A suspect in the fatal shootings of three people outside separate Jewish community centres in the Kansas City area on Sunday has been identified as Frazier Glenn Cross, a Johnson County jail official said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center says the 73-year-old suspect, who also uses the last name of Miller, has long been an outspoken white supremacist and was once a “grand dragon” of the Ku Klux Klan.
But police said it was too early to determine a motive.
“We know it’s a vicious act of violence. Obviously two Jewish facilities, one might make that assumption,” Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass told a news conference, when asked if the attack was an anti-Semitic act.
The FBI has been called in to help with the investigation, he said.
Cross is being held at a Johnson County detention centre on suspicion of premeditated murder in the first degree and was scheduled to appear in court on Monday afternoon, according to jail records.
The shootings started around 1pm at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park, Kansas. Two men were shot in a parking lot outside the centre, one dying at the scene and the other at a hospital later, police said.
The two male victims were identified as Reat Griffin Underwood, 14, a high school freshman, and his grandfather, Dr. William Corporon, a family member said in a statement.
Both were members of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.
The shooter then drove a mile (1.6 km) away to the Village Shalom retirement community, which offers nursing services, and fatally shot a woman there, Douglass said.
Two other people were targeted but not hit, the police chief said, adding that the suspect was taken into custody in the parking lot of a nearby elementary school. He said it appeared the shooter used a shotgun and possibly other firearms.
Douglass said he could not confirm reports from witnesses 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.”
US President Barack Obama offered his condolences soon after news of the shootings broke.
“While we do not know all of the details ... the initial reports are heartbreaking,” Obama said in a statement.
The Jewish Community Center, which is also the site of Kansas City’s only Jewish community day school, was a hub of activity on Sunday. Several youth groups were meeting, some people were auditioning in the facility’s theatre for a music production, and the academy was preparing for a school dance. Many non-Jewish people regularly join in the facility’s activities.
“It’s pretty traumatic,” said David Wainestock, who rushed to the Jewish Community Center to retrieve his 16-year-old daughter, who had been among the people temporarily locked down at the facility.
“The thought of something like that happening is terrifying,” Wainestock said. “In the Midwest we think we’re safe from this type of thing. But I guess it doesn’t make any difference now.”
The Kansas City area has a Jewish community of about 20,000 people.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-04-14