By Laura Bauer, Dave Helling and Brian Burnes, The Kansas City Star
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — A 73-year-old southwest Missouri man with a long history of anti-Semitism is suspected of killing two people outside Overland Park’s Jewish Community Center and then a third at a nearby Jewish assisted living facility.
After officers arrested Frazier Glenn Cross — an Aurora, Mo., man better known as F. Glenn Miller — Sunday afternoon, authorities said he went on a rant inside the patrol car. Though Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass wouldn’t say what Cross hollered, a television crew captured him on video while he was handcuffed in the back of the car.
“Heil Hilter,” Miller yelled out, and then he bobbed his head up and down.
Four hours after the shooting rampage was first reported, Douglass said in a news conference that it was too early to know definitively what the shooter’s motives were, but added: “We are investigating this as a hate crime.”
In all, the gunman fired at five people Sunday afternoon, police said, but he missed two of his targets, who were not injured. Police said the man had not only a shotgun but also a handgun and possibly an assault weapon.
Two of the victims who died were shot in a car at the community center, Douglass said. One of them was William Lewis Corporon, a Johnson County doctor. The other, Reat Griffin Underwood, was Corporon’s 14-year-old grandson, who died later at Overland Park Regional Medical Center.
The third victim, who was not publicly identified Sunday night, was shot and killed in the parking lot of the Village Shalom senior living facility.
By Sunday evening, the Federal Bureau of Investigation had joined the investigation, as well as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and other agencies. A dispatcher with the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department in southwest Missouri where Miller lives said the agency was assisting the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department and FBI in an investigation Sunday night.
Calling the Overland Park shootings “heartbreaking,” President Barack Obama pledged the full support of the federal government. He said he asked his team Sunday to make sure law enforcement has “the necessary resources to support the ongoing investigation.”
Authorities hauled off the suspect’s four-door white car, with Missouri license plates, before 4 p.m. Douglass would not say whether Miller was talking to investigators.
The shootings shook the Kansas City area, especially the local Jewish community, which was preparing for Monday’s Passover holiday.
Matt Davis, who lives near Valley Park Elementary, where police arrested Miller, was shopping with his son for a suit for his upcoming bar mitzvah when he heard about the shooting. Davis was outside the school when Miller was hauled off.
The man was smiling.
“I was wondering, ‘Why is the guy smiling when he’s being arrested,’” said Davis, whose daughter was inside the Jewish Community Center when the shooting occurred in the parking lot. She and the hundreds of other people inside the center were not injured.
Dispatchers got the first call about shots fired at 1:03 p.m. and sent officers to the center’s parking lot.
People inside had been alerted about the shooting outside.
Bailey Wainstock and Rachel Trout were among several young people who for close to two hours Sunday afternoon barricaded themselves inside a meeting room at the Jewish Community Center.
They told those attending Sunday night’s interfaith prayer service at St. Thomas the Apostle church in Overland Park that they first learned of the shootings when the father of one group member called to say that there had been a shooting in the area.
“Then he called back and said it happened right outside, and all of us reacted,” Trout said. “We started taking tables and pushing them against the doors, barricading ourselves in.”
The meeting was for members of a B’nai’B’rith International group. Soon, Trout said, members started receiving texts from members from across the country, offering them prayers and support.
“There were so many people who wanted to know if we were OK,” Trout said.
The two said they hoped to plan a commemorative walk this coming Friday, starting at the Jewish Community Center campus, going to Village Shalom and ending at the elementary school where the alleged shooter was apprehended. The gunfire at the west side of the Jewish Community Center came as hundreds of high school singers from across the metro area were expected to audition for the KC SuperStar contest and actors were rehearsing for a production of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
“There were tons of kids because this was about to start at 1 o’clock,” said Ruth Bigus, the publicist for KC SuperStar.
Others were at the center to use the workout facilities.
“One of the employees at the center came in and said, ‘We’re on lockdown’” said Steve Stras, who was in the locker room when the shooting occurred. “He didn’t give any more information than that.”
Everyone outside the locker room was brought in and then the doors were locked. Roughly 25 people spent an hour inside the locker room and then moved to the lobby for a while.
“I probably missed the shooter by maybe 10 minutes,” Stras said. “… It scared the hell out of my wife when she found that out.”
When officers arrived in the parking lot of the Jewish Community Center, they found Corporon dead and Underwood critically injured.
The teen and his grandfather both attended the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, said church spokeswoman Cathy Bien.
The Rev. Adam Hamilton, the church’s senior pastor, shared the news with church members at the beginning of the evening Palm Sunday service. He said he had been talking to the victims’ family in the hours after the shooting, and they asked him to go through with the Sunday evening service.
The lights dimmed as Hamilton asked worshipers to pray for the family.
“Help us, o Lord, to grieve as people of hope,” Hamilton said.
U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, (R-KS), who is a member of the Church of the Resurrection, spoke in the hall toward the end of the service: “It’s a very tough moment for our community, a tough moment for our church. It’s a reminder that evil can strike at any time and today it struck here in Overland Park.”
Several minutes after the Jewish Community Center shooting, Overland Park police received a call about shots fired at Village Shalom. When officers arrived, the victim, initially identified only as a white female, was already dead.
Amy Rasmussen of Lee’s Summit was at Village Shalom visiting her grandmother when a staff member alerted people inside.
People “were told by one of the staff that it was a tornado warning … and stay away from the windows,” said Rasmussen. Later everyone realized there was a shooting outside.
Other Jewish-related facilities have been the targets of violence in recent years.
In 2009, a white supremacist shot and fatally wounded a security guard at the crowded U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., in an attack that sent tourists running for cover. The shooter, 88-year-old James W. von Brunn, was wounded in the head during the assault and died the following year. Prosecutors said he had been planning the assault — which they described as a suicide mission — for months and wanted “to send a message to the Jewish community” that the Holocaust was a hoax.
In 1999, avowed white supremacist Buford Furrow Jr., who had been recently released from prison, rushed into a day care at a Jewish community center on the northern edge of Los Angeles. He shot and wounded five people, including three children. Later in the day, Furrow shot and killed a postman. Authorities said Furrow described his attacks as a wake-up call to kill Jews and non-whites.
The Jewish Community Center will be closed Monday.
“Our hearts go out to the families who have suffered loss on this tragic day,” the center said in a statement. “Our heartfelt gratitude as well to all those in Kansas City and around the world who have expressed sympathy, concern and support.”
Davis, who saw police take the suspect into custody, said Sunday’s events were horrifying.
“This is a huge Jewish community over here,” Davis said. “… We’re pretty sheltered. For something like that to happen is pretty shocking.
“It’s just hard for me to comprehend a hate crime.”
Tammy Ljungblad/Kansas City Star/MCT