A white supremacist yelled, “Heil Hitler,” after he was taken into custody in connection with the Passover Eve fatal shooting of three at two Jewish-related sites in the Kansas City area.
A 14-year-old boy and his grandfather were killed outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City. They were apparently inside a car. A female was killed a few minutes later in the parking lot at Village Shalom, an assisted living facility.
The suspect shot at two other people, but the bullets did not hit them, said Overland Park police Chief John Douglass.
A dozen or more shots may have been fired based on evidence at the scenes.
The victims apparently did not know their killer, Douglass said.
Glenn Frazier Cross, 73, was arrested at 1:28 p.m. He is being held by Overland Park police on multiple charges including premeditated first-degree murder, according to online jail records.
Cross, who also goes by Glenn Miller, is a known white supremacist and known for his anti-Semitic thoughts. He is a former grand dragon of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He is a perennial candidate for office, including running in 2006 against then-U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-MO. He ran against Blunt in 2010 when Blunt was elected to the Senate.
Cross made headlines in the 2010 campaign for his racist and anti-Semitic campaign ads. Federal law required broadcast stations to air the ads even though they did not want to put such vile rantings on their airwaves.
Miller quit high school as a senior to join the U.S. Army. In 1979, he retired from the Army as a master sergeant after 20 years of active duty, including two tours in Vietnam and 13 years as a member of the elite Green Berets.
Douglass said the suspect wasn’t known to Overland Park authorities before Sunday.
The suspect’s vehicle had Missouri plates.
Douglass also wouldn’t say whether the shootings were anti-Semitic hate crimes. He said authorities are evaluating comments that the suspect made after he was arrested.
It is a joint federal-state investigation with the offices of U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom and Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe involved.
The 14-year-old boy, Reat Underwood, was a freshman at Blue Valley High School. His grandfather, Dr. William Lewis Corporon, had moved to the Kansas City area a decade ago to be closer to his grandchildren.
The two attended the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood. Prayers were held during the church’s evening Palm Sunday service.
The woman who lost her son and her father in a matter of moments was stoic as she thanked everyone for their support. Others sobbed as she described seeing the two prone bloody bodies and knowing immediately that her beloved father and her son were now in heaven together.
The Rev. Adam Hamilton said he met with the family Sunday and at their urging they went ahead with the Palm Sunday evening church services. He will again minister to the family on Sunday during their grief.
Reat was rushed to Overland Park Regional Medical Center for surgery but died from his injuries.
Corporon, who was a family doctor, leaves behind a wife of 49 years. Reat was an Eagle Scout who loved camping and hunting with his grandfather, father and brother, the family said.
Cross was arrested at the Valley Park Elementary School, which is a mile away from Village Shalom. The suspect appeared to yell “Heil Hitler” as he was being led away in handcuffs by Overland Park police.
The suspect made “several statements” when he was put into the back of a police patrol car, Douglass acknowledged.
“We are sifting through and vetting those for accuracy, No. 1, and No. 2, we’re looking at them for their evidentiary value,” the police chief said. “It is too early to tell you what he may or may not have said. We’re trying to determine that at this time.”
Douglass said Sunday evening that it is being investigated as a hate crime but said it’s too soon to know whether it’s a hate crime or not.
“We know it was a vicious act of violence, and we know obviously it was at two Jewish facilities,” he said. “So one might make that assumption, but we’re going to have to know more about it before we’ll label it.”
The suspect used a shotgun in the fatal shootings, Douglass said. The suspect may have also used a handgun in firing the shots that didn’t strike the two. In addition, Douglass said the suspect may have had an assault rifle.
Douglass said the first 911 call about the JCC shooting came at 1:03 p.m. This happened outside the Lewis and Shirley White Theatre, which was packed for performance-related events.
Teens were auditioning for KC SuperStar and parents were frantically trying to get to their children.
In addition, a performance of To Kill a Mockingbird was underway when the shots rang out at the theater. The back door to the theater suffered damage that may have been from gunshots.
Jenessa Watkins, a dance instructor, said she was with a group of children when they were rushed to the theater. She said when she learned about the shootings that she tried to stay composed, but she couldn’t help but think of the 2012 massacre at a Connecticut elementary school.
“I kind of couldn’t help but think about Sandy Hook, looking around at these young children,” she said. “I was really scared. … People were calling their loved ones, and I thought I was fine and under control, but when I called my mom and she started crying, I started crying.”
A second shooting was reported a few minutes later at Village Shalom, which is an assisted living center at 5500 W. 123rd St.
Brian Brookbank was running errands when he saw chest compressions being performed on the injured person.
“We saw a large quantity of blood flowing down the slope of the parking lot,” Brookbank said. “We then went around the corner and saw a white male … being handcuffed with multiple assault rifles and a couple of handguns pointed at him. He was laying in the grass and did not appear to be resisting.”
Worried relatives of residents told KCTV5 that Village Shalom was placed on lockdown.
Phyllis Cantor, who is undergoing rehabilitation at Village Shalom, said she heard the sound of sirens. She said many police officers are at the scene and their focus appeared to be on a white car in the parking lot.
Sophia Porter was at the Jewish Community Center for the SuperStar auditions. She said contestants helped lighten the mood by performing as they were forced to stay holed up inside a safe area.
“The sense of community in that room,” Porter said. “I felt very comforted by the presence of the other people and by the performances that were going on.”
The Jewish Community Center will be closed on Monday. The JCCC said that “our hearts go out to all those affected and touched” by the tragedy.
“Our hearts go out to the families who have suffered loss on this tragic day. Our heartfelt gratitude as well to all those in Kansas City and around the world who have expressed sympathy, concern and support,” the JCC said in its statement. “Everyone participating in JCC programming has been released to their homes.”
In a statement, Blue Valley School District’s Tom Trigg said Reat sang the national anthem earlier this year at an educational breakfast.
“His talents were on full display that morning. I found Reat to be an engaging and exceptional young man,” he said. “Our hearts go out to the families who are dealing with this senseless tragedy.”
Trigg said other Blue Valley students were at the Jewish Community Center. Classes were already scheduled to be off Monday, but counselors will be at the school to speak with grieving students.
“As a community, we will come together to support each other. We encourage you to be especially sensitive and offer supports to your child during this time,” Trigg said. “We are a strong community and will do everything possible to support each other and our students. Our thoughts and prayers are with all families who have been impacted by this tragedy.”
Temple Israel and St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal Church held a vigil at 8 p.m. Sunday. About 200 people came together in their grief and devastation. Christian pastors and Jewish rabbis stood shoulder to shoulder in offering words of comfort.