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Alleged Kansas Jewish center gunman charged with murder

By Saeed Ahmed, Ed Lavandara and Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
updated 10:28 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "Yeah, that sounds like something he would do," mayor says after learning of killings
  • Frazier Glenn Cross is charged with capital murder and premeditated murder
  • No decision on whether to seek the death penalty for Cross has been made yet, official says
  • Cross is accused of killing three people at two Jewish-affiliated facilities

Overland Park, Kansas (CNN) -- The man accused of killing three people at two Jewish-affiliated facilities in Kansas made no secret of his racist views, writing letters to newspapers and inviting people to white-supremacist meetings at his home, say those who knew him.

So when news broke that Frazier Glenn Cross had been charged with one count of capital murder and one count of first-degree premeditated murder in connection with the killings, it didn't come as a surprise to the mayor of Marionville, Missouri.

"It was kind of shocking at first. But then reading the article and thinking about it, I thought 'yeah that sounds like something he would do,'" said Dan Clevenger, who has known Cross for 12 years, describing him as a client at his business where he services law mowers and other small engines.

Cross is accused of shooting to death a boy and his grandfather outside a Jewish community center near Kansas City, Kansas, on Sunday and then a woman at a nearby Jewish assisted living facility.

Frazier Glenn Cross, a 73-year-old Missouri man with a long history of spouting anti-Semitic rhetoric, is seen in a police car Sunday, April 13. He is suspected of fatally shooting three people: a boy and his grandfather outside a Jewish community center in Overland Park, Kansas, and a woman at a nearby assisted-living facility. Frazier Glenn Cross, a 73-year-old Missouri man with a long history of spouting anti-Semitic rhetoric, is seen in a police car Sunday, April 13. He is suspected of fatally shooting three people: a boy and his grandfather outside a Jewish community center in Overland Park, Kansas, and a woman at a nearby assisted-living facility.
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The capital murder count is connected to the deaths of William Lewis Corporon and Reat Griffin Underwood, said Steve Howe, district attorney for Johnson County. The premeditated murder count is linked to the death of Terri LaManno, he said.

Hate crime charges are possible, as police investigators say they have "unquestionably determined" that Cross' actions were a hate crime, Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass said.

Cross appeared in court Tuesday in a wheelchair, wearing an anti-suicide smock. He said only that he couldn't afford an attorney.

He is being held on $10 million bond, and he was ordered to return to court on April 24.

U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said that federal prosecutors are still collecting evidence and that federal charges could come later.

Legal experts say hate crime charges are possible, even though the victims were Christian.

The capital murder charge carries the possibility of a life sentence or the death penalty. No decision on whether to seek the death penalty for Cross has been made yet, Howe said.

Former KKK leader

Cross, 73, is the founder and former leader of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Patriot Party, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups. Both organizations operated as paramilitary groups in the 1980s, according to the SPLC.

The accused killer's neo-pagan religion

In Cross' anti-Semitic and white-supremacist activities, he has also used the name Frazier Glenn Miller, the SPLC said.

After he was apprehended at a nearby elementary school, Cross sat in the back of a patrol car and shouted "Heil Hitler!" video from CNN affiliate KMBC shows.

He obtained firearms from a "straw buyer," a middleman with a clean record who could buy weapons legally and then sell or give them to Cross, allowing Cross to avoid federal background checks, a U.S. law enforcement official said. He had three guns when he was arrested Sunday, authorities said.

The shootings took place at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and the Village Shalom Retirement Community in Overland Park a day before the start of Passover, a major Jewish holiday.

The police chief said the gunman shot at five people, none of whom he is believed to have known. There were no other injuries, authorities said.

Police were investigating statements Cross made after his arrest but declined to provide additional details, Douglass said.

The Anti-Defamation League said it warned last week of the increased possibility of violent attacks against community centers in the coming weeks, "which coincide both with the Passover holiday and Hitler's birthday on April 20, a day around which in the United States has historically been marked by extremist acts of violence and terrorism."

On Monday, the ADL reissued a security bulletin to synagogues and Jewish communal institutions across the country, urging them to review their security plans for the Passover holiday, which began at sundown Monday.

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READ: What the killings say about U.S. hate groups

'That idiot ... knocked a family to its knees'

The shooting began just after 1 p.m. Sunday in the Jewish community center's parking lot.

Inside, the center was a hive of activity. A performance of "To Kill a Mockingbird" was about to begin, and auditions were under way for "KC Superstar," an "American Idol"-style contest for the best high school singer in the Kansas City area.

Outside, the gunman opened fire. Police said he was armed with a shotgun and may have been carrying other weapons. Reat, 14, was there to audition for the singing competition. His grandfather, Corporon, was driving him. The bullets struck them in their car. Both died.

"That idiot absolutely knocked a family to its knees for no reason," Reat's uncle and William's son, Will Corporon, said at a news conference Monday afternoon.

Grandfather and grandson were Methodists, their pastor, the Rev. Adam Hamilton, told CNN on Monday.

Marionville's mayor said Cross' alleged actions "shows that he didn't care."

"He didn't have much regard for life. He just wanted to make a show, and he didn't care who paid for it," he told CNN.

Clevenger wonders whether Cross, who he says told him he wasn't going to live much longer, wanted to "go out, make the big show."

READ: 'I know they're in heaven together,' says woman who lost son, dad

A woman caring for her mother

The gunman then drove to the retirement home, where he shot the third victim in the parking lot. Authorities identified her as LaManno, who was visiting her mother as she usually did every Sunday at Village Shalom.

LaManno's Catholic church, St. Peter's Parish, posted a message on its website calling LaManno "a loving mother and wife, and a gentle and giving woman."

The Children's Center for the Visually Impaired in Kansas City, where LaManno worked as an occupational therapist, described her as a "gracious, generous, skilled and deeply caring individual who made a great difference in the lives of so many children and their families."

'A raging anti-Semite'

Cross is a "raging anti-Semite" who has posted extensively in online forums that advocate exterminating Jews, the Southern Poverty Law Center said.

He has called Jews "swarthy, hairy, bow-legged, beady-eyed, parasitic midgets."

According to the SPLC, Cross founded and ran the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1980s. He was forced to shut down after the SPLC sued him for operating an illegal paramilitary organization and intimidating African-Americans.

He then formed another group, the White Patriot Party.

In the late 1980s, Cross spent three years in prison on weapons charges and for plotting the assassination of SPLC founder Morris Dees. The short sentence was a result of a plea bargain he struck with federal prosecutors. In exchange, he testified against 14 white supremacists in a sedition trial in Arkansas in 1988.

"He was reviled in white supremacist circles as a 'race traitor,' and, for a while, kept a low profile," according to an SPLC profile of him. "Now he's making a comeback with The Aryan Alternative, a racist tabloid he's been printing since 2005."

READ: Suspect 'entrenched in the hate movement'

CNN's George Howell, Matthew Stucker, Nick Valencia, Janet DiGiacomo, Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz and Don Lemon contributed to this report.

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