Former Klansman kills three in Kansas City Jewish center
Witnesses say gunman singled out Jews, yelled 'Heil Hitler' upon arrest; Netanyahu sends condolences to victims' families.
Three people, including a 14-year-old boy, were killed on Sunday at two different Jewish community facilities in the Kansas City area, and a man was in custody as police investigated whether the shootings were anti-Semitic, authorities said. The suspected shooter, who was arrested by local police, was identified as a former Klu-Klux Klan leader from neighboring Missouri.
The shootings started around 1 PM at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park. Two male victims were shot at a parking lot outside the center, where auditions for a musical were taking place. One died at the scene and the other later at a hospital.
The shooter then drove a mile away to Village Shalom, a retirement community connected to the center, where he shot and killed a woman.
The two male victims were identified as Reat Griffin Underwood, 14, a high school freshman, and his grandfather, Dr. William Corporon, family member Will Corporon said in a statement. Both were members of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood.
Underwood was an Eagle Scout and loved camping and hunting with family, Corporon said. Dr. Corporon had moved to the Kansas City area in 2003 to be closer to his grandchildren.
Two people were shot at, but not hit, the police chief said, adding that it appeared the shooter used a shotgun and possibly other types of guns.
The suspect was taken into custody in the parking lot of a nearby elementary school, Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass told a news conference.
A Johnson County jail official identified the shooter as that Frazier Glenn Cross as the suspect in Sunday's attacks near Kansas City. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the case publicly.
Public records show that the 73-year-old Cross also goes by the last name Miller. He was being held at a Johnson County detention center on suspicion of premeditated murder in the first degree and was scheduled to appear in court on Monday afternoon, jail records show.
The Southern Poverty Law Center says he has long been an outspoken white supremacist and was once a "grand dragon" of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
The group reports on its website that it spoke to Miller's wife, Marge, by phone Sunday and she said police told her that her husband had been arrested in the attacks.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent his condolences to the families of the victims. "We condemn the murder which all signs show, was perpetrated out of hatred for Jews." The prime minister added that Israel is committed to fight against anti-Semitism.
The FBI has been called in
Police said it was too early to determine a motive, but a leading anti-hate group said the suspect arrested in the shooting was a longtime anti-Semite.
"We know it's a vicious act of violence. Obviously two Jewish facilities, one might make that assumption," Douglass said. The FBI has been called in to help with the investigation, he said.
Douglass said he could not confirm reports that the suspect had yelled "Heil Hitler" while in the back of the squad car after being taken into custody.
"The suspect in the back of a car made several statements," Douglass said. "We are sifting through and vetting those for accuracy, number one, and number two we are looking at them for their evidentiary value."
A shotgun was used, he said, and investigators were trying to determine whether a handgun and assault-style rifle also were involved.
U.S. President Barack Obama offered condolences to the shooting victims and their loved ones in a statement issued by the White House on Sunday evening. "Michelle and I offer our thoughts and prayers to the families and friends who lost a loved one and everyone affected by this tragedy."
Attack comes day before Passover
The Jewish Community Center, which is also the site of Kansas City's only Jewish community day school, the Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy, was a hub of activity on Sunday. Several youth groups were meeting, some people were auditioning in the facility's theater for an upcoming music production, people were exercising in the center's gym, and the academy was preparing for a school dance.
Rabbi Herbert Mandl, who works with the Overland Park police, told CNN that the gunman asked people if they were Jewish.
“If you answered yes, you were shot,” Mandl said.
“My son and I were walking into the Jewish Community Center this afternoon for an umpire clinic, around the west side, and all of the sudden we heard a gunshot, a pretty loud gunshot,” Mike Metcalf, an area resident, told Fox News. “I turned to look to my right and I can see a man standing outside a car with a shotgun, what to me looked like a shotgun, and there was somebody laying on the ground.”
The assisted-living center remained under lockdown following the attack, which came a day before the start of Passover on Monday evening. A police officer outside the B'nai Jehudah congregation said units have been sent to other Jewish facilities as a precaution.
"Everyone participating in JCC programming has been released to their homes," the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City said in a post published on its Facebook page. "Our hearts go out to the families who have suffered loss on this tragic day. Our heartfelt gratitude as well to all those in Kansas City and around the world who have expressed sympathy, concern and support."
Barak Ravid contributed to this report.
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