Police in the New York area are increasing patrols around Jewish institutions throughout the Passover holiday “out of an abundance of caution” following the killing of three people by a white supremacist at two Jewish institutions in suburban Kansas City Sunday, according to the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.
David Pollock, associate executive director of the JCRC, said authorities believe the gunman “acted alone” but that there is always the danger of copycat incidents.
Rabbi Herbert Mandl, a volunteer with the Overland Park police, told The Jewish Week Monday that the gunman killed two people outside the Jewish Community Campus of Greater Kansas City and the third about a mile away at a Jewish assisted-living facility in Leawood.
The gunman shot at two other people but missed, Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass said.
Fourteen-year-old Reat Griffin Underwood and his grandfather, Dr. William Lewis Corporon were in the JCC’s parking lot on their way to auditions for an American Idol-style singing contest for teens. Both were members of United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, police said.
Terri LaManno, a Catholic mother of two, was killed in the parking lot of Village Shalom, where her mother is a resident.
Police identified Frazier Glenn Miller, 73, of Aurora, Mo., as the suspect in the shootings and said he used a shotgun. He was arrested at the nearby Valley Park Elementary School. Once in the back of the police car, news footage showed him yell, “Heil Hitler” at reporters.
The Secure Community Network, the security affiliate of national Jewish groups, asked communities nationwide to increase security measures, but urged Jews to attend services and other Passover-related events as they had planned before the shooting.
“They need to review secure plans and reach out to police partners to ensure that they work closely with the Jewish community over the next couple of days — review, test and exercise their response plans,” SCN director Paul Goldenberg told JTA. “They need to trust their instincts and err on the side of caution.”
According to the Anti-Defamation League, Miller is well known for his three-decade long “career in hatred and white supremacy.” He began as a neo-Nazi and then became involved with the Ku Klux Klan, serving as the “grand dragon” of the Carolina Knights of the KKK in the 1980s. He was one of America’s most notorious white supremacists.
Miller served three years in prison on weapons charges and for plotting the assassination of Morris Dees, founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
But he had a falling out with other white supremacists after he agreed to testify against some of them in 1988. Throughout the 2000s he promoted racist and anti-Semitic views online but remained shunned by other white supremacists, the ADL said.
Rabbi Mandl pointed out that the gunman never entered either Jewish facility.
“There is a guard at every entrance” of the JCC, he noted.
After the parking lot shooting, the JCC went into lockdown mode. The building was closed Monday because of Sunday’s shooting and Jacob Schreiber, its executive director, could not be reached.
Pollock said the lockdown after the shooting was the right move.
“Anytime you can keep a bad guy outside the building, it is likely to be a better day,” he said. “Better than guards, it is best to have locked doors and to make sure everyone is screened … . Once someone is in the building, it is very difficult to subdue him without casualties.”
Pollock stressed that all Jewish institutions “should have a solid risk assessment done by their local police, the Department of Homeland Security, the New York State Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. The JCRC has facilitated hundreds of such assessments.”
He noted that applications for Homeland Security grants are being accepted until May 9 and that groups can receive as much as $75,000 to help them make the physical improvements needed to make their institutions secure.
President Barack Obama issued a statement in which he “pledged the full support of the federal government” in the investigation.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent condolences to the families of those killed and in a statement condemned the murders “that by all the signs was done out of hatred of Jews.”
“The state of Israel, as one with all civilized people, is obligated to struggle against this blight,” he said.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said in a statement that the shooting is “a reminder of the dangers of homegrown terrorism and the threat posed by extremist organizations or individuals.”
“Coming on the eve of Passover, it is particularly important that all community institutions take the proper steps to maximize security. … During the Passover service, we are reminded that there are those who arise in every generation who are motivated by violent, baseless hatred, extremist ideologies and radical philosophies. While Jews may be targeted, all people become victims,” the statement said.
Locally, Rabbi Joy Levitt, executive director of the JCC of Manhattan, sent an e-mail expressing shock and sadness at the shootings and asking that members and visitors to “continue be patient with our security guards so they may do their best to keep us safe.”