There was a sense that behind his mirrored aviator sunglasses, the eyes of Frazier Glenn Cross were burning with intensity. They always did when he spewed racist bitterness, and anyone who would listen got an earful.
‘‘White people just getting fed up,’’ said Cross, also known as Frazier Glenn Miller. ‘‘We’re building a white Christian army. We don’t make any bones about that.’’
That morning, in the summer of 1984, he was at the apex of his white racist crusade, a pinnacle from which he would tumble in disgrace, denounced as a coward and traitor by the people he sought to lead.
Almost 30 years later, he is in a suburban Kansas City jail cell, charged with fatally shooting three people at random Sunday outside a Jewish community center and a Jewish retirement home. Anyone familiar with his long history of anti-Semitism would figure that if Cross was the one who shot those three people, he thought they were Jewish.
But none of those who died — William Lewis Corporon, 69; his grandson Reat Griffin Underwood, 14; and Terri LaManno, 53 — were Jewish.
Cross, who made his first court appearance Tuesday, was charged as Frazier Glenn Cross, according to the Associated Press; however, his official, copyrighted website, which was last updated in November 2013, lists his name as Glenn Miller. On Tuesday, he entered a videoconference room in a wheelchair but stood to face the camera. He spoke only to answer routine questions from the judge and requested a court-appointed attorney. His demeanor was far different when he was arrested. From the back seat of a police car, he reportedly bellowed, ‘‘Heil Hitler.’’
A longtime devotee of Adolf Hitler, Cross, 73, described himself as a Nazi-turned-Klansman. ‘‘That swastika turns too many people off,’’ he said. ‘‘The Klan name has tremendous appeal to so-called rednecks. You know, the rough, tough, beer-drinking, barroom brawlers.’’
In his police mug shot, he is graying, bearded, and disheveled, a far cry from the figure he cut three decades earlier. After 20 years in the military, the former Army Green Beret stood ramrod-straight in front of his small frame house at the end of a gravel driveway, not far from a rural two-lane road in a quiet North Carolina county.
He greeted visitors with a single question: ‘‘Are you a Jew?’’ Jews, he said, were not permitted to set foot on his 25-acre farm in Angier, N.C.
Standing there, arms folded across his chest, sleeves torn off his T-shirt and eyes hidden behind the mirrored sunglasses, he clearly was not cut from the same cloth as many other Klan leaders.
Rather than join a long-established Klan group, he had formed his own faction, the Carolina Knights, in 1980.
The leader of the traditional Klan group, the North Carolina Knights, Virgil Griffin, was a gas station attendant who couldn’t read. His Klansmen, who took part in the infamous 1979 killings known as ‘‘the Greensboro massacre,’’ tended to be uneducated roughnecks.
Cross’ military background — he served two tours in Vietnam before being forced to retire from the Army for distributing racist propaganda — attracted veterans who tended to be more educated, disciplined, and virulently racist.
‘‘We’re working now on the spirit of Southern nationalism rather than secession, although I’d love to see it,’’ Cross said. ‘‘The white race is dying out. That’s what concerns me. Future generations are going to be a bunch of mix-breeded, kinky-headed, slant-eyed, fur-headed mongrels with bubble lips.’’
Three days later, dressed in a hooded white robe, he held a torch to the base of a massive wooden cross and watched the flames crawl upward as more than 100 robed Klansmen chanted ‘‘White power.’’
With a military pension to support his wife and four children, he said he could devote himself full time to developing his new army and teaching his children about the evils of ‘‘race mixing.’’
Not long after that, his Carolina Knights morphed into a new organization, the White Patriot Party. Though the new group has been described as a Klan outfit, it seemed much closer to its Nazi roots. He insisted that he was training his army only for self-defense, but law enforcement sources said the tactics being taught went far beyond personal defense.
After evidence was unearthed of a plot to assassinate Morris Dees, head of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that tracks hate organizations, a court issued an order barring the group from engaging in paramilitary activity.