Patrick Wolff, Staff Writer
Tragedy struck the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park on Sunday, April 13 when a gunman opened fire in the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City, killing two people. William Corporon, a 69-year-old doctor and his grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, a 14-year-old high school freshman, were shot in the parking lot outside of the community center. The boy and his grandfather, neither of them Jewish, were going to the community center so that Reat Underwood could audition for a singing competition that was offering a scholarship to the winner. A third victim, Terri LaManno, 59, was gunned down by the same man at the nearby Village Shalom, a retirement home, where she was visiting her mother. LaManno was also not Jewish.
The three victims were killed by Frazier Glenn Cross, also known as Frazier Glenn Miller, a lifelong white supremacist. Cross, the former Grand Dragon and founder of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, made no secret of his white supremacist views. He often wrote letters to the local newspaper, held white supremacist meetings at his home and had a well-known reputation for being racist and anti-Semitic. He previously served three years in prison for plotting the assassination of Morris Dees, the founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Cross arrived at the community center around 1 p.m. and opened fire on the crowd in the parking lot with a shotgun. Police say he was also armed with a handgun.
Although there were five other people in the parking lot, no one else was injured. After opening fire at the community center, Cross drove to the retirement home where he shot LaManno in the parking lot. Cross was arrested later at a nearby school not long after the shootings and was heard shouting “Heil Hitler” from inside the police car.
Two days later, on April 15, the 73-year-old was charged with murder for killing the three victims. Cross was charged with one count of capital murder (which is allowed when more than one person is killed in a single act) and one count of pre-meditated murder in the death of LaManno. Although none of the victims were Jewish, federal prosecutors aim to pursue hate crime charges, as the charge is based on intent rather than whether or not any of the victims were actually of the race or faith that was the intended target. If Cross is convicted he will face life without parole and potentially the death penalty if prosecutors decide to pursue it.
The families of the victims are devastated and the local community is in mourning. Many people in the community, including students who knew young Underwood at school, have been attending vigils and laying flowers for the victims at the community center where the shootings began.