Holder calls hate crimes an 'affront to who we are'

Attorney General Eric Holder said hate crimes are an affront to what the United States stands for in comments at a memorial service Thursday for three people killed in a shooting at a Jewish community center in Kansas.

Holder said the country is united in support of the community following the “heinous attack” on Sunday. 

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“Every alleged hate crime, no matter the intended target, is an affront to who we are – and who we have always been – both as a country and as a people,” Holder said in prepared remarks in Overland Park, Kan. “These acts cannot be ignored.  And their impact is not limited to particular communities or individuals.”

Holder pledged support to the families and victims of the shooting, which the Justice Department said constitutes a hate crime. Frazier Glenn Cross was charged with capital murder and first-degree murder on Wednesday in the deaths of three people shot outside the community center near Kansas City, Mo.

The alleged shooter had associations to white supremacists groups and made bigoted remarks about Jewish people and minorities on his website and in interviews in the past. 

“We are united in our condemnation of this heinous attack and our commitment to see that justice is served,” Holder said. 

Earlier this week, Holder urged Congress to approve an additional $15 million in active-shooter training for police around the country after two mass shootings in the past month. The other was earlier this month at the Fort Hood base in Texas. 

The Kansas shooting took place the day before the Jewish holiday of Passover, and law enforcement concluded the shooter targeted the community center and retirement home for its religious affiliation. 

Holder referred to the holiday, which is supposed to be a time of celebration. 

“This community has instead been visited by terrible tragedy,” he said.  

He also referred the Christian faith ahead of Easter Sunday during his speech. The three victims killed on Sunday were Christian.  

At the interfaith ceremony, Holder said the country must respond to intolerance by becoming closer. He commended the first responders, staff at the retirement community and the public for their help after the shooting. 

According to the most recently released hate crime statistics, law enforcement around the country reported 5,796 hate crime incidents in 2012. Of those, 19 percent were motivated by religious bias, while 48 percent were motivated by race and 20 percent by sexual orientation. 

The vast majority of those include the destruction of property rather than violence. The FBI's civil rights program opened 200 hate crime investigations in 2012.

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