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Manhunt Underway for Holdrege Shooter

A gunman is said to be on the loose following an overnight shooting in Holdrege, which left one man in critical condition.

The Nebraska State Patrol and Phelps County Sheriff's Department describe the suspect as a Hispanic male with a tattoo on his neck. He's believed to have been wearing dark pants and a navy or black t-shirt. Authorities don't believe he is still in the Holdrege area, but are advising resident to be cautious.

The victim, identified as 34-year-old Donald F. Handy III, of Lexington, was shot shortly after 11 p.m.

Authorities say the suspect is considered armed and dangerous.

UPDATE: Hastings Teacher Arrested for Inappropriate Relationship

Hastings Police have arrested a 38-year-old former Hastings High School teacher on a warrant of first degree sexual assault of a child.

Johnathan Shafer was arrested late Thursday and remains in Adams County Jail. An investigation by Hastings Police of text messages sent from Shafer's phone indicated that he engaged in a sexual relationship with a female student under the age of 15. Sgt. Steven Murphy said the relationship appears to have been going on since 2012.

Shafer's phone was confiscated for use as evidence. The Nebraska State Patrol assisted police in recovering information from the phones.

Shafer will be arraigned in Adams County on Monday. He was dismissed from his job at the high school earlier this week.

Grand Island Public Schools Announces Administrative Hires

Grand Island Public Schools announced today three new administrative hires.

Current West Lawn Elementary principal Jane Gloor will take over as principal at Engleman Elementary, Shelton Elementary principal Shanna Gannon has been hired as the Director of Professional Learning and Leasa Hedrick has been announced as the Dodge Elementary assistant principal/reading specialist.

Grand Island Superintendent, Dr. Robert Winter said in a release that the district is pleased to have these experienced educators taking new leadership roles within the district.

Kearney Fire Officials Offer Kitchen Safety Advice

Fire officials in Kearney are reminding residents to be careful in the kitchen to avoid starting fires.

Terry Eirich, City Fire Inspector says people need to keep in mind a few basic things when it comes to reducing the risk of household fires that often occur in the kitchen area.

"The big thing is when you're cooking anything, you should stay and attend the cooking. You always need to keep an eye on what you're cooking so it doesn't burn," Eirich said.

Eirich say that many household fires occur in the kitchen area due in part to carelessness or a lack of proper supervision. Just this past weekend, Kearney firefighters responded to two fires that started in the kitchen, including one involving unattended cooking.

"We had a gal that was cooking Asian peppers on her stove and they burned. The smoke that filled the apartment building was very toxic with that strong pepper smell," Eirich said.

At least four people had to seek medical treatment due to respiratory problems. Eirich adds residents should also remember not to store anything that could easily ignite near stoves. Other tips include turning pot handles to avoid bumping or spilling and to never pour water on a grease fire. It's good practice to ensure your kitchen is equipped with a fire extinguisher.

More tips are available by contacting the Kearney Fire Department.

VanCura Named Principal at St. Cecilia

St. Cecilia Middle and High School has announced that Sandy VanCura will take over as Principal beginning next school year.

VanCura will replace Father Lee Jirovsky who has served as the Principal for the last four years. Jirovsky has been assigned by Bishop James Conley of the Diocese of Lincoln to take on a new role of Assistant Chief Administrative Officer at Lincoln Pius X High School.

Mrs. VanCura has been an educator for 35 years. She has been the Assistant Principal of the middle school for 17 years and was Assistant Principal for grades 6-12 the previous five years. VanCura said in a release, she will do all that she can to be of service to help everyone associated with St. Cecilia encounter Christ, grow in knowledge and become Catholic witnesses.

VanCura will take over her new duties beginning in June.

Eleven Submit Names for Judge Seat in Hastings

Eleven people have submitted their names to fill a vacant judge seat in the 10th Judicial District in Hastings.

Those reapplying to the position included Sara Bockstadter of Kenesaw, Donna Daiss of Hastings, T. Charles James of Aurora, Michael Mead of Juniata and Melodie Turner Bellamy of Kearney. Also applying to the position are Nancy Johnson of Hastings, John Jorgensen of Lincoln, Stacy Nonhof of Kearney, Don Theobold of Red Cloud and Nancy Waldron of Exeter.

The Nebraska Supreme Court announced in late March, that only one of the five candidates who previously applied for the seat garnered enough votes to be nominated to the governor. By law, a nominating commission must present at least two to the governor.

The state is seeking to fill the vacancy following the death of long time judge Michael Offner. A second public hearing of the Judicial Nominating Commission will be held at the Adams County Courthouse on May 12.

Hastings Teacher Dismissed Amid Allegations of Inappropriate Relationship

A Hastings High School teacher has been dismissed amid allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a student, which surfaced this week.

Superintendent Craig Kautz informed parents and staff of the situation via e-mail Wednesday. He tells KHAS Radio that the teacher will not be returning to work and is not permitted on property until all concerns have been eliminated. Kautz says the district will hire substitute teachers to conduct class through the end of the school year. The name of the teacher has not been released.

The Hastings Police Department tells KHAS Radio that they are investigating the matter to determine if there was any sexual activity that would violate Nebraska criminal laws. The department says they were first made aware of the allegations on Tuesday. We'll have more details as this story unfolds.

9th Street Issue Spawns New Controversy

A new controversy was brought forth when the group advocating for 9th Street to remain open, sent out postcards depicting what an alternative 9th Street could look like if it were left open and gradually improved.

Roger Selley, representing the Hastings Citizens For Keeping 9th Street Open, says they made no attempt to mislead voters.

"We are not saying that that's what people would be voting for if they voted yes, specifically that design. In fairness to the college, what they have put together is a visualization of what they think might be done," Selley said.

Selley said the design was not approved by any local organizations. It was drafted by his son, who is an architect in Hawaii.

Pictured top: "Vote Yes" rendering of alternative 9th Street Improvements

Pictured bottom: "Vote No" rendering of Hastings College's proposed closing of 9th Street.

Election Commissioner Details Mail-In Ballot Procedures

Prior to Tuesday night's public forum on the 9th Street debate, Adams County Election Commissioner Ramona Thomas spoke about the mail-in voting process. She says the voting will be very similar to early voting in regular elections with a few exceptions.

"Generally we never ask that you fold a ballot to return it in an envelope. This is unique, in that you will fold the ballot when you put in the return envelope," Thomas said.

The signatures on each ballot will be verified when they are counted on May 12 to ensure no voter fraud has occurred. Anyone needing to update their voter registration must do so no later than 6 p.m. on May 1. Anyone who registers after May 1 will be ineligible to vote in the special election.

Thomas also reminded voters to not wait until May 11 to mail ballots. If it gets to May 11, residents can simply drop their ballots off at the election office, located in the Adams County Courthouse.

9th Street Issue Goes to Public Forum

Yes to avoid a mess or no to help Hastings grow? Those are the two decisions facing Hastings voters in the next three weeks as they decide the fate of 9th Street where it crosses the Hastings College Campus.

At a public forum last night, Hastings College President Don Jackson compared the proposed closure of 9th Street to what Russ's Market recently did to improve their property…

"I sure enjoy being able to park in the big lot there and walk into a brand new store and to have benefits of the new supermarket. I think it was a really good investment for the city even though it may have caused some hardship for some people," Jackson said.

Roger Selley, representing the Hastings Citizens for Keeping 9th Street Open says in other street closures, none were of the magnitude of this proposal.

"In most of those, we're talking about a block you have to go out of the way in order to get around whereas with Hastings College

Jackson all along has touted the issue to be of economic importance both to the city of Hastings and the college, which brings in $54 million annually to the city and is one of the top employers. Jackson says in today's marketplace it's become increasingly competitive for Hastings College to recruit students and thus a key reason they want to improve their facilities.

"The big issue with 9th Street for us is to be able to renovate and expand our student union. Really the only viable option to expand the student union is to the south," Jackson added.

The issue is something that's been in the works now for Hastings College since 2010. Ballots were mailed out to voters today and are due back by May 12.

Medicaid Reimbursement Bill Advances

Nebraska lawmakers have advanced a bill designed to increase Medicaid reimbursements from the estates of recipients with large amounts of money or property.

The bill would require that the DHHS be notified when inheritance taxes are imposed on a trust, a sign that money is available to be recovered. Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus says many Nebraskans die with assets that could be recovered by the state to pay for Medicaid services that they use.

The state's recovery program currently only receives about $4 million a year. That could increase an additional $10 million if approved.

9th Street Ballots to be Mailed Wednesday

Ballots will be mailed out tomorrow to Hastings residents to finally decide the fate of 9th Street through the Hastings College campus.

The college is urging voters to vote no to "help Hastings grow." A recent economic impact study estimates the school generates about $54 million annually to Hastings. Nearby residents argue the road should stay opened because it's a busy thoroughfare through town.

If a yes vote were passed and the street were to remain open, the city estimate's repaving the surface would cost more than $538,000 and the college would likely not be obligated to pay for those improvements.

Supreme Court Says Nebraska Police Violated 4th Amendment

The U.S. Supreme Court says Nebraska police violated the 4th amendment by extending an otherwise lawful traffic stop in order to let a drug-sniffing dog investigate the outside of the vehicle.

The justices voted 6-3 today in favor of Dennys Rodriguez who was found to have methamphetamine in his car when he was pulled over near Valley in 2012. He was issued a warning for driving on the shoulder of a Nebraska highway and then made to wait less than 10 minutes for the arrival of a drug-sniffing dog. The dog alerted and a search of the vehicle turned up the drugs.

But Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in her majority opinion that prolonging the traffic stop beyond the time needed to deal with the initial offense was improper, even if only for a few minutes.

State Fair Gifts $100,000 to City of Grand Island

The Nebraska State Fair has presented a monetary gift to the city of Grand Island.

State Fair Executive Director Joseph McDermott recently presented Mayor Jeremy Jensen with a $100,000 gift to be used for community betterment purposes. Jensen first learned of the State Fair gift in mid-March and has since requested feedback from residents and city council members on how to utilize those funds. After much deliberation, Mayor Jensen announced today he's recommending they be split five ways.

Jensen is recommending $50,000 to the implementation phase of the Grow Grand Island initiative; $20,000 administered by the G.I. Community Foundation with the purpose of those dollars being used to pay entry fees for activities such as youth sports, band, dance for underprivileged children (max $100 per child per year). $10,000 each would go toward the Grand Island Livestock Complex Authority, the Downtown Business Improvement District and to the initiative to redevelop the Grand Island Veterans Home site.

The Mayor's recommendations will be considered by the city council at their April 28 meeting.

Kearney Hospital Plans Expansion

An estimated $19 million dollar expansion at Kearney Regional Medical Center could begin as early as this summer.

The expansion will include two single-story patient wing additions, a maintenance building, a helicopter pad, and an expanded intensive-care unit with an emergency room and ambulance garage. The proposed development will be built south of the existing hospital. The expansion will be built in phases and is expected to be completed in 2016.

The Kearney Planning Commission recommended approval of the development plans at its regular meeting Friday. The plans will now be presented to the Kearney City Council for approval at its regular meeting on May 12th.

Gas Line Ruptured in Odessa

An attempt to dig a trench line ended with a ruptured gas line, sending fire crews to the scene.

It happened around 8 a.m. Saturday morning on Main Street in Odessa. Officials on scene said a local resident started to dig a trench but, instead, punctured a natural gas line. The Kearney Volunteer Fire Department, along with emergency crews from CHI Good Samaritan Hospital were called to monitor the situation until gas company officials arrived on the scene.

No injuries were reported. Authorities say the yard was flagged and marked for digging.

Senior Center Evacuated After Small Fire

A small fire at a Kearney senior living facility caused an evacuation and sent three people to the hospital Friday.

The Kearney Volunteer Fire Department was called to St. Luke's Countryside Villa at about 3:10 p.m. Shortly before 3:00 p.m., property manager Jonna Wilson smelled a strong odor coming from a first floor hallway. When she went to investigate, she discovered the hallway was full of smoke.

An investigation revealed the fire was caused by a tenant cooking hot peppers on a kitchen stove. The tenant was able to put out the fire by depositing the burning material in a toilet before firefighters arrived on the scene.

About 20 residents were evacuated from the building. Three people were transported to CHI Good Samaritan Hospital. Two residents were treated for chest pain while another was treated for smoke inhalation.

Tom Osborne to Speak at Two Grand Island Events

Tom Osborne is scheduled to speak at two events next week in Grand Island.

Both will be happening on Tuesday as TeamMates of Grand Island is hosting Osborne for a speaking engagement on the importance of mentorship. That event is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at Grand Island's Community Fieldhouse. Current TeamMates mentors who bring a prospective mentor with them will be eligible for a Tom Osborne-autographed Husker football. Also, anyone who applies to become a mentor within one week will be eligible for a second autographed football. That event will be free and open to the public.

Prior to that, Osborne will speak from Noon to 1 p.m. at Riverside Golf Club on behalf of the Nebraska Child Advocacy Center. The center is conducting a number of activities this month to raise awareness during Child Abuse Prevention Month. Lunch will be served at the benefit lunch for $35 and $400 for a corporate table of 10.

For more information on both organizations, you can visit and for the Nebraska Child Advocacy Center.

Kearney Chamber of Commerce Chairman Dies

Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce chairman Mark Benjamin has died according to Chamber Executive Director Marion McDermott.

McDermott released a statement Tuesday saying "Mark was an exceptional man. He was a huge supporter of the Kearney community and of the chamber, donating generously to so many causes. His death is an enormous loss to the city of Kearney."

Benjamin has long been with BD Construction in Kearney. He is survived by his wife Brenda and son Wil.

HEDC and Chamber of Commerce Support 9th Street Closure

A couple of Hastings area business organizations are throwing their support behind a ballot initiative to close a portion of 9th Street.

In a joint news release this week, the Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce and the Hastings Economic Development Corporation say they voted unanimously to support Hastings College's plans to redevelop the one block stretch between Elm and Ash avenues.

HEDC's Executive Director Dave Rippe says from an economic standpoint, the college plays a big role in attracting new business.

"When we have businesses come in and look at our community, more often than not they ask about the health of the college, the enrollment of the college, activities of the college and whether it's growing or expanding," Rippe said.

Opponents argue the closure would cut off some residents from one of the city's major thoroughfares. Ballots will be mailed out to city residents April 22 and need to be returned by May 12. A "no vote" would close the street while a "yes vote" would keep the street open.

Man Accused of Starting Fires Appears in Court

The man accused of starting fires at a Minden pharmacy appeared in court Thursday morning.

34-year-old Aaron Stones is charged with second-degree arson in the case.

Stones is accused of setting a series of fires at Pedley Drug in Minden during the past week. Police located Stones in Kearney, at which time officers discovered powder and chemicals on his clothing and his vehicle.

Stones remains in jail on $250,000 cash bond. His next scheduled court hearing is set for April 16th.

Lawmakers to Debate Medical Marijuana Study for Seizures

Lawmakers will debate a bill allowing patients with seizures to legally access a marijuana derivative under the supervision of University of Nebraska researchers.

A legislative committee voted 6-0 Tuesday to advance a measure creating a pilot study of cannabidiol to gauge its effectiveness treating severe seizures. Cannabidiol has extremely low levels of THC, the compound responsible for the marijuana high.

Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha told the committee the $250,000 project would be funded by the Nebraska Research Initiative, a state-funded grant program administered by the university, rather than state general funds.

Sen. Sue Crawford of Bellevue has introduced the measure and designated it as her priority bill, increasing the odds that senators debate it this year.

Court Issues Stay in Nebraska Same-Sex Marriage Challenge

Nebraska's ban on same-sex marriage will stay in place, at least for now.

A federal appeals court has granted an emergency stay, putting a federal judge's ruling striking down the ban on hold. The ban will remain in effect until an appeal in the case is decided.

Had the appeals court ruled in favor of the lower court, Nebraska would have been ordered to recognize gay marriages and civil unions starting on Monday.

The ACLU of Nebraska said they are disappointed by the 8th Circuit Court's ruling and will continue to challenge the ban.

Kearney Man Accidentally Shoots Himself

A Kearney man is recovering after accidentally shooting himself in the hand Sunday evening.

According to a Kearney Police Department incident report, Dallas Murray was attempting to remove a laser-guide rod from a 9mm handgun, but forgot to remove the magazine and clear the weapon before clearing the jam.

As a result, the weapon discharged striking Murray in the left palm. Murray's injuries were said not to be serious and he's expected to make a full recovery.

Hastings College To Build New Art Center

Hastings College has announced a press conference next week. Constructed in 1908 as the College's library, the current home to Hastings College's Art Department no longer serves the growing program's needs. President Don Jackson and other Hastings College officials are expected to announce the construction of a new art center on campus. The announcement will take place next Tuesday at 4pm at the grey center on the HC campus.

Heineman Grilled at First Testimony Hearing

The chairman of a legislative committee says 162 Nebraska inmates convicted of violent crimes were freed early under a furlough program. The program was revealed at a hearing yesterday as the chairman, Senator Steve Lathrop, questioned Governor Dave Heineman. The Republican governor was subpoenaed to testify under oath as part of an investigation into miscalculated prison sentences and other problems.

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