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The Kansas police chief who led the raid on a small newspaper has resigned

The offices of the Marion County Record weekly newspaper sit across the street from the Marion County, Kan., Courthouse, Aug. 21, 2023, in Marion. The police chief who led the August raid on the small weekly newspaper in central Kansas has resigned, just days after he was suspended from his post, a City Council member confirmed Monday, Oct. 2, 2023.
John Hanna
/
AP
The offices of the Marion County Record weekly newspaper sit across the street from the Marion County, Kan., Courthouse, Aug. 21, 2023, in Marion. The police chief who led the August raid on the small weekly newspaper in central Kansas has resigned, just days after he was suspended from his post, a City Council member confirmed Monday, Oct. 2, 2023.

TOPEKA, Kan. — The police chief who led an August raid on a small weekly newspaper in central Kansas has resigned, just days after he was suspended from his post, a City Council member confirmed Monday.

City Council Member Ruth Herbel confirmed to The Associated Press that the mayor announced Chief Gideon Cody's resignation at Monday's City Council meeting. The announcement comes days after Cody was suspended for reasons that were not made public, and weeks after a local prosecutor said that there wasn't sufficient evidence to justify the search of the Marion County Record.

Cody did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment about his resignation. The mayor also did not respond to a text and phone call about it. The public announcement of Cody's resignation was initially reported by the Marion County Record and the Wichita Eagle.

Cody's departure comes after recently obtained body camera video from the search of the newspaper shows that an officer rifled through a desk drawer of a reporter who was investigating its chief. The video then shows the officer beckoning Cody over to look at the documents he'd found. The AP obtained the body camera video Monday through an open records request.

Cody then says, "Keep a personal file on me. I don't care," the video shows. He's briefly seen bending over, apparently to look at the drawer, before the other officer's clipboard blocks the view of what the chief is doing.

Cody obtained warrants for raids on the newspaper's offices, the home of its publisher and Herbel's home by telling a judge that he had evidence of possible identity theft and other potential crimes tied to the circulation of information about a local restaurant owner's driving record. But the newspaper and its attorney have suggested he might have been trying to find out what it had learned about his past as a police captain in Kansas City, Missouri.

"This was all about finding out who our sources were," Bernie Rhodes, the newspaper's attorney, said Monday.

The raids put Marion, a town of 1,900 residents some 150 miles (240 kilometers) southwest of Kansas City, at the center of a fierce national debate over press freedoms and cast an international spotlight on Cody and his tactics. The mayor last week suspended Cody from the chief's job indefinitely; he's facing one federal lawsuit, and others are expected.

The local prosecutor later said that there wasn't sufficient evidence to justify the warrants for the raids. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation then took charge of the probe and hasn't said where it stands.

Eric Meyer, the Record's editor and publisher, blames the stress of the raids for the death the next day of his 98-year-old mother, Joan Meyer, the paper's co-owner.

Cody did not respond earlier Monday to an email and telephone message seeking comment about the raids and the newspaper's view of his motives. But the body camera video shows him repeatedly tellling newspaper staffers that he is investigating how it and Herbel obtained information about the owner of two local restaurants, Kari Newell.

"It grew into a monster, and it's got your name on it," Cody told Record reporter Phyllis Zorn, who had verified information about Newell online, after reading Zorn her rights, one video shows.

The Associated Press obtained copies of the police department's body camera video through an open records request from a Wichita law firm representing Cody in the federal lawsuit. It was filed by Deb Gruver, the Record reporter who'd been looking into Cody's past, who recently left the newspaper.

The video of Cody at Gruver's desk is from the body camera of Marion Police Officer Zach Hudlin. There appeared to be no corresponding video of the same moment from Cody's own camera.

The video shows that officers, led by Cody, searched the Record newsroom after interviewing Zorn, Gruver and the newspaper's business manager, and escorting them out of the building. Hudlin then goes through a drawer in Gruver's desk — after Gruver told the chief she had nothing to do with the reporting on Newell.

Hudlin asks Cody, "You want to look through this desk?"

Cody responds that Hudlin has the right to look through it, and Hudlin replies, "I know. I'm asking, do YOU want to look through this desk?"

After Cody goes to the desk, Hudlin tells him, "You will understand shortly."

It's not clear from the video how closely Cody examined what was in the desk, and the object Hudlin found — described by Rhodes as a file on Cody's time in with the Kansas City, Mo., police department.

Cody retired from the Kansas City police in late April, around the time the Marion City Council interviewed him. He took a big cut in pay: The Kansas City police paid him nearly $116,000 a year, while the Marion job pays $60,000 annually.

Meyer has said Cody knew weeks before the raids that the newspaper was looking into anonymous tips about why Cody retired from the Kansas City police. Meyer said when he asked Cody a question about it, Cody threatened a lawsuit.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press