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Kansas lawmaker calls for hearings on ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws following Wichita teen’s death

J. Schafer
Kansas Public Radio/File photo

Kansas Rep. Jo Ella Hoye is calling for hearings into the law in hopes of passing a bill this session clarifying its intent.

Stand Your Ground laws in Kansas could be getting a second look this legislative session.

The law is under renewed scrutiny after Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett cited it in his decision to not press charges in the death of 17-year-old Cedric Lofton, who died while in custody.

Kansas Rep. Jo Ella Hoye is calling for hearings into the law in hopes of passing a bill this session clarifying its intent.

“Right now Kansans, they don’t have the right to justice in many of these situations,” she said, “and there … are too many tragedies, and we need to come to the table and hear those stories.”

In Lofton’s case, Bennett said he wouldn’t press criminal charges in the teen’s death, saying the workers at the county’s juvenile center were acting in self-defense, and following policy, when Lofton was killed.

“Should not have happened, but these folks are protected by Kansas law,” Bennett said at a news conference last week. “Same as anyone else would be, and that’s where I’m at.”

Hoye, a Democrat, said that that was not the original intent of the bill.

“The way this bill stands, it’s dangerous,” she said.

Before her election in 2020, Hoye was a volunteer for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, according to her website. Hoye represents parts of northeast Kansas.

She said the legislature needs to hold hearings on the state’s current law with testimony from district attorneys, as well as families who have been affected by the law. Hoye said it’s likely a bill could pass this session, but that can take some time.

“We don’t want to re-create something else that doesn’t work either,” she said.

Gov. Laura Kelly said in a statement earlier this week that she looked forward to hearing the legislature’s recommendations on the law. Kelly has asked the Department for Children and Families to investigate Lofton’s case and determine whether the foster care system responded properly.

“This situation is tragic, and we must find a way to ensure something like this never happens again,” Kelly said in the statement.

Elected officials in Wichita and Sedgwick County are also looking at policy changes through a joint taskforce to change policies at the city and county level.

Kylie Cameron (she/her) is a general assignment reporter for KMUW. Before KMUW, Kylie was a digital producer at KWCH, and served as editor in chief of The Sunflower at Wichita State. You can follow her on Twitter @bykyliecameron.