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by Andrew DeMillo, AP

(Little Rock) (AP) – Opponents of a new Arkansas law preventing local governments from extending anti-discrimination protections to gays and lesbians have been given approval to begin gathering signatures to put the measure before voters next year.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge on Thursday approved the wording of a proposed referendum on the new law, which is set to take effect in late July. Her certification is required to begin gathering the roughly 51,000 signatures needed to put the referendum on the 2016 ballot.

The law approved earlier this year prohibits local government from banning discrimination on a basis not covered in state law. Arkansas’ anti-discrimination laws don’t include sexual orientation or gender identity.

(St. Louis) (AP) – The remains of a Missouri soldier killed more than four decades ago when his Army helicopter crashed in Cambodia during the Vietnam War are back home.

The remains of Rodney Griffin arrived Thursday morning at St. Louis’ Lambert International Airport, and Patriot Guard motorcyclists led the hearse back toward Griffin’s native mid-Missouri.

The Centralia man was 21 in 1970 when his helicopter was shot down.

In February, Griffin’s relatives were told that his remains had been found in a grave near the crash site, where two other men killed in the crash also were identified.

Griffin’s public funeral will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Centralia High School, from which Griffin graduated in 1968.

(Jefferson City) (AP) – Missouri lawmakers have passed a measure granting $84 million more in basic aid to K-12 public schools.

But the spending plan passed Thursday by the House and Senate still falls nearly $400 million short of what’s needed to provide full funding.

Also passed Thursday was a measure that ups the amount of performance funding for the state’s colleges and universities. The $12 million increase is 1.3 percent more than what schools received this year, but is less than the more than $27 million in additional funding that senators wanted.

The bills now head to Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, who can veto spending for specific programs or services.

by Jim Salter, AP

Lesley McSpadden, the mother of Michael Brown, listens during a news conference Thursday, April 23, 2015, in Clayton, Mo. The parents of Michael Brown filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Thursday against the city of Ferguson, Mo., over the fatal shooting of their son by a white police officer, a confrontation that sparked a protest movement across the United States. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Lesley McSpadden, the mother of Michael Brown, listens during a news conference Thursday, April 23, 2015, in Clayton, Mo. The parents of Michael Brown filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Thursday against the city of Ferguson, Mo., over the fatal shooting of their son by a white police officer, a confrontation that sparked a protest movement across the United States. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

(Clayton) (AP) – Michael Brown’s parents filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the city of Ferguson on Thursday, opening a new chapter in the legal battle over the shooting that killed their son and sparked a national protest movement about the way police treat blacks.

Attorneys for Brown’s parents promised the case would bring to light new forensic evidence and raise doubts about the police version of events. Some of that evidence, they said, had been overlooked in previous investigations.

“The narrative of the law enforcement all across the country for shooting unarmed people of color is the same: That they had no other choice,” attorney Benjamin Crump said. “But time and time again, the objective evidence contradicts the standard police narrative.”

Brown’s parents, Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr., attended a news conference announcing the lawsuit outside the St. Louis County Courthouse. A tear rolled down McSpadden’s cheek as Crump spoke.

“It’s all part of the journey,” she said.

The case had been expected for months. If it comes to trial, the lawsuit could force a full review of all the evidence in the shooting and bring key witnesses to be questioned in open court, including Darren Wilson, the white officer who shot Brown. Wilson and former Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson were also named in the complaint.

Civil cases generally require a lower standard of proof than criminal cases. Jurors must base their decision on a preponderance of evidence, not proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the standard needed to convict in a criminal trial.

A Ferguson city spokesman declined to comment, citing the pending litigation. Messages left for an attorney for Wilson were not immediately returned.

Jackson declined to discuss the lawsuit, telling The Associated Press that he was unaware of it until a reporter told him and had not had a chance to review the allegations.

Brown, 18, was unarmed and walking in the street with a friend on Aug. 9 when Wilson told them to move to the sidewalk.

The lawsuit alleges that Wilson told the two to “get the (expletive) out of the street,” causing tension to escalate. Without the “unnecessary and unwarranted profane language,” the encounter would have been “uneventful,” it says.

Moments later, Wilson and Brown became involved in a scuffle through the open window of Wilson’s police vehicle. Wilson shot Brown after the scuffle spilled into the street.

Some witnesses said Brown appeared to be trying to surrender, but Wilson said Brown was moving toward him aggressively, forcing him to shoot.

The attorneys said they planned to cite Wilson’s own initial comments to a supervisor in which, according to the lawsuit, he said Brown had his arms raised moments before the shooting.

Brown’s death led to weeks of sometimes-violent demonstrations and spawned a national “Black Lives Matter” movement seeking changes in how police deal with minorities. In the end, local and federal authorities ruled that the shooting was justified.

In the months since Brown was killed, unarmed blacks have been fatally shot by police in Wisconsin, California, Oklahoma, South Carolina and elsewhere. Unlike Brown’s death, some of those shootings were caught on video.

A St. Louis County grand jury and the U.S. Justice Department declined to prosecute Wilson, who resigned in November. But the Justice Department released a scathing report citing racial bias and racial profiling in the Ferguson Police Department and in a profit-driven municipal court system that frequently targeted blacks.

After the report, several city officials resigned, including Jackson, the city manager and a municipal judge. The municipal court clerk was fired for racist emails, and two police officers resigned over racist emails of their own.

Crump and another attorney for the family, Daryl Parks, said the lawsuit will include evidence that was ignored by the grand jury and the Justice Department, including bullets allegedly fired by Wilson found in buildings.

Civil suits often unfold much differently than criminal matters.

Two decades ago, football star O.J. Simpson was acquitted of the slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. But a civil jury awarded the Brown and Goldman families $33.5 million in wrongful-death damages.

The family of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed man killed by New York police in 1999, settled with the city for $3 million in 2004 after filing a $60 million lawsuit. The city did not admit any wrongdoing. The settlement came after four officers indicted in his shooting were acquitted of second-degree murder and reckless endangerment.

Wrongful-death lawsuits have been filed in other recent high-profile cases, too.

In New York, the family of Eric Garner is seeking $75 million in damages. Garner, who was black and had asthma, died in July after a white plainclothes officer applied what a medical examiner determined was a chokehold. Garner was accused of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes on a city street.

(Little Rock) (AP) – The Governor’s Council on Common Core Review is meeting at the state Capital for the first of several planned daylong meetings on Arkansas education standards.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson spoke briefly Thursday to the task force that he appointed earlier this year to examine whether the Common Core education standards are a good fit for the state. Common Core standards are math and English benchmarks adopted by a majority of states that describe what students are expected to know after completing each grade.

Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin heads the task force and said the group will examine the English and math standards in addition to standardized testing and student data privacy.

The council will hold several hearings during the next few months.

Hutchinson is asking for initial recommendations this summer.

(MSU-West Plains photo)

(MSU-West Plains photo)

(West Plains) – A new director of the West Plains Civic Center has been named by the city.

The West Plains City Council unanimously voted to hire Emily Gibson for the position during a closed session at their meeting on Monday, April 20. Gibson comes to the city from Missouri State University-West Plains as the theater and events coordinator. She is a lifelong resident of West Plains and has worked a variety of jobs, including event coordination and management, public relations, and education. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and a master’s degree in teaching from Missouri State University.

Gibson will begin her duties as director of the civic center on June 1.

(ORN photo)

(ORN photo)

(West Plains) – An animal is being named as a possible cause of a Thursday car fire in West Plains.

The call came in to the West Plains Fire Department around 10:45 AM of smoke billowing out of a car parked at Bradford Pharmacy off of Kentucky Ave. in West Plains. Crews arrived shortly afterward and extinguished the fire, which caused extensive damage to the vehicle.

At this time, the official cause of the fire is unknown, however, crews at the scene told Ozark Radio News that a rat was seen falling out from underneath the car shortly after they arrived, and that the animal may have caused the fire by chewing through wires near the engine block.

Thankfully, no injuries were reported.

(ORN photo)

(ORN photo)

(West Plains) – A West Plains resident was killed Wednesday afternoon after a two-vehicle accident near West Plains.

The accident happened at 4:35 PM a mile north of the Junction Hill School on Route 17, when the southbound pick-up truck driven by 32-year-old Kevin Stephens of Pomona crossed the center line and hit a van driven by 32-year-old David Riley of West Plains head-on.

Riley was pronounced dead at the scene. Stephens was taken by air ambulance to Cox Hospital in Springfield with serious injuries.

The death marks fatality number 4 for Troop G for this year, compared to 4 at this time last year.

Tammy Hathcock (Drury photo)

Tammy Hathcock (Drury photo)

(West Plains) – The investigation into a shooting that took place near West Plains last week continues, according to Howell County Sheriff Mike Shannon.

He spoke with Ozark Radio News and told us that a number of agencies have been working on the case, and thanked them for their assistance:

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Many people are confused as to why information on a suspect or motive hasn’t been released. Sheriff Shannon says that it’s a matter of playing their cards right:

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The incident happened April 13 at the victim’s home on CR 6300, where an unknown assailant shot Tammy Hathcock, an employee with Drury University in Thayer and West Plains, multiple times. Hathcock was able to get into her vehicle and drive to Fairview School for help. Hathcock was taken to a hospital in Springfield for treatment.

(West Plains photo)

(West Plains photo)

(West Plains) – The public is invited to honor five national celebrities that were either born or raised in West Plains at an unveiling of a mural and museum during an official ceremony at the the Ozark Heritage Welcome Center on south Highway 63 West Plains at 1 PM Wednesday, May 13.

The “West Plains Wall of Fame” project, supported by the tourism board and the city, is meant to pay homage to the contributions of Jan Howard, Porter Wagoner, Preacher Roe, Bill Virdon and Dick Van Dyke and their impacts on the national stage.

A mural painted by local artist Michael McClure depicts the five local legends performing in their primes on the south interior wall of the welcome center, while two glass display cases will showcase artifacts from their careers. City officials say many of the items have been donated personally by the individuals or from family members.

The ceremony is expected to include some special dignitaries, including Jan Howard and Bill Virdon, along with other family members and friends.

For more information, people may contact the Welcome Center at 417-256-8835.