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Parents and children should both wear bike helmets when biking, even for short distances.

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Homicide investigation underway after Price Chopper shooting

KANSAS CITY — Law enforcement officials are investigating a homicide after being called Monday, June 8, to a shooting at the Price Chopper grocery store off Ash Avenue in Kansas City, which is near Missouri Highway 291 and Cookingham Drive in Liberty.

At the scene around 6:30 p.m. Monday, police tape lined the parking lot as investigators began interviewing witnesses. Kansas City police officer and Spokesperson Doaa El-Ashkar said officers arrived on scene between 5 and 5:30 p.m.

At the scene, officers found a white male dead in a dark, four-door car. The deceased man has been identified as 21-year-old Trinton Phillips of Excelsior Springs and was the only person in the vehicle located in the grocery store parking lot.

Police say the suspect is a white male who fled the area.

On Tuesday, June 9, El-Ashkar said it is believed the shooting occurred after an attempted robbery.

A release to media outlets by Casie Broker, chief marketing officer for Price Chopper, states the company is focused on the “well-being of our team members and cooperating fully with local law enforcement.”

Anyone with information in the case is asked to call the TIPS hotline at 474-TIPS (8477). All tips can be anonymous.

More details on this developing story will be published as they become available.

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Black Lives Matter protest lines Main Street

SMITHVILLE — While holding signs denouncing racism that included statements such as “White privilege is real, skin color is not a crime and racism is a pandemic,” throngs of Smithville children, young adults and parents lined downtown Smithville’s Main Street Monday, June 8, as they took part in a Black Lives Matter protest.

During the protest, drivers could be heard passing by and honking vehicle horns while other passersby were seen shaking their heads.

The local protest came in the wake of deaths elsewhere in the nation of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, African Americans who were killed by police during encounters with officers. Their deaths, along with those of other minorities in recent months and years, have sparked outrage in communities across the nation, with protesters taking to the streets in recent days and weeks to demand racial equality and justice for those killed as a result of police action.

One group at the Smithville protest was the Guptas, a mixed-race family that includes parents Debbie and Ganesh and daughters Autumn and Leeta. Ganesh, who wore his U.S. Army uniform and held a sign that read, “Remember Kent State,” commented on the state of policing in the U.S., saying oversight is needed.

“We are both physicians,” Ganesh said of himself and his wife. “Over the course of the last 25 years, I’ve heard so many times that physicians cannot police themselves. Therefore, we have so many organizations that can look into what we do. I would say if that is true for physicians, police are the same way.”

Debbie said her views of racial matters and issues with equality have changed since the couple’s daughters began college.

“I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t think racism was as big of a problem as it is,” she said. “With my daughters going off to college and dealing with it more ... and then reading things that have been happening and the frequency of it, (it) made me realize it is still very much an issue and it is way past time to fix it,” she said.

“I think this sign says it best,” Ganesh added, referencing a sign his wife was holding at the protest that read, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Autumn said she and her sister participated in the protest in Smithville to help bring awareness home after going to college out of state, adding at college, people tend to gravitate and speak with people who hold similar views but that those views maybe different from those held by others where one grew up.

“... If people here know us, they know our family, they’ve seen us grow up from age 5 to 18. If we can bring similar messages (home), we can (affect change) in Smithville, too,” she said.

“We don’t need to be in Los Angeles or New York to make a big change,” Leeta added. “It is cool to see it here as well, not just where we go to (college).”

Organizer Shelbi Ashcroft said she had no idea the protest she organized in downtown Smithville would grow to be as large as it was Monday.

I thought it would be me with five of my friends silently holding signs in a park for a couple of hours,” she said of the crowd that grew to roughly 70. “I did not anticipate to see so many families here, so many parents also so deeply involved with this. I am so happy that so much of the town has donated so many things and been out here in full support.”

The organizer said she was motivated because she believes small communities are key communicators for the rest of the country. Ashcroft, 21, who grew up in Smithville, said she was also motivated to help craft change in her community. According to U.S. Census 2019 population estimates for Smithville, the city has a total of 10,795 residents, 89.5% of which self-reported being white.

“I’ve been in this town since the second grade, so about 13 years,” Ashcroft said. “Even just the things I overheard in my town going to high school, there are things I knew, even growing up very white and very privileged, things that were just not OK.

Protestor Katie Booth participated because she thinks Smithville as a whole needs to understand there is a systemic problem with racism in the country and that compliancy surrounding a lack of racial equality in the nation’s history needs to end.

“I think too many lives are being lost and not enough action is being taken,” Booth said. “Part of me feels really glad this is happening because I feel the veil that has been covering America’s dark history is being lifted … . I think this veil needs to be lifted so people can address the racism that really underlies America’s roots.”

While some community members showed support to the protest by donating water and blank cardboard and markers to make signs, others, Ashcroft said, took to social media to discourage the event.

“We noticed on Facebook that a lot of people were like, ‘Our town doesn’t need this,’ which alone just made us very aware that our town very much did need this conversation,” the organizer said. “The conversations in small towns matter because people leave the small towns. We need to make sure people are getting educated in the right way and taking Black Lives Matter seriously.”

Handfuls of opposing and alternative viewpoints have been posted to the Smithville, MO — Uncensored Facebook page, which requires a person to join the group to comment. Some comments questioned why others who may not reside in Smithville full time or any longer would want to protest in the city.

On the city’s police department Facebook page, Chief Jason Lockridge said organizers were not part of an outside group coming into Smithville, but “a group of our local young adults and families who feel compelled to voice their concerns in a constructive and peaceful manner.”

Lockridge said organizers did consult the police department before the event.

“We are aware of concerns regarding this demonstration. We ask that the citizens of Smithville respect the peaceful intent of this assembly,” he wrote the day of the protest.

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County nursing home facility hit with COVID-19 outbreak

CLAY COUNTY — Pleasant Valley Manor Care Center, a nursing home facility off Sobbie Road near Liberty in Pleasant Valley, has been hit with an outbreak of COVID-19 that includes a death, according to Clay County Public Health Center Executive Director Gary Zaborac. The outbreak includes at least 37 cases confirmed by the public health center Friday, June 5, with more case reports expected.

“At this point, it is too early in the process to know exactly how the outbreak started,” said Zaborac. “We are in the beginning stages of the investigation.”

Care center Admini-strator LaDonna Vaughan told the Courier-Tribune Monday, June 8, there are roughly 49 cases she knows of at the facility between residents and staff and that she was first alerted to a staff member testing positive for coronavirus May 28.

“From that point on, we initiated doing mass testing on every one of our residents and everyone on our staff because we are starting to see a lot of asymptomatic positives,” the administrator said. “All but two or three of our residents, I believe it was three, have not even had symptoms. I think I had four staff members had symptoms, but the remainder are asymptomatic.”

Vaughan said all positive employees are not working at the facility and are isolated in their own residences.

“They will not be coming back until they’ve had two negative tests,” she said.

If she had known an employee was showing symptoms, Vaughan said, she would never have allowed the employee to work without being cleared by testing.

Residents infected with COVID-19, the facility administrator said, have been readjusted in the facility’s living quarters and isolated so those without the virus are separated from positive residents. Residents, she said, are being tested weekly.

A relative of a resident at the Pleasant Valley center told the Courier-Tribune via email weekly updates about the facility sent to her family are concerning because they lack details about the outbreak.

Vaughan said staff typically call the main contact listed on a resident’s file and rely on that point of contact to share further information with other relatives.

“What we’re using is an automated system with voicemail message. I will have to say, as far as I am aware, we’ve contacted everyone. We are also going to try and improve how we give out that information,” the administrator said. “When this all came about on Friday morning, probably the information was not as detailed as I would have liked, but it was such an involved day of moving everyone around that maybe we knew what was going on, but did not make that as clear (for others) as we needed to.”

Vaughan called the outbreak is “heartbreaking, trying” and a situation she and her staff are trying to navigate while providing the best care possible in as transparent a manner as possible.

“We are doing everything we know how to do. I have outside resources as well. My staff has been amazing. The ones that are here are coming in and working extra and doing anything we’ve asked them to do,” she said, adding she is sorry if some families feel communication from her facility has been inadequate.

“Most of the families have been very understanding and I do apologize to any family that doesn’t feel like they got all of the information they needed,” she said. “I hope they feel free to contact me at any time.”

Vaughan said the facility is working with the county public health center, state public health agency and within Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to contain and prevent the spread of the virus as best the facility can, adding measures to try and help prevent the spread and alert the facility to a potential problem have been in place and ongoing since March.

Safety measures include all employees wearing masks and employees having their temperatures taken when they arrive for work and when their shifts end.

“We are making every effort to minimize the exposure of COVID-19 to our residents and staff. Our utmost concern is for the health and well-being of each of our residents and to ensure our staff is healthy and able to continue to care for residents,” reads a statement on the care facility’s website, pleasantvalleymanormo.com, about visitor limitations that were previously put in place at the facility. “With all of the directives from the CDC, the CMS, the state health department, state government and the federal government, we have restricted all visitors in the facility, including vendors, until further notice. We are closely monitoring the situation daily, and as soon as we feel the safety of our residents will not be compromised with visitors, we will lift the restrictions. The only exception with this restriction will be in the case of end of life care.”

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Search underway for woman missing since May 28

KANSAS CITY — Police are looking for Marina Bischoff, 39, a woman last seen leaving the Kansas City Police’s Shoal Creek Patrol Division in the Northland, located at 6801 NE Pleasant Valley Road, on the morning of May 28. According to a Kansas City police release, Bischoff was arrested after 10:30 p.m. May 27 on an allegation of driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident.“She was released on a signature bond per COVID-19 protocols to reduce detention populations of nonviolent offenders. Detention staff deemed her competent to be released. She left the station with everything she arrived with,” states the release. Bischoff is 5 feet 3 inches tall, weighs 110 pounds and has brown hair and eyes. She was last seen wearing a black shirt and blue jeans. “Witnesses saw her walk east from the station to a neighborhood at Crystal and Corrington. She came back to Pleasant Valley Road and was seen walking toward Interstate 435. That was the last sighting of her,” states the Kansas City Police release. A search with nearly 100 volunteers and Missouri Search and Rescue canines has been conducted along I-435 from Pleasant Valley Road to Brighton Avenue, states the police release. Anyone with information on Bischoff’s whereabouts is asked call the Kansas City police’s Missing Persons Section at 234-5136.

Marina Bischoff