Kansas shooting ruled a hate crime

 

The FBI and local law enforcement determined Monday the shooting near Kansas City on Sunday constituted a hate crime.

Frazier Glenn Cross, the man accused of killing three people at a Jewish Community Center and retirement home, will be charged with first-degree murder on the state and federal level. The U.S. attorney in Kansas is also filing hate crime charges.

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Law enforcement officials made the determination following the suspect's statements to police after the shooting, according to the Overland Park police chief. 

"We have unquestionably determined through the work of local and federal law enforcement agencies that this was a hate crime," police Chief John Douglass said in a press conference Monday. 

A hate crime is defined as a traditional crime with the motivation of bias behind it, which could be based on religion, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability. 

"Because it is a hate crime, we are working with the federal government ... trying to seek every venue in the prosecution at both the state and federal level," Douglass said. 

Douglass could not say why the shooter targeted the specific community center but added, "Obviously we believe that his motivation was to attack a Jewish facility.”

Hate crime violations were being considered earlier in the day after reports that the suspected shooter had been active in white supremacist groups and has previously been convicted on weapons charges. The shootings took place just before the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover.

Earlier Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department would provide all available support to determine if the "heinous acts" constituted a hate crime. 

The Southern Poverty Law Center described the alleged gunman, who also went by Frazier Glenn Miller, as a former leader of a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan that he founded in the 1980s. The suspected gunman served a three-year sentence in the late 1980s on weapons charges and for sending a threat through the mail. 

The U.S. attorney in the state said it would be filing hate crime violations and presenting it to a grand jury in the “not too distant future.”

President Obama noted that a number of Jewish community centers and synagogues on the first day of Passover were taking extra security measures after the shooting. 

“No one should ever have to fear for their safety when they go to pray,” he said.