Shootings at Jewish centers in Kansas leave 3 dead – USA TODAY
A shotgun-wielding man opened fire at two Jewish sites in suburban Kansas City on Sunday, killing three people — including a teenager and his grandfather — and shocking a peaceful community.
Police arrested Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, of Aurora, Mo., and booked him into the Johnson County, Kan., jail Sunday evening, charging him with premeditated murder, according to the booking report.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Cross — whose real name is Frazier Glenn Miller — is a former “grand dragon” of the Ku Klux Klan with a long history of running illegal paramilitary organizations and intimidating minorities.
The shootings occurred at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City, which is in Overland Park, and at Village Shalom, a retirement home nearby, Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass said at a news conference.
“We’re investigating it as a hate crime. We’re investigating it as a murder,” said Douglass, flanked by a representative of the Kansas City FBI office and prosecutors.
The shootings also occurred the on the eve of Passover, a holiday significant in Judaism.
President Obama called the shootings “horrific” and said he was staying in close contact with federal, state and local law enforcement officials to provide additional resources, if needed. “While we do not know all of the details surrounding today’s shooting, the initial reports are heartbreaking,” he said in a statement.
Miller first went to the community center and opened fire at two people in the parking lot in front of the Lewis and Shirley White Theatre in the back area of the center, Douglass said. The gunfire erupted at the community center as hundreds of high school singers from across the metro area were readying to audition for the KC SuperStar singing scholarship contest and actors were rehearsing for a production of To Kill a Mockingbird, according to The Kansas City Star.
One of the hopefuls for a singing scholarship was 14-year-old Reat Griffin Underwood, who was driven to the tryouts by his grandfather, William Lewis Corporon, 69. Both were gunned down in the parking lot. Corporon died at the scene, while Reat was rushed to an area hospital, where he died of his wounds, police said.
Corporon practiced medicine in Oklahoma from 1976 through 2003, when he and his wife moved to the Overland Park area to be closer to their grandchildren, according to a family statement. Reat was a freshman at Blue Valley High School who participated in debate, theater and “had a beautiful voice,” it said. “Reat had a passion for life, and touched so many people in his young age,” the statement said.
Minutes after the JCC shooting, police received a call of shots fired at Village Shalom. One woman was found dead there, also in the parking lot, Douglass said. Police have not released her name.
Miller fired at two other people but missed and they were unharmed, he said. The gunman used a shotgun to kill his victims at the Jewish Community Center and may have used a handgun when firing at the targets he missed, Douglass said. He said he didn’t know which weapon was used at the retirement home.
After the shootings, police blanketed the area and found Miller in the parking lot of a nearby elementary school, where he was arrested. Investigators are looking at several things found in the suspect’s car that could be used as evidence, Douglass said. He would not say what those items were.
Before being driven off to jail, Miller began ranting while in police custody, police said. A TV news video shows the suspect yelling what appears to be “Heil Hitler!” from the backseat of a police car.
There were no known prior threats to the community center and it did not appear the shooter knew his victims, Douglass said.
“This was, unfortunately, totally unexpected,” Douglass said. “If we had the slightest hint it was going to happen, we would have done everything we could to stop it.”
On its Facebook page, the Jewish Community Center offered condolences to the victims’ families and reiterated that no shots were fired inside the community center. The center was going to be closed Monday.
“Again, our hearts go out to all those affected and touched by this terrible tragedy,” it said.
Overland Park is a community of nearly 180,000 that averages two homicides a year, Overland Park Police spokesman Gary Mason said. It has a large Jewish population and no noticeable racial or religious tension to speak of, he said.
“Everybody’s in shock,” he said. “These are things we don’t usually see.”