OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Authorities said Monday there is enough evidence to warrant a hate-crimes prosecution in the shooting spree that killed three people at a Jewish community center and Jewish retirement complex near Kansas City.
Meanwhile, as CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported, new details are emerging about the gunman in the shooting in Overland Park – a former Ku Klux Klan member who is said to be a lifelong anti-Semite. Authorities said none of the victims happened to be Jewish.
Frazier Glenn Cross, of Aurora, Mo., was booked into Johnson County, Kan. Jail on a preliminary charge of first-degree murder after the attacks Sunday.
He has not been formally charged in the killings, but officials said more information about charges was expected Tuesday.
Police said Cross fatally shot two people Sunday afternoon in the parking lot behind the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City, then drove to a retirement community where he shot a third person.
He was arrested in an elementary school parking lot. Witnesses said he was screaming anti-Semitic remarks after he was arrested.
“It takes no character to do what was done,” said Will Corporon, the son of a man who was shot. “It takes no strength of character. It takes no backbone; no morals. All it takes is an idiot with a gun. There’s no need to focus on that.”
Corporon lost his father – Dr. William Corporon — and his 14-year-old nephew Reat Griffin Underwood – in the shooting. The family talked about how Reat wanted to fulfill his acting dreams.
“He made it into ‘Tom Sawyer’ at Theatre in the Park this summer – he was going to be in the cast of ‘Tom Sawyer,’” said Reat’s mother, Mindy Corporon.
Reat and his grandfather were both Christian and the family thanked members of their church congregation, among other people, for their support.
“We take comfort knowing they are together in Heaven,” the family said. It asked for privacy to mourn.
Authorities said the gunman shot and killed Reat and his grandfather in the parking lot of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park.
He then drove by the Village Shalom Jewish senior living home, and killed a third victim. That victim has been identified as Terri LaManno, 53, a woman who worked at the Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired, CBS affiliate KCTV in Kansas City reported.
U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom announced at a news conference that enough evidence had been gathered to justify submitting a hate-crimes case to a grand jury.
“We have now determined that the motivation behind this was a hate crime,” said FBI Kansas City Division Special Agent-in-Charge Michael Kaste.
Although the suspect was booked under the last name Cross, he is also known as Frazier Glenn Miller. A public records search shows he has used both names, but he refers to himself on his website as Glenn Miller and went by the name Frazier Glenn Miller in 2006 and 2010 campaigns for public office.
President Barack Obama said it was most horrific that the shooting happened at a holy time for multiple faiths.
“That this occurred now — as Jews were preparing to celebrate Passover; as Christians were observing Palm Sunday — makes this tragedy all the more painful,” Obama said.
In response to the shootings, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday that the NYPD is “taking all steps to ensure the safety of Jewish individuals and institutions” ahead of the Passover holiday.
“On behalf of New York City, we’d like to offer condolences as well as our thoughts and prayers to the victims of the tragic incident this afternoon in the greater Kansas City area, as well as their families and the entire Jewish community,” de Blasio said in a statement.
The Southern Poverty Law Center said Cross is an outspoken white supremacist and served as a “grand dragon” of a branch of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1980s.
The Army veteran and retired truck driver later founded another white supremacist group, the White Patriot Party, the center said.
SITE, a U.S.-based terror monitoring group, described the suspect as a known and vocal anti-Semite who frequently calls for genocide against Jews.
He was the subject of a nationwide manhunt in 1987 for violating the terms of his bond while appealing a North Carolina conviction for operating a paramilitary camp.
The search ended after federal agents found Cross, then known as Miller, and three other men in an Ozark mobile home, which was filled with hand grenades, automatic weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition. He tried running for U.S. House in 2006 and the U.S. Senate in 2010, espousing a white power platform each time.
He even did an interview when he ran for office as a write-in candiadte in 2010.
“I think it’s a good idea to provoke people, and I do that deliberately,” Cross said in the interview.
SITE said Monday that the suspect is a prominent member of the Vanguard News Network and has posted thousands of messages, including frequent calls for genocide against Jews, on the neo-Nazi forum’s website. His most recent post was Saturday.
Mindy Corporon says her son was killed while headed to a singing competition. Before he left, he had sang to her the song, “You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone”.
“People keep saying, ‘How come you’re so strong, and I’m strong because I have a family; I’m strong because I have faith,” Mindy Corporn said. “What we do have is each other.”
As WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs reported, security was already beefed up around synagogues and other places of worship in Nassau County ahead of Passover, which begins at sundown Monday.
Following the shooting in Kansas City, security has been strengthened further.
“Out of an abundance of caution, they increased the already intense patrols at religious institutions,” Nassau County Police Inspector Kenneth Lack said.
There is no known threat in Nassau. The upgraded security is just a precaution, police said.
Police also said earlier this month that there was no credible terrorist threat detected in New York City ahead of the Jewish holiday.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo also issued a statement, saying “New Yorkers stand in solidarity with the Jewish community in Kansas City.”
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