OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — State prosecutors charged a 73-year-old white supremacist with murder on Tuesday in the killing of three people outside two Jewish community facilities Sunday.
At a news conference in this Kansas City suburb, authorities announced one count of capital murder and one count of premeditated first-degree murder against Frazier Glenn Miller of Aurora, Mo., who has for decades espoused anti-Semitic and racist beliefs. If convicted, he would face life without parole, though prosecutors could choose to seek the death penalty.
“This is making sure justice is done,” said Stephen M. Howe, the state district attorney for Johnson County. “This is not about retribution.”
Barry Grissom, the US attorney for the District of Kansas, said his office was pursuing federal hate-crime charges and would present evidence to a grand jury soon. That, too, could be a death penalty case, he said.
Hours later, Miller, a Ku Klux Klan member also known as Frazier Glenn Cross, made a video appearance in Johnson County District Court from jail. He was brought to the camera room in a wheelchair, his hair plastered to his forehead, his thin arms poking out from a suicide prevention smock. Officials would not comment about his medical condition or cell arrangements.
At the brief court hearing, Miller responded to questions from Magistrate Judge Dan Vokins by saying that he understood the charges and that he could not afford his own lawyer.
Bond was set at $10 million, and another court appearance was scheduled for next week.
What prompted the shooting remained unanswered. Miller drove to Overland Park, authorities said, armed with at least a shotgun and a handgun.
Police said Miller fired the shotgun outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City around 1 p.m. Sunday, killing William Lewis Corporon, 69, a longtime physician, and his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, who was auditioning that day for a singing competition.
Howe said the killing of more than one person in a single act and location allowed for the capital murder charge, which he called “the most serious crime you can commit in Kansas.”
Authorities say Miller drove from there to a nearby Jewish assisted-living complex, Village Shalom, where he fatally shot Terri LaManno, 53, an occupational therapist who was visiting her mother. For that, Miller was charged with premeditated first-degree murder.
None of the victims were Jewish, but authorities said federal hate crimes were based on intent, not whether a person from the targeted group has been injured.
After his arrest at a nearby school, Miller shouted “Heil Hitler” from the back of a squad car.
“The Jewish community is really, I think, just trying to make sense of it,” said Scott Novarr, who was visiting his grandparents at the retirement complex with his four children when the shooting occurred. “How do you explain it to your children?”
The killings, which occurred the day before the Passover holiday, have left much of the area in shock and mourning; vigils have been held, and flags are waving at half-staff. Families and friends are trying to keep the focus on the lives that were lost and not on the man that officials say took them.
“It takes no character to do what was done,” Will Corporon, the son and uncle to the first two victims, said to reporters this week. “It takes no strength of character. It takes no backbone. It takes no morals. It takes no ethics. All it takes is an idiot with a gun, so there’s no need to focus on that.”
At Blue Valley High School, Emily Hess, a freshman and friend of Reat Underwood, said choir students at practice this week wept for their classmate.
“Everyone was losing their minds,” she said.