Haysville legislator says he was hit, robbed

02/13/2013 1:30 PM

02/13/2013 10:58 PM

Haysville Republican Rep. Joe Edwards reported being hit in the head and robbed while entering his Topeka hotel room after watching the State of the Union address on Tuesday night.

But a hotel security report says video footage and electronic key lock records show Edwards entered his room at the Ramada Convention Center Downtown Topeka alone and that no assault occurred as he walked into the room.

Capitol police are working with Topeka police to determine what led to Edwards being hospitalized Wednesday afternoon with a concussion.

Police reports about the incident weren’t available Wednesday.

Edwards, 58, a freshman lawmaker and evangelist, said he had just finished watching the State of the Union address in his room Tuesday when he realized he had left some groceries, a humidifier and his coat in his vehicle in the parking lot of the Ramada, a workweek home to dozens of lawmakers from across the state.

In a telephone interview from his hospital bed, Edwards told The Eagle he was putting his key card in the exterior hotel room door, which opened to the outdoors, when someone hit him hard in the back of the head and pushed him inside.

“He knocked me loony,” he said. “It just flat messed me up.”

Edwards said the robber told him to remain quiet.

“About that time I passed out,” he said.

When he woke up around 1 a.m., Edwards said he saw groceries and his coat on the floor. He realized $260 in cash was missing from his wallet, although his credit cards remained.

“I kept thinking I’d had a bad dream,” he said.

Edwards said he called hotel security for help, and he said he understood they’d make a police report based on their internal report.

Topeka police initially told The Eagle on Wednesday afternoon that they had no report of such an incident. But Capitol police Sgt. Terry Golightley confirmed later that Capitol police met with Edwards and are investigating the incident with Topeka police and Ramada security officials.

A report provided by Ramada officials says that, after reviewing video of Edward’s hotel door and interviewing hotel staff, there’s no sign of anyone else entering the exterior door of the room with Edwards. They have no video footage of the interior door, which opens into the hotel, but their records show no one used a key card to enter the interior door Tuesday evening.

Edwards said the security guard he talked to told him hotel video footage wouldn’t cover his room’s exterior door.

The hotel report says Edwards called the front desk about 1:40 a.m. and reported a possible kidnapping and requested security at his room. The clerk radioed a security officer who went to check it out, the report says.

“Mr. Edwards did not indicate how long it was before he called the (front desk),” the security officer said in the report. “I also was wondering why he hadn’t called 911.”

The security officer said Edwards told him nothing had been stolen. Edwards said he told the guard about the money missing from his wallet.

“I also asked him if he would like me to call the police and make a report,” the guard said in the hotel’s report. “He said quote, ‘What good would that do? Besides I’m a legislator and don’t need that.’ I also inquired if he would like a doctor to check him out and he once again stated, ‘I am a legislator and didn’t need that kind of publicity.’ ”

Edwards said that didn’t happen and that the security guard told Edwards he would file a report with hotel management and that management would file a police report. Calling police would only bring bad press to the hotel and hurt business, Edwards recalled the guard saying.

“Something is funny here,” Edwards said in a follow-up interview to discuss the hotel report. “Somebody did not want bad press.”

After talking with hotel security early Wednesday, Edwards said he woke up again around 6 a.m. and went to the Capitol. He was in the House chamber when they met at 11 a.m., but he decided to get checked out by a doctor later.

Edwards said he was diagnosed with a grade three concussion and would be in the Stormont-Vail hospital in Topeka overnight.

Fellow lawmakers who talked to Edwards warned colleagues about the incident because many lawmakers stay at the Ramada.

“It kind of makes me nervous,” said Wichita Republican Rep. Phil Hermanson.

Brett Oetting, director of operations for Parrish Hotels, which owns and operates the Ramada, said the Ramada has security officers working from sundown to sun up and that the hotel is the most secure in Topeka.

“We take guest safety very seriously,” he said.

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