Kansas shooting probed as hate crime

 

The man arrested Sunday for killing three people at a Jewish Community Center and retirement community near Kansas City had been active in white supremacist groups and has previously been convicted on weapons charges. 

The Associated Press and the Southern Poverty Law Center identified that man as Frazier Glenn Cross, sometimes known as Frazier Glenn Miller. He is scheduled to appear in court Monday on first-degree murder charges. 

The shootings took place just before the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover, and police said it is being investigated as a possible hate crime, though they emphasized that all possibilities remain on the table.

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“We are investigating it as a hate crime. We're investigating it as a criminal act. We haven't ruled out anything,” Overland Park police Chief John Douglass said during a news conference Sunday. 

Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday said the Justice Department would work to determine if "these heinous acts" constituted hate crime status. 

“Justice Department prosecutors will work with their state and local counterparts to provide all available support and to determine whether the federal hate crimes statute is implicated in this case," he said in a statement. 

Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) said Monday that the suspect's background gives many clues to what his motives were. 

“We don't know enough about what his motives are, but boy his history tells us a lot about what his motives probably were,” he said on CNN. “This is an individual, this morning that we are learning, had a long history of anti-Semitism, racism, had been a head of several white supremacy groups.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center described the alleged gunman as a former leader of a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan that he founded in the 1980s. The center sued the group for “operating an illegal paramilitary organization and using intimidation tactics against African Americans.”

In 1986, he was convicted of contempt charges for violating an agreement that settled the law center's suit against him.

He fled when released on bond and was later caught in Missouri with four other Ku Klux Klan members with a “cache of weapons,” according to the center. 

The suspected gunman served a three-year sentence in the late 1980s on weapons charges and for sending a threat through the mail. 

The Associated Press reported he has previously been a candidate for the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. 

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said her prayers are with the victims of the shooting. The country must stand united against acts of hatred and anti-Semitism, Pelosi said, as the Jewish holiday of Passover starts Monday. 

“As Jewish families across the country and around the world prepare to gather for Passover to celebrate the blessings of freedom, let us rededicate ourselves to preserving and protecting the freedom of all Americans to worship, to practice their faith, and to live without fear of hate, prejudice and violence,” she said in a statement. 

President Obama described the shootings Sunday as heartbreaking and pledged the full support of the federal government. 

“This afternoon we heard reports of a horrific shooting in Overland Park, Kansas,” Obama said in a statement. “Michelle and I offer our thoughts and prayers to the families and friends who lost a loved one and everyone affected by this tragedy.”

“I have asked my team to stay in close touch with our federal, state and local partners and provide the necessary resources to support the ongoing investigation,” he added.

—Updated 10:55 a.m.