Successful conclusion to the Lawrence silver alert

Sunday morning the Lawrence Police Department issued a Silver Alert for 81-year-old Lawrence resident Jacob Bohanon. A Silver Alert is a public notification system that broadcasts information about missing persons, especially seniors with Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia, or other mental disabilities. Bohanon had been missing for more than 10 hours, but the search ended Sunday afternoon when he was found uninjured and reunited with his family.


Raptors within city limits

At this Tuesday’s city commission meeting the City Manager will discuss the request for the city animal code to be amended to permit raptors to be owned within city limits. Raptors are birds of prey that have a hooked beak, excellent eyesight, sharp talons, and strong legs and feet. This amendment request is being made on the
behalf of a 50-year Master Falconer who will be moving to Lawrence in the near future and would like to be allowed to bring his Falcon with him. Currently the city staff that is knowledgeable about falconry report now safety concerns provided that the birds are to remain in locked cages and may not fly within the city limits. The amendment will also be subject to permit requirements and other restrictions.


Hard 50 Prison Sentence

In October of last year 41-year-old Wichita man Anson Bernhardt was arrested for allegedly murdering his 38-year-old girlfriend. This year he has been convicted of first-degree murder and prosecutors are looking for hard 50 prison sentence. In June the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a hard 50 prison sentence may only be determined by a jury and not a judge and Kansas lawmakers later amended Kansas law to reflect this ruling. Currently the two sentences that convicted first-degree murders can receive are the hard 50 prison sentence without parole or a life sentence with parole eligibility in 25 years. Prosecutors believe that a hard 50 prison sentence should become the default sentence and that it gives victims more closure.

Prisoners and Ponies

Just beyond the Flint Hills and about one mile from the Hutchinson Zoo there is a seemingly ordinary off white barn with a green roof surrounded by horse pens and bales of hay. There are men casually trotting by on horses and men maintaining corrals with shovels and Bobcats. There’s a barking dog eager to be released from her kennel and horses swaying around a feeder munching on hay.

It would be possible for any passerby to assume this place is just another horse ranch in Western Kansas, but in the background behind tall barbed wire fences lies the Hutchinson Correctional Facility dashing the illusion.

This ranch is a part of the Kansas Wild Horse Program at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility (HCF). It is a program that gives inmates an opportunity and skills to train wild horses to be adopted by the public.

The program began in February 2001 and was created by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Kansas Department of Corrections (KDC). Before the program began the BLM had been working to maintain the wild horse population in the western plains. Predators to these horses are not as prevalent anymore therefore wild horse populations have proliferated. In order to save wild horses and other wildlife the BLM is able to remove some of them and take them to live on private ranches. The ranchers are then paid with government tax dollars to take care of them. They are paid around $1.30 per animal per day.  In an effort to relieve some of the burden on taxpayers, the program became a way to save wild Mustangs by making them adoptable horses to be sold to the public.

Not every wild horse the BLM captures is able to be trained. Often this is because of age or their personality. In this case the program at the HCF does not keep these horses.

Kansas Correctional Industries Manager of the Wild Horse Adoption/Training Division Dexter Hedrick said, “The horses that can’t be trained are sent to ‘horse heaven’.”

“Horse heaven” isn’t exactly what you might be thinking. If the suspicious farm your parents sent your dog Sparky to go “live” on comes to mind, don’t worry. Hedrick assured that “horse heaven” is what he likes to call the ranches that the government pays to take in the wild horses that are unfit to be trained. They live out the rest of their lives roaming vast acres of land and enjoying tall grass and the natural minerals they need.

The horses that are trainable are trained by the inmates in the program under supervision of Hedrick and HCF personnel. The program gives them the necessary skills to train the Mustangs and after that the men begin to reap the benefits of being involved in the program.

One of the men in the program, Josh Hall, has experienced his fair share of benefits within the program.

“It’s rewarding,” Hall said. “To take something from nothing and then get a finished product of what you’ve done.”

Currently Hall’s “something” is a brawny, brown Mustang in the beginning steps of training. Before joining the program he did not have a lot of experience with horses. When he was younger he had a little experience in riding horses and team roping, but never had he trained or really had to care for horses. Today, with more experience under his belt, he fearlessly steps into a round pen with an animal that has, until recently, had little contact with human beings.

“The most difficult part is probably the first few days in the round pen,” Hall said. “Once you get your hands on them from there on out it seems to be pretty easy. It really depends on the horse and their personality.”

Training horses requires leadership and confidence. Anyone who steps into a pen to train a horse risks getting hurt if they aren’t prepared.

Hedrick said it is believed that horses can smell fear and will use it to their advantage.

Not only is it important that the horse respects the trainer, but the trainer must respect the horse and take safety measures to protect themselves otherwise injury is possible.

Hall said, “If you’re not in the right place at the right time you get in trouble. You get hurt.”

Hall has been kicked several times, he has been bitten, and he has even broken his collar-bone. Even though training Mustangs can be dangerous, the inmates in the program also have some fun. Along with riding the horses and occasionally feeding them the carrots from their lunches some of the men have fun giving the horses names.

“It’s getting to the point that I’m running out of names, but I try to name them all,” Hall said. “There was a horse that what shedding a tooth. He had a tooth sticking out and he kind of looked like a Goob so I called him Goob.”

On the surface it seems that the men in the program are merely learning how to train horses and having a dose of fun while they are at it, but beyond that they are learning interpersonal skills by proxy. Trust and communication are tools the inmates have to use to create a relationship with a horse if they want to work successfully with it. These are the same tools we use in society to create meaningful and healthy relationships. Sometimes incarcerated men have problems with interpersonal skills and that is part of the reason they end up behind bars. When the men encounter frustrating situations with a horse they have to find solutions that will help the horse work with them and understand each other otherwise training becomes impossible. This is the same with human relationships. The men begin to learn what kind of interpersonal behavior is rewarding and what is not.

Hall said that the program has allowed him to interact with the public in a more positive way. The skills he has learned to train horses and his improved interpersonal skills combined have already garnered him some job opportunities in the future when he is released from HCF. This program has given him something to look forward to when his sentence is done and he thinks he will continue to work with horses.

“All the knowledge I got from doing this. It’s almost like riding a bicycle. It’s something you’re not going to forget. I think that will help me.”

Honoring law enforcement and citizens

28 Lawrence Police Department (LPD) law enforcement officers and nine citizens were honored for their heroic acts and service on Thursday Nov. 14. Following the awards ceremony 12 recruits from the LPD’s 34th police academy class were recognized with a graduation ceremony as well.

LPD Chief Tarik Khatib said, “As we recognize our citizens and law enforcement officers, it will become apparent the level of commitment these individuals have for their community.”

Officers and citizens honored:

  • Nicholas Ayre– Citizen Distinguished Service Award
  • Sgt. Craig Shanks– Letter of Commendation for his actions
  • Nicole Calloway and Samantha Robbins– Citizen Meritorious Service Award
  • Valerie Blanton and Lydia Sierra– Recognized for preventing a scam
  • The Dudinyak family– Citizen Community Service Award
  • Sgt. Ted Bordman and officers Sutagee Anglin and Robert Egidy– Life Saving Award and the Distinguished Service Award
  • Officers George Baker, Larry Hamilton, Tracy Russell, Brett Horner, Peter Kerby, Micah Stegall and Matthew Leslie– Life Saving Award
  • Cpt. Steve Zarnowiec-Distinguished Service Award
  • Michael Ramsey and Shawn Gross– The Commendation Award
  • Eight members of a LPD and Douglas County Sheriff’s Department drug enforcement unit– Commendation Award

Competency evaluation for first-degree murder case

Following last week’s story, Douglas County Judge Malone is granting Larry Hopkins’ attorney’s request for a competency evaluation before any further court dates. Hopkins was accused of murdering his wife in the first degree last week. The results from the evaluation will decide whether Hopkins is sent to a state hospital for rehabilitation or that he can stand trial and a preliminary hearing will be scheduled.

Investigating cyber crime in Lawrence

Advancements in technology have not only made it easier for you to check your social media while you’re using the bathroom, but it has also made it easier for cyber criminals to victimize fellow internet users. In Lawrence, Kan. victims of cyber crime rely on the Lawrence Kansas Police Department (LKPD) partnered with the Heart of America Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory (HARCFL) to investigate this type of criminal activity.

The LKPD has the ability to investigate a variety of internet- related crimes in Lawrence such as rare cases of child pornography, fraud and scams.

Sergeant Trent McKinley of the LKPD said, “With great frequency we get people calling about scamming.”

Top Scams According to the Better Business Bureau

In 2012 the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received 289,874 consumer complaints with an adjusted dollar loss of $525,441,110 showing an 8.3 percent increase from the previous year. Many of these complaints were for fraud and scams such as the “Nigerian Scam”, “Romance Scam” and “Hit Man Scam”.

The frequency of scams and other internet crimes are making it important for law enforcement to expand its investigating capabilities. The LKPD does not have a task force dedicated to investigating crimes involving the internet. Instead it has a couple of rotating investigators within the department and one detective who reports to the HARCFL office in Kansas City, Mo. every day. The HARCFL is a program that partners the Federal Bureau of Investigation with other law enforcement agencies at the federal, state, and local level.

The LKPD is able to solve many cases within the department, but there are times when the resources at the HARCFL are helpful.

“[We] don’t have too many limitations on things,” McKinley said. “But some of these crimes you can only go so far, like when they go out of the country.”

When a case goes out of the country the likelihood of finding justice declines. Former University of Kansas student Alex Pentola recalls when he was scammed by someone in Africa using Craigslist and Pay Pal.

“Basically I was selling a really expensive camera via Craigslist and one person contacted me and was interested in it and willing to pay for shipping to Africa,” Pentola said. “I mailed the camera and he said he would pay me through Pay Pal.”

Unfortunately Pentola found out that the confirmation emails he had received from Pay Pal were fraudulent and he never received payment or got his camera back.

While the cases that go outside of the country are difficult to investigate the LKPD does have access to tools through the HARCFL that greatly improve the success of investigations. When the department needs resources that they do not have in house they are able to access resources at the HARCFL. The computer forensics technology, software and training at the HARCFL are expensive and the LKPD is able to have access to these resources without having to use budget money to purchase their own.

There are 16 RCFLs in the U.S. and they are funded by the Department of Justice (DOJ). Last year the DOJ administered Assets Forfeiture Funds of $2.2 million. This funding was used as reimbursement for overtime, leased motor vehicles, and cellular telephones for state and local examiners working at the RCFLs.

How RCFL National Program Funding was used

In 2007 the LKPD received $57,550 from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program (EBMJA) for the continuation and improvement of forensics capabilities. Since then most of the departments funding has been allocated to other areas. Recently the LKPD received the 2013 EBMJA grant and McKinley said the money was put toward securing the LKPD mobile data network and other communications such as computers and email.

While the Lawrence-Douglas County community has access to a local law enforcement agency that can help investigate cyber crimes like scams sometimes the best way to protect yourself is to be able to recognize suspicious activity, report it, and move on.

McKinley said, “Often we get people calling about emails that looked suspicions. It’s best to delete the email and move on.”


Follow this link to find out what the top scams are and how to avoid them.

Al Jazeera brings criticism to KU’s campus

The University of Kansas has recently attracted criticism for a group of its students’ role in a recent segment on Al Jazeera’s “America Tonight” program. The segment featured a group of KU students drinking and partying, but it’s not the revelry that has critics upset. During the segment students spoke candidly about sex and drinking. One student said, “There’s nights where we go out and we wake up and we are with a girl and we don’t remember anything from the night before, like, ask ourselves, ‘Whoa, did I have sex with her, or no?’” The university has recently implemented mandatory sexual assault and harassment training and university officials released a statement saying they condemn the actions and statements made by the small group of KU students.

Check out the Al Jazeera article that follows up on the “America Tonight” segment here.

Man arrested on suspicion of first degree murder

Lawrence Police arrested 67 year old Lawrence resident Larry Leon Hopkins November 5 on suspicion of first degree murder. Police responded to a report of a shooting at a residence located in the 1600 block of West Second Terrace and discovered the shooting death of a woman whom Hopkins was living with. No formal charges have been brought on Hopkins and he has been booked in the Douglas County Jail.


Improving transportation safety analysis

The Lawrence-Douglas County Bicycle Advisory Committee asked local officials this week to help improve the safety analysis of our region’s transport system. Better analysis would lead to safety improvements for not just motorist, but all roadway users such as bicyclists. Analysis on when, where, how, and what types of accidents occur will help Douglas County meet guidelines determined by the US Department of Transportation as well as fulfill requirements of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act . Developing safety reports with detailed analysis would help ensure that Douglas County meets transportation standards, better qualify for federal transportation funding, and help maintain Lawrence’s bike-friendly city designation from the League of American Bicyclists.

Photo Credit to Mike Yoder, Lawrence Journal World