Killings in Kansas City are ‘unquestionably’ a hate crime
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The man arrested in the deadly April 13 shootings at two Jewish sites in suburban Kansas City appeared in court April 15, where he was charged with two counts of murder.
Miller was a leader of the now-defunct North Carolina–based White Patriot Party (formerly known as the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan). After he was placed in a police vehicle in Overland Park, he was heard to yell “Heil Hitler.”
The victims killed at the JCC were William Corporon, a retired physician, and his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Underwood. Corporon and Underwood, members of an area Methodist church, were hit by bullets while they were in a car. Underwood, an aspiring singer, was at the JCC for a talent show, his family said.
The third victim, Terri LaManno, a Catholic mother of two, was killed in the Village Shalom parking lot.
Miller faces two rather than three murder charges, because the killings of Corporon and his grandson are being charged as one count of multiple murder, making Miller eligible for the death penalty.
Although the three victims were Christian, authorities have said federal hate crime charges are pending. Legal experts have cited the fact that the shootings took place at Jewish venues, and that Miller has a history of anti-Semitic animus, as evidence of his intention to harm Jews.
At a news conference on April 14, Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass said investigators had “unquestionably determined … that this was a hate crime.”
And Barry Grissom, U.S. attorney for the District of Kansas, said federal prosecutors would file hate crime charges.
“We are in a very good place from an evidence standpoint of moving forward with this case,” Grissom said, “and it will be presented to the grand jury in the not-too-distant future.”
Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said there’s no doubt that the suspect’s anti-Semitism fueled the shooting.
“Miller, of course, targeted them because he perceived them to be Jewish,” he said. “That seems pretty obvious from the site of the shootings.”
If Cross is convicted of a federal hate crime, he could face life in prison.
Hours after the shootings, condolences and messages of solidarity began pouring in from world leaders.
“Michelle and I offer our thoughts and prayers to the families and friends who lost a loved one and everyone affected by this tragedy,” said President Barack Obama, who pledged “the full support of the federal government as we heal and cope during this trying time.”
Leaders of major American Jewish organizations also expressed their horror and expressed solidarity with the victims’ families and the Jews of the Kansas City area.
“No community should have to face a moment such as this one,” said Michael Siegal, chair of the Jewish Federations of North America, on April 14. “Today, on the eve of Pesach, we are left to contemplate how we must continue our work building a world in which all people are free to live their lives without the threat of terror.”
JCCs and other Jewish communal institutions nationwide were expected to beef up security in the wake of the shooting.
The Anti-Defamation League noted that just a week earlier, it released a security bulletin to Jewish institutions warning of increased potential for violence around Passover and the April 20 birthday of Adolf Hitler.
That day “has historically been marked by extremist acts of violence and terrorism, including … the Oklahoma City bombing,” the statement said.
Bay Area reacts to K.C. shootings with sympathy, stepped-up security
dan pine | j. staff
At the April 14 seder held at the Jewish Community Center of the East Bay in Berkeley, a police car sat parked out front. It served as a reminder that this Passover, Jews are on alert following the fatal shootings the day before in a Kansas City suburb.
The crime in Overland Park, Kan., on April 13 reverberated across the Jewish world, including Bay Area Jewish institutions.
It also reinforced calls for tightened security at this time of year.
“We work in collaboration with the Berkeley and Oakland police departments,” said Sally Kauffman Flinchbaugh, executive director of the JCC of the East Bay, which has locations in both of those cities. “They stepped up our patrols to keep an eye on things. People were happy we had extra security guards. Everyone is on high alert.”
The JCC of the East Bay’s five seders went off without a hitch, Kauffman Flinchbaugh noted.
“The best security is the security you don’t talk about,” noted Jim Offel, acting CEO of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation. “We immediately reached out to synagogues and Jewish organizations around the Bay Area, and let people know were we’re monitoring the situation, and to be extra vigilant.”
Offel noted that federation leaders had met with local law enforcement and Homeland Security officials in the weeks leading up to Passover.
“We continually remind our community that it’s important to be vigilant, to have those relationships, and to review your security plans,” he added.
In a new Web page set up in the wake of the Overland Park shootings, the Anti-Defamation League urges Jewish institutions to notify local law enforcement about upcoming Jewish activities, including holiday events, to establish procedures for controlling facilities.
Seth Brysk, the S.F.-based director of the ADL’s Central Pacific region, told J. that his office received no indications of specific threats to any Bay Area Jewish institutions.
Allan Lavigne, the Bay Area director of security for the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation and the Jewish Community Relations Council, noted in an April 15 email that “there are no known threats to the immediate Bay Area or institutions.”
He added: “Given current world events and overseas threats to the homeland in general, we continue to urge all institutions to exercise extreme caution in the weeks and months ahead. Please be certain to report any suspicious activity to law enforcement immediately.”
In the hours after the shootings in Kansas, many Bay Area Jewish agencies, including several JCCs, issued statements to their members and the community.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to the Kansas City community,” said a joint statement from four Jewish agencies in Silicon Valley: the Addison-Penzak JCC, the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley, Jewish Family Services and Yavneh Day School. “The suspected shooter is in police custody and we have no reason to believe that there is any imminent danger in our area.”
Abby Michelson Porth, the associate executive director of the S.F.-based JCRC, said that historically, Passover has been a time of increased incidence of attacks on Jews.
However, immediately after the Kansas shootings, the JCRC was inundated with messages of support and sympathy from various faith communities, including local Muslim, Hindu, Christian and interfaith leaders.
“It’s an important symbol of friendship that the community extends itself to other faith communities when they are targeted, and it in turn is extended to us when we feel fearful,” Porth said. “It’s a reminder that [anti-Semitic] incidents are small in number and don’t compare to the overwhelming support, mutual understanding and friendship that emanates from other faith and ethnic communities towards ours.”
K.C. shootings highlight threat of 'lone wolf' attacks
ron kampeas | jta
The suspect in deadly shootings at two Jewish institutions in suburban Kansas City made no secret of his hateful views, but no one had detected or reported his plan for the April 13 attack that claimed three lives.
The attack by Frazier Glenn Miller, a 73-year-old white supremacist, illustrates the difficulty of protecting Jewish institutions from the threat of deadly violence by extremists acting alone.
“Lone wolves are really by far the most dangerous phenomenon. They are vastly more difficult to stop in advance of their actions,” said Mark Potok, the publications director for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “You can’t simply follow around all the people in the United States who have noxious views.”
“The only way is to stop the lone wolf is prevention and hardening a soft target,” Goldenberg said.
This was not the first time a Jewish community building has been targeted by a lone gunman.
In 2006, Naveed Afzal Haq, motivated by anti-Israel views, killed one woman and wounded five others when he attacked the Seattle Jewish Federation building.
In 1999, white supremacist Buford Furrow wounded five people, including three children, when he opened fire on the North Valley Jewish Community Center in suburban Los Angeles and then killed a mail carrier.
The Southern Poverty Law Center was the first to identify the April 13 gunman as Miller, of Aurora, Mo. The center said he was the grand dragon of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1980s and subsequently a founder of the White Patriot Party. He served three years in prison on weapons charges and for plotting the assassination of the law center’s founder, Morris Dees.
Miller had not been involved in criminal activity for decades, but he publicized his views avidly. He maintained a website, http://www.whty.org (for “whitey”) and posted links to his media appearances, including one on an African American radio show.
In 2012, he appeared on a panel of extremists organized by a professor at Missouri State University and reveled in the encounter. In a post on the Vanguard News Network, a white supremacist site, he described sparring with Jewish students from the audience, whom he described as “two kikes.”
Mark Pitcavage, the director of investigative research for the Anti-Defamation League, said lone wolves tend to operate on the margins of extremist communities, which makes it harder to detect when they may be plotting actions. This was true of Miller, who had alienated much of the movement in the 1980s when he got his sentence reduced in exchange for testifying against co-conspirators.
Pitcavage said monitors can sometimes detect planning for violence, as extremists often will report in online forums private exchanges with individuals seeking co-conspirators for a violent act.
“When we see extremists start warning other extremists about someone, we pay attention,” he said. “The way the vine works, they think: ‘He’s a government plant who’s trying to get me in trouble.’ They have a skewed reaction to it, but nevertheless they have a reaction. We have learned when we see those sorts of things to take them seriously.”
The ADL passes on such information to law enforcement.
In other instances, there are signs that the poster is a “powder keg,” Pitcavage said.
Monitors, he said, look for “a long series of posts expressing aggravation — ‘something has to be done, it’s time to do something.’ They may say things to other people trying to get people involved.”
Potok said extensive posting on such sites is not necessarily an indicator of such violence. Wade Michael Page, a white supremacist who in 2012 killed six people at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., had been prominent among online extremists but had not exhibited typical signs of an imminent attack.
“We had been following Page for 12 years,” Potok said. “There was no indication that he had finally decided to start shooting.”
Other times, said Pitcavage, lone wolves operate completely under the radar, with no communications preceding an attack. White supremacist Keith Luke killed two West Africans in the Boston area in 2009 and was on his way to attack a synagogue when police stopped him.
“No one had ever heard of Keith Luke before,” he said. “After his arrest we discovered he had spent countless hours watching white supremacist videos on YouTube.”
Other lone wolves embrace the tactic because of its utility, Pitcavage said, noting that Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in bombings and shootings in and near Oslo on July 22, 2011, had assembled data showing that lone attacks were more successful.
“The more steps there are, the more people there are,” the likelier it is that the plot will be leaked, Pitcavage said.
Goldenberg, the Jewish security official, said it has become easier for potential assailants to home in on Jewish targets because of the easy access of information on the Internet.
“You want communities to spread the word about the activities they are doing, balancing that with the kind of security that protects against” potential assailants, said Karen Aroesty, the ADL director in St. Louis. “How do they pitch security really strongly while being warm and welcoming? That’s a tough balance.”
Goldenberg said that the JCC immediately went into lockdown, that the assailant struck from the rear — away from security officers who would have been manning the front — and that he did not breach the back door.
“Sometimes the best defense is a locked door,” he said. “The best defense is having a plan for a lockdown and keeping the individual outside. The individual did not gain entry to the building, and that undoubtedly saved many lives.”
President Barack Obama, who in a statement said the attack was “heartbreaking,” pledged federal resources to the investigation.
“I have asked my team to stay in close touch with our federal, state and local partners, and provide the necessary resources to support the ongoing investigation,” he said.
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