A 73-year-old man charged with murder in the US after allegedly shooting three people was previously Grand Dragon of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and will now be prosecuted for hate crimes, US police say.
Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, now in custody, is a former Ku Klux Klan leader with a history of anti-Semitism, according to the Southern Poverty Law Centre, which tracks hate groups in the United States.
Cross reportedly yelled “Heil Hitler” as police escorted him away on Sunday after the shooting in Overland Park, outside Kansas City.
“We have unquestionably determined that this was a hate crime,” Overland Park police chief John Douglass told a press conference on Monday.
Under US federal law, prosecutors can seek life in prison for those convicted of murder if they are found to have been motivated by racial or religious hatred.
“We are in a very good place” to prosecute Cross for hate crimes, said Barry Grissom, US attorney for the district of Kansas, adding that his office would be making its case to a grand jury “in the not too distant future”.
The shooting began at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City early on Sunday afternoon as youths auditioned for a play, then continued at the nearby Village Shalom nursing home.
Among the three people killed were a 14-year-old boy, Reat Underwood, and his 69-year-old grandfather, Dr. William Corporon, who were both shot at Overland’s Jewish Community Centre.
“It is with deep sadness that we confirm the tragic loss of Dr. William Lewis Corporon and Reat Griffin Underwood (Losen) who died as a result of the injuries they sustained in today’s shooting at the Jewish Community Center. Dr. Corporon was Reat’s Grandfather, whom he loved very much,” said a statement signed “Will Corporon, Son and Uncle.”
The third victim was a 53-year-old woman who died from fatal gunshot injury while she was visiting her mother at Village Shalom. US Police said several other people were shot at but there were not further fatalities.
In Washington, President Barack Obama said religious violence had no place in US society, as he attended an Easter prayer breakfast at the White House.