It is ironic that the only people killed in Sunday’s attacks on two Jewish institutions in Overland Park KS were a Catholic and two Methodists. The targets were at the wrong places at the wrong times.
Two of the victims were a teenage boy and his grandfather: Reat Griffin Underwood, 14, and Dr. William Lewis Corporon, 69, were members of the United Methodist Church. Dr. Corporon and his grandson were at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City so that the high school freshman could try out for KC SuperStar, a singing competition for students.
The third victim was Terri Lamanno, 53, of Kansas City. Ms. Lamanno was a member of a Catholic church in Kansas City and was visiting her mother Sunday at Village Shalom retirement community—as she usually did—when she was fatally shot by the gunman.
The suspect first opened fire in the parking lot behind the Jewish community center. The attacks were apparently timed to coincide with Passover eve. The shooter reportedly yelled “Heil Hitler!” as he commenced the attacks.
Dr. Corporon died at the scene and his grandson later died at the hospital. The suspect then drove to Village Shalom, where he shot Ms. LaManno. The gunman also shot at two other people during the attacks, but missed them.
A Johnson County KS jail official said that authorities had identified the suspect in the shooting as Frazier Glenn Cross, aka Frazier Glenn Miller, 73, a resident of Aurora MO, a small town southwest of Springfield.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Cross/Miller has been involved in the white supremacist movement for most of his life. He founded the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and was its grand dragon in the 1980s before the SPLC sued him for operating an illegal paramilitary organization and using intimidation tactics against blacks. He later founded another white supremacist group, the White Patriot Party.
Cross/Miller, an Army veteran and retired truck driver, was the subject of a nationwide manhunt in 1987 after he violated the terms of his bond while appealing a North Carolina conviction for operating a paramilitary camp. The search ended after federal agents found Cross/Miller and three other men in an Ozark mobile home, which was filled with hand grenades, automatic weapons, and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Cross/Miller tried running for the US House in 2006 and the US Senate in 2010.
The Overland Park police chief said the shootings are being investigated as hate crimes. He said the suspect was not known to area law enforcement and there was no indication that he knew his victims. Cross/Miller was booked into the Johnson County jail on suspicion of premeditated first-degree murder Sunday evening, but had not been formally charged. Authorities say they expect to have more information available for possible charges Tuesday.
It seems to me that this is the time for everyone to ratchet down the hatred—on all sides—so that this heinous crime can be seen in its true light. There has been an unfortunate conflation of the terms “Jewish,” “Hebrew,” “Israeli” and “Zionist” which encourage broad-brush stupidity where a nuanced view is required. Historical facts have been falsified and used by all sides to justify black-and-white positions which should have died long ago under their own weight. Truths, half-truths, misinterpretations, and outright myths and lies are used to buttress postures which make ignorant partisans confident of the veracity and righteousness of their positions.
The utter senselessness of these murders, and the inability of Cross/Miller to justify the deaths even by his own warped logic, provides us with an object lesson in how hatred metastasizes in unintended and tragic directions.
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