A white man in his 70’s was arrested this afternoon shortly after he allegedly shot and killed three people in separate shootings at a Jewish community center and a Jewish retirement home in suburban Kansas City.
Initial media reports said the man had shouted “Heil Hitler” as police moved in to arrest him in the parking lot of a nearby school. But at a 5 PM news conference, John Douglass, the police chief of Overland Park, Kansas could not confirm what the man said.
Chief Douglass said it was too early to label the afternoon attack a hate crime, adding that whatever the motive, “It’s a vicious act of violence.”
The FBI has been called in to help with the investigation.
Two men were killed at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and a woman was killed at Village Shalom, a Jewish retirement home.
Two other men were shot at, but narrowly escaped being hit, the chief said.
The shooting apparently began at the center known as JCC. Douglass said the initial call of shots fired came in at 1:05 PM central, at a time when the center was packed with hundreds of high school singers from across the area, auditioning for a singing contest while other young performers tried out for a production of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the Kansas City Star reported.
The gunman did not get inside the center. The shooting occurred in the parking lot where one man died at the scene. The second center fatality died at a nearby hospital, the chief said.
On its Facebook page, the center said “everyone participating in JCC programming has been released to their homes,” adding, “Our hearts go out to the families who have suffered loss on this tragic day.”
A short time after the shooting at the community center, a woman at the retirement home was shot and killed, before two police officers cornered the suspected gunman in the parking lot of a school and arrested him without further incident, police said.
The gunman was put in the back of a police car and made several statements, but the chief would not say what they were.
Neither the names nor the ages of the dead were immediately released.
Chief Douglass said at the news conference that a shotgun had been used in the attacks and police were investigating whether a handgun and perhaps an assault weapon had also been used. The back doors of the center “sustained substantial damage,” the chief said.
The chief would not release the name of the alleged shooter. He said the man was not from the area, but declined to provide any additional details.
“He was not known to us until today,” he said.
Mark Brodky, a member of the community center, told KSHB that a man pointed a gun at him and shot out the windows of his car.
“I thought he was shooting an air rifle and all of a sudden he shot at me,” Brodky told the station as police flooded the area.
The buildings were locked down by police, as anxious parents gathered in a nearby fast food restaurant waiting for word about their children.
On its Facebook page, the center announced it will be closed tomorrow and expressed “Our heartfelt gratitude as well to all those in Kansas City and around the world who have expressed sympathy, concern and support.”