News Around the State

Man charged with fatally shooting police officer

PIKEVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Police have charged a man in the fatal shooting of a Kentucky police officer.

Kentucky State Police spokesman Jody Sims says 55-year-old John Russell Hall of Pikeville was charged Thursday with murder of a police officer and possession of a handgun by a convicted felon after being taken into custody that morning.

Hall is charged with killing Pikeville Police Officer Scotty Hamilton. The officer was gunned down Tuesday night while patrolling the Hurricane Creek area with a state trooper.

Police said they came upon a suspicious vehicle, spoke with occupants, and then began canvassing the area for other possible suspects when gunfire erupted. The trooper later found the officer with a fatal gunshot wound.

News outlets report Hamilton had been with the police department for 12 years and is survived by a wife and daughter.

Jobless rates drop in 119 Ky. counties

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky officials say unemployment rates fell in 119 counties across the state between January 2017 and January 2018. Only Carter County had a higher jobless rate during that time.

The Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics says Woodford County had the state’s lowest jobless rate at 2.9 percent.

Fayette County was next lowest at 3 percent, followed by Oldham County at 3.1 percent. Marion and Scott counties had 3.2 percent rates. Campbell and Shelby counties had 3.3 percent rates.

Magoffin County had the state’s highest unemployment rate at 15.2 percent.

It was followed by Carter County at 13 percent, Elliott County at 11.5 percent and Lewis County at 10.4 percent. Menifee County was next at 9.8 percent, followed by Bath County at 8.6 percent and Lawrence County at 8.4 percent.

Ky. House votes to put mental health workers in schools

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Seeking to prevent school shootings, the Kentucky House of Representatives has passed a bill that would require any district with enough money to employ one mental health professional for every 1,500 students.

Key language in House bill 604 says “as funds are available,” which means lawmakers did not give the districts money to hire the mental health workers, and they will only be held to the requirement if they can afford it. Many districts in Kentucky would likely have trouble hiring the workers because of budget shortfalls.

The bill is in response to the January shooting at Marshall County High School that killed two students and injured more than a dozen others. House budget chairman Steven Rudy said he hopes lawmakers can provide districts funds to hire the workers in the state budget.

State child marriage ban headed to governor’s desk

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A bill that would ban most child marriages in Kentucky is now headed to the governor’s desk.

The state House of Representatives unanimously approved Senate bill 48 on Friday. It would ban any marriage in Kentucky if one of the parties is 16 or younger. Seventeen-year-olds can still get married, but they would need approval from a judge and their parents.

The bill says 17-year-olds would have to prove their “maturity and capacity for self-sufficiency” by having a job and housing for at least three months plus a high school diploma or equivalent degree or job training certificate.

Right now, Kentucky has no minimum age limit for marriage. Children younger than 16 can get married with a judge’s permission as long as one of the parties is pregnant.

Kentucky National Guard aviators deploying to Middle East

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky National Guard is holding a farewell ceremony for aviators deploying to the Middle East.

A statement from Maj. Steve Martin says Friday’s ceremony is being held at the Boone National Guard Center in Frankfort for soldiers of the fixed-wing unit, Detachment 4, Company C., 2-245th Aviation.

Officials say the aviators will fly C-12 “Huron” fixed-wing airplanes in support of central command and support coalition forces throughout the region.

It is the fourth time the unit has deployed since 2001.

Lumberjack beaver chews tree, turns out lights

PIPPA PASSES, Ky. (AP) — An electric utility says a beaver had gnawed a tree that fell on a power line and caused an outage affecting roughly 1,000 customers in Kentucky.

Kentucky Power says in a statement that the customers’ electricity was out for roughly half an hour Thursday after the tree fell near Pippa Passes in Knott County. The company’s reliability manager, Mike Lasslo, says animals cause outages often but that snakes, birds and squirrels are more frequent culprits than beavers.

Kentucky Power says animal guards have been placed atop transformers and also behind fencing at some substations to protect equipment and limit outages, but that not much can be done to deter beavers.

Kentucky Power provides service to more than 160,000 customers in 20 of the state’s eastern counties. Its headquarters are in Ashland.

‘Godfather of Grass’ sentenced to 57 months in prison

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The “Godfather of Grass,” who fled to Canada after being indicted on federal drug charges and spent eight years on the run, was sentenced Thursday to almost five years in federal prison.

U.S. District Judge Charles R. Simpson III in Louisville sentenced John Robert “Johnny” Boone, 74, formerly of Marion County, Kentucky, to 57 months. Prosecutors said he pleaded guilty in December to a single count, admitting that he conspired to possess, grow and distribute more than 1,000 marijuana plants at an operation near Springfield. Boone watered and fertilized the plants and concealed them on a farm near his home, prosecutors said.

Kentucky State Polices spotted the plants during an aerial operation in May 2008, according to the criminal complaint.

Boone was a fugitive until he was arrested in Canada in December 2016. He was deported last April.

Boone was convicted in the 1980s and spent a decade in prison for what prosecutors called a massive marijuana syndicate. They said he was head of a multistate marijuana operation known as the “Cornbread Mafia,” which had 29 farms in Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas and Wisconsin.

Boone was featured on the TV show “America’s Most Wanted,” spurring a Facebook page called Run, Johnny, Run. He has been described as a tattooed Santa Claus.

Ky. man gets 35 years for killing man in Iowa

(AP) — A Kentucky man has been imprisoned in western Iowa for manslaughter and attempted murder.

The Daily Nonpareil reports that 36-year-old Arthur Crum expressed his regrets Thursday at his sentencing hearing in Council Bluffs. He was given 35 years and told to pay $150,000 restitution to the family of Larry Scott. Crum had pleaded guilty to the charges.

Scott was shot to death on Aug. 30, 2016. Crum, of Mount Sterling, Kentucky, has said Scott had asked him that morning for money to buy drugs. He said Scott then pulled a gun, which they struggled over.

Crum said the gun went off, and then he took the gun from Scott and shot him several times before fleeing.

Prosecutor: Police justified in shooting of homeless man

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky prosecutor says police were justified in fatally shooting a homeless man they found in a vacant, boarded-up home last year.

The Courier Journal reported Friday that Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine said the Louisville officers will not faces any charges in the death of 32-year-old William Young Jr.

Wine said footage from the officers’ body cameras show Young attacked them with a weapon as soon as they found him. He said Young did not respond to Louisville Metro Police officers, who were searching the building after a report of a burglary.

“It is clear from the video recordings and statements from the LMPD officers and civilians that the intruder, William Young, was given ample opportunity to surrender himself to the officers or at least announce his presence,” Wine wrote in a letter to the police department.

At the time of the shooting, police said Young advanced toward an officer with a skewer-like item before he was shot. In Wine’s review of the case, he said the officer who shot Young was poked with a 12-inch (30-centimeter) pointed metal pole near his collarbone.

Young’s autopsy report showed he was shot 10 times and tested positive for methamphetamine.

Young’s mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city. Her attorney, Gregory Belzley, said even if criminal charges aren’t warranted, he believes the confrontation with the “frightened, mentally-ill homeless man” was unnecessary and could have been avoided.