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G.A.R. Cemetery holds socially distant Memorial Day Ceremony

MIAMI, Okla. – The G.A.R. Cemetery in Miami, Oklahoma hosted an in person event, but social distancing was encouraged.

The event was open to the public, and of course local veterans organizations. G.A.R. Office manager Nancy Bro says more and more veterans take part.

“I think they are very honored,” said Bro. “We get a large group of veterans that participate and show up for the ceremony every year and that number is growing every year.”

This year’s guest speaker was ben Loring. Loring is a former district attorney, Oklahoma State Representative and current Miami city attorney. His sons, David and Ian, served in the U.S. Army.

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Viewers submit photos of area flooding

Local residents share their flood photos with KOAM News. You can submit yours below.

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1 dead; 5 injured in wreck north of Fairland, OK

FAIRLAND, Okla. – A Fairland, Oklahoma woman is dead following a crash in Ottawa County.

Authorities with the Oklahoma State Highway Patrol say it happened Monday just before 6:00 p.m. on OK-125 three miles north of Fairland. They say a vehicle driven by 42-year-old Karin Roach of Fairland crossed the center line and collided with 39-year-old Alicha Smalley of Fairland.

Roach was pronounced dead at the hospital. Roach’s two juvenile passengers and Smalley, along with her two juvenile passengers, were last reported to be in fair condition.

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Oklahoma to offer free summer meals for children

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma State Department of Education announces it will offer free summer meals to kids at nearly 1,400 locations across the state including in the towns of Commerce and Miami. The summer feeding programs will serve two meals a day while kids are out of school on summer break.

“Hunger is one of the more severe roadblocks to the learning process,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister. “A lack of nutrition during the summer months may set up a cycle for poor performance once school begins again. That’s why it’s imperative we ensure appropriate nutrition for our children during these critical months, even though school might not be in session.”

More than 400 sponsors will serve a combination of breakfast and lunch or lunch and a snack at 1,359 sites, including parks, schools, community centers, churches and day camps. Many sites also provide education or recreational programming. Summer meals are eligible for children 18 and under, as well as for people up to 21 years old participating in state education programs for the mentally or physically disabled.

Between May and August 2020, 13.4 million meals were served through the summer feeding program.

To find a feeding site near you, go to meals4kidsok.org.

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Oklahoma House OKs ban on teaching critical race theory

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Oklahoma public school teachers would be prohibited from teaching certain concepts of race and racism under a bill given final approval by the state House on Thursday.

The GOP-controlled House voted 70-19 for the bill that prohibits teaching of so-called “critical race theory.”

“Students are being taught that because they’re a certain race or sex, they’re inherently superior to others or should feel guilty for something that happened in the past,” said Rep. Kevin West, a Moore Republican who sponsored the bill. “We’re trying to set boundaries that we as a state say will not be crossed when we’re teaching these kinds of subjects.”

Among the concepts that would be prohibited are that individuals, by virtue of race or gender, are inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.

Some Republicans expressed concerns that public school children are being indoctrinated into thinking that white people are inherently racist or sexist.

Democrats said the bill was a waste of time and addressed a non-existent problem.

“Instead of focusing on the real issues facing Oklahomans, the majority party continues their attack on anyone in Oklahoma who might not look, think, love, or act like them,” said House Minority Leader Rep. Emily Virgin, a Democrat from Norman.

The bill is similar to measures signed into law in Utah and Arkansas.

The measure would also prevent colleges and universities from requiring students to undergo training on gender or sexual diversity. Virgin, whose district includes the University of Oklahoma, said that provision is particularly troubling because the university is one of several in the state that provides training on gender and sexual diversity and for incoming students.

“That’s what freshman orientations are about: making it clear that this is an inclusive space and inclusive environment and no one should be made to feel that they don’t belong,” Virgin said. “To say in this building that we should prohibit that sort of training goes against the very fabric and very idea of higher education.”

The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt for final approval.

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Crews begin another search for missing Welch girls

PICHER, Okla. – The search continues Tuesday morning for the remains of two Welch, Oklahoma girls who went missing more than 20 years ago.

Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman went missing in 1999. Investigators believe the girls were kidnapped and murdered, but their bodies have never been found. In 2020, the last remaining suspect in the case, Ronnie Busick, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for accessory to murder.

Tuesday at 9:00 a.m., crews will resume their search for the girls near 421 College Street in Picher, Oklahoma.

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Oklahoma Gov. signs bill to crack down on protesters blocking roadways

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signs legislation to increase penalties for blocking roadways. The measure also grants immunity to motorists who kill or injure rioters while trying to flee.

(You can find the bill information here: Oklahoma State Legislature)

The bill makes it a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison and a $5,000 fine for anyone who obstructs a public street during the course of a protest, according to the legislation. House Bill 1674 also states that drivers cannot be held criminally or civilly liable for killing or injuring a protestor if they are “fleeing from a riot,” and there is “reasonable belief” that they are in danger.

The bill comes in the midst of a national conversation around policing, racial bias and the right to demonstration. The move comes months after protests sparked by the death of George Floyd – some of which turned into riots.

There have also been calls for justice after the recent fatal police shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright. The first days of the protests over Wright’s death turned chaotic as some demonstrators threw bottles and launched fireworks and officers deployed tear gas and stun guns.

“We are sending a message today in Oklahoma that rioters who threaten law abiding citizens’ safety will not be tolerated. I remain unequivocally committed to protecting every Oklahoman’s First Amendment right to peacefully protest as well as their right to feel safe in their community,” Stitt said.

A group protesting the legislation briefly gained entry to the House Chambers inside the State Capitol in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, according to KFOR. The session resumed after the protestors left the Capitol building, KFOR reported.

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Commerce man killed after his motorcycle hits a pothole

PICHER, Okla. – An Oklahoma man dies in a wreck after a his motorcycle hits a pothole.

According to Oklahoma Highway Patrol the crash happened Wednesday evening on North Netta Road near the intersection of East 20 Road in the city limits of Picher, Oklahoma. Around 6:35 p.m., 45-year-old Joe Bob Rickey of Commerce, Oklahoma was heading south when he hit a pothole, lost control of his bike and wrecked.

He was pronounced dead at the scene from massive injuries. Rickey was not wearing a helmet.

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Oklahoma seeks coordination on Indigenous peoples cold cases

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday signed into law a bill intended to coordinate state and federal law enforcement efforts when investigating missing or murdered Indigenous people.

The law requires the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to coordinate with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Department of Justice to obtain federal funding and coordinate their efforts to gather information and data about missing and murdered indigenous people in Oklahoma.

The OSBI would create an Office of Liaison to develop protocols for law enforcement response to reports of missing or slain Native Americans and to assist victims’ families in understanding the legal processes.

“Far too often when a Native (American) goes missing or is found murdered their families have to navigate a complex checkerboard of jurisdiction,” Stitt said. “This bill will ensure a more coordinated response” between state and federal agencies.

Known as Ida’s law, it is named for 29-year-old Ida Beard of El Reno, a citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, who disappeared in 2015 and has never been found.

Beard’s cousin, LaRenda Morgan, said the law leaves her with a sense of gratitude.

“I’m just very, very grateful, thankful,” Morgan said. “Thank you so much, all of you, for showing compassion and showing that you care about Indian Country.”

In 2019, then U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced a nationwide plan to address missing and slain Native American women. Missing Native American men and boys were added to the plan in 2020.

The project includes $1.5 million to hire specialized coordinators in 11 U.S. attorney’s offices across the U.S. with significant Indian Country caseloads, which include Oklahoma. The coordinators are to develop protocols for a better law enforcement response to missing persons cases.

U.S. attorneys and tribal leaders in Oklahoma and Montana last year announced they will participate in pilot projects to better coordinate investigative efforts surrounding cases of missing or murdered Indigenous peoples.

An Associated Press investigation in 2018 found that nobody knows precisely how many cases of missing and murdered Native American women happen nationwide because many go unreported, others aren’t well documented and no government database specifically tracks them.

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Oklahoma Senate sends 3 anti-abortion bills to governor

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – The Oklahoma Senate has given final approval to several anti-abortion bills.

The Senate on Tuesday passed bills requiring physicians who perform abortions to be certified in obstetrics, adding performing abortions to the list of unprofessional conduct by doctors and prohibiting abortions if a fetal heartbeat is detected. All three bills were passed mostly along party lines, with Democrats in opposition.

The measures now head to Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, who has previously said he would sign any anti-abortion bills sent to him by the Legislature.