OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Three people were shot to death Sunday at two Jewish community facilities here after a man in his 70s opened fire, authorities said. The gunman was believed to be a longtime white supremacist.
As the suspect was taken into custody, he appeared to shout "Heil Hitler" as a local TV crew filmed his arrest.
The shootings took place on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Passover, which begins at sundown Monday.
Although officials refused to identify the suspect, a Johnson County sheriff's database reported that Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, had been arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder Sunday and was being held without bail. According to court records, Cross is a name used by Frazier Glenn Miller Jr.
Miller is an avowed white supremacist who "has been in the movement all his life," the Southern Poverty Law Center said in a statement. The center, which tracks white supremacists, said it had confirmed the link between Cross and Miller in a phone conversation with Cross’ wife.
The wife told the center that she had last spoken to her husband when he was gambling at a casino in Missouri on Saturday, and that law enforcement arrived at her door Sunday night to tell her he had been arrested in the shootings.
The gunfire erupted about 1 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and at the Village Shalom senior living facility, officials said. The buildings are separated by a major commercial street in this wealthy suburb of Kansas City.
At a news conference, Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass described the shooter as a white man in his 70s who was not from Kansas and didn’t appear to know his victims.
Douglass said dispatchers received the first call about “several shots” fired at 1:03 p.m., where two males were fatally injured in a parking lot behind the Jewish Community Center. The building’s back doors took “substantial damage,” but it was not clear whether the gunman was intentionally aiming for the doors or whether he missed his targets, Douglass said.
The gunman then apparently traveled a short distance to Village Shalom and killed a woman in a parking lot, Douglass said. Two police officers later found the suspect in the parking lot of a nearby elementary school and arrested him “without incident,” the police chief said.
The FBI has been called into the case, the agency confirmed. It was not confirmed Sunday night whether hate-crime charges would be sought.
President Obama called the shooting “horrific.” In a statement, he said, “Michelle and I offer our thoughts and prayers to the families and friends who lost a loved one and everyone affected by this tragedy. ... While we do not know all of the details surrounding today’s shooting, the initial reports are heartbreaking.”
Miller, who founded the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1980s, has an extensive file at the SPLC. He ultimately served three years in prison after being indicted on weapons and robbery charges – in addition to plotting the assassination of the SPLC’s founder, Morris Dees, according to the center’s records. He avoided a significant prison sentence in exchange for testifying against 14 other white supremacist leaders.
Miller recently ran for the U.S. Senate in Missouri, provoking consternation among voters when his ads urged whites to “take the country back” from Jews and “mud people.”
His personal website contained many of the usual paranoid trappings of white supremacist thought: The site features hundreds of words about a Jewish conspiracy to control mass media and the world, and urges an uprising.
“It is my fondish wish, that one day in future, my spirit will rise from my grave, and you will all know that I was right ... as you march, shoulder to shoulder to freedom from jewish bondage and from the nightmares the jews plan for you,” the website stated in a note from “Glenn Miller.”
In Aurora, Mo., neighbors of Miller called him a loner and a white supremacist.
“He’s quite notorious around here,” said farmer Jack Ebert, who said he lives down the road from Miller. “He was very racist. I never had any contact with the man, but I know people who have. He didn’t like anyone who wasn’t like him." Attack a Jewish center, Ebert said, "fits in with his mentality."
Ebert said Miller lives on Farm Road 1220, not far from the village of Marionville, Mo., and keeps to himself. "He's pretty much a lone duck," he said. "He marches to a different tune."
Neighbors also said that Miller’s son, Jesse Miller, was shot and killed in 2008 by Marionville police after approaching officers with a shotgun. Jesse Miller, 30, had shot and killed a passerby who had stopped to investigate a car crash in which Miller was involved, according to press accounts of the incident.