by WorldTribune Staff, August 16, 2023
A police raid prompted by a story for a local Kansas newspaper that never ran contributed to the death of the paper's 98-year-old co-owner, the woman's son said.
Joan Meyer died not long after the Marion County Record and her home were raided by the entirety of the Marion Police Department, reports say.
Meyer, a long-time writer and editor who co-owned the paper with her son Eric, was subjected to the raid by five officers and two sheriff's deputies on Friday — which caused her to be "stressed beyond her limits and overwhelmed by hours of shock and grief," her son said.
During the raids, police seized vital publishing equipment, including computers and phones.
According to reports, police raided the newspaper's offices, the Meyer home, and the home of one of the newspaper's reporters after a source leaked sensitive documents to the newspaper about local restaurateur Kari Newell that could have resulted in her liquor license being revoked.
Eric Meyer told the Daily Beast: "All the raids appeared to be simultaneous. Basically, all the law enforcement officers on duty in Marion County, Kansas, descended on our offices today and seized our server and computers and personal cellphones of staff members all because of a story we didn't publish."
Joan Meyer could not eat or sleep after the hours-long ordeal during which she was crying while the police raided her home and took her Alexa smart speaker, Eric Meyer said.
When contacted by The Wichita Eagle for a story following the raid, Joan Meyer said: “These are Hitler tactics, and something has to be done.” Marion is a town of 2,000 people just north of Wichita.
At about 1:30 Saturday afternoon, Eric Meyer said he woke his mother to offer breakfast. She said she didn’t feel well and didn’t think she could eat, he said, “and right in the middle of the sentence died.”
“I am perturbed — I carefully chose that word — as all get out about them raiding our office, but what bothers me most is a 98-year-old woman spent her last day on earth . . . feeling under attack by bullies who invaded her house,” The Kansas City Star cited
Eric Meyer as saying.
“How dare they take a 98-year-old woman and have the last day of her life be holy hell,” he added.
Eric Meyer questions the true motivation behind the raids. He said he was involved in ongoing reports about the town's new police chief.
Chief Gideon Cody arrived in town just a few months before the raids. He had worked for the Kansas City Police Department for 24 years before making the move. Meyer told said he was asking questions about how a KCPD Captain making $115,000 ended up in the small Kansas town making about $60,000.
One of the state’s top law enforcement officials appeared to defend the raids.
In a statement Sunday, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation said its director, Tony Mattivi, believed that freedom of the press “is a vanguard of American democracy.” The statement also noted that members of the media are not “above the law.”
“The KBI is entrusted to investigate credible allegations of illegal activity without fear or favor,” the statement said. “In order to investigate and gather facts, the KBI commonly executes search warrants on police departments, sheriff’s offices, and at city, county and state offices. ... No one is above the law, whether a public official or a representative of the media.”
Meyer said he did not publish the story about Newell because he questioned the source and instead he told the police about the information.
Newell then accused the weekly newspaper of illegally getting her personal data, prompting the police action.
According to local reports, at a City Council meeting Aug. 7, Newell alleged her private information was “illegally obtained” by a reporter, who she said then shared the information with Councilwoman Ruth Herbel.
Eric Meyer said the paper did not obtain the information illegally. He said someone sent the paper the information on social media, adding that the paper did not share the information with Herbel or publish a story about it.
Herbel’s home was also searched Friday, with police seizing her cellphone and laptop. Speaking to The Kansas City Star on Sunday, she called the police action “ridiculous.”
In her own statement, Newell said journalists are “not exempt from the laws they blast others for not following.” She described the Record as having a “reputation of contortion.”
The Kansas City Star noted: "Joan Meyer spent each of her almost 10 decades of life in about a six-block radius of Marion, Kan., but she was a worldly woman who had an impactful newspaper career, a vigilance with words, a powerful sense of propriety and equally unflinching opinions."
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