cases and were successful in getting one unsealed. We do this not out of nosiness, but for the public to know why members of the public are being detained and charged with crimes.
I think an editor here said it best when she wrote in a November column, “The idea is that the public and the people charged with crimes have a right to know on what grounds law enforcement seeks to deprive people of their liberty or privacy. The public needs to be sure that government prosecutes or jails people only with good reason, and they can only be sure of that if the reasoning is made public.”
Of course, my fellow panel members – with good reason in light of their professions — had concerns with open access to affidavits. Ney, the attorney, notably argued that probable cause affidavits are written by police officers and detectives “with a clear agenda": to indict his clients. This is a concern for defense attorneys, as there is anxiety that potential jurors will read this preliminary narrative in the affidavit and make up their minds on the case before they ever enter a courtroom.
“We’re trying cases in the media now, and it’s to a detriment to the defense,” Ney said.
To Ney’s point, it is important to keep in mind that these early documents are not necessarily facts, but a series of allegations. People are presumed innocent until proven guilty. That’s why I use words and phrases like “alleged,” “police say,” "on suspicion of," “the affidavit reads” or “witnesses claim” in my stories. (You wouldn't believe how many times I use the word 'allegedly' in a day. My guess is about 72.)
The law was a compromise, Bennett, the prosecutor, said, when the bill was being drafted. The original law wanted more freedoms, but with feedback from attorneys and others in the justice system, the Legislature added the ability to redact or seal the affidavits. Bennett and Anstaett, of the Kansas Press Association, said that compared with Missouri, where affidavits are easily accessible online, or Florida, where even attorneys’ discovery must be open for public view, the Kansas law is not that radical.
Judge Fairchild, who has sealed just one affidavit I’ve requested because of an ongoing investigation, told conferees that regardless of whether one agrees with the statute or not, the judge's job is to follow the letter of the law.
The statute will celebrate its first “birthday” on July 1.
Sight of gun at Lawrence Taco Bell spooked someone Monday night, but officers determine no crime occurred
5 p.m. Update:
Lawrence Police Sgt. Trent McKinley has provided updated information on the incident. The man actually had the gun in his hand while he was going through the Taco Bell drive-thru Monday night, McKinley said. A Taco Bell employee reported it to police, saying that the man "was waving (the gun) around," which McKinley said caused concern.
The same man was found at the Youth Sports Complex, 4911 W. 27th St., watching children play baseball while having a handgun in a holster around 6:30 p.m. Monday, McKinley said. Officers responded and asked the man to lock the gun in his vehicle "to comply with the 'no firearms' sign posted at the field," McKinley said.
The man told officers he was carrying the weapon for protection, McKinley said.
The man was confrontational but ultimately complied with the police request, McKinley said.
Some people at Lawrence’s Taco Bell on Sixth Street may have thought that a stick-up was imminent Monday night when a man with a gun entered the restaurant, but as it turns out, the only thing he’d be ransacking was a bag of Mexican fast food.
Lawrence police were called to the restaurant at 1220 W. Sixth St. to a report of “suspicious activity with weapons,” Lawrence Police Department spokesman Sgt. Trent McKinley said Tuesday.
Just after 8:30 p.m., someone told police that a man was at Taco Bell with a firearm. Officers were dispatched to the scene to check things out.
McKinley said officers found the man and discovered him to be “’openly carrying’ a handgun” — but the thing is, that’s not illegal in Kansas.
No one had accused the man of pointing the gun at anyone, McKinley said; nor had anyone said he’d made any threats. The man was apparently minding his own business with a pistol in public view.
“Officers determined no law violation occurred,” McKinley said.