Local Passover celebrations tempered by shootings in Kansas

Local Passover celebrations tempered by shootings in Kansas

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. - The Jewish holiday of Passover began Monday at sunset.  Jewish communities all over the world entering a week of prayer and celebration but with heavy hearts. Three people are dead after a gunman opened fire in front of two Jewish facilities near Kansas City on Sunday.

Frazier Glenn Cross, of Aurora, Mo., was booked into Johnson County jail on a preliminary charge of first-degree murder after the attacks Sunday in Overland Park.

At a news conference, Overland Park police Chief John Douglass declined to publicly identify the man suspected in the attacks. But an official at the Olathe jail, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the case, identified the suspect as 73-year-old Frazier Glenn Cross, of Aurora, Mo.

According to police, the attacks happened within minutes of one another. At around 1 p.m. a gunman shot two people in the parking lot behind the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City. He then drove a few blocks away to a Jewish retirement community, Village Shalom, and gunned down a woman or girl there, Douglass said. Officers arrested him in an elementary school parking lot a short time later.

Police said the attacks at both sites happened outside, and that the gunman never entered any buildings. Douglass said the gunman also shot at two other people during the attacks, but missed.

"It's always shocking, It's always devastating to hear such a thing," said Rabbi Dovber Dechter from the Chabad of Rancho Mirage.  The rabbi struggled to make sense of the shooting spree. The victims were not Jewish.  The FBI believes it was a hate crime because Cross is a well-known white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan leader who was once the subject of a nationwide manhunt.  "It's that much more pronounced or compounded at a time where everyone wants to joyfully gather," said Chaya Posner of the Chabad of Rancho Mirage. 

The shooting came on the eve of Passover when the Jewish community celebrates freedom from slavery in ancient Egypt.  Dechter says, the shooting only makes the message more relevant.  "The holiday we're celebrating is not a historical event from many thousands of years ago," said Dechter.  "There still exists this hate and this prejudice that we constantly need to be vigilant of." 

While the Chabad of Rancho Mirage sets up to begin Passover with the Seder dinner, mourners gathered for a candlelight vigil in Overland Park.  Despite the distance, our local Jewish community is sending its condolences and prayers. "We hope that they'll have the strength and courage to grow from this and to come away a stronger community," said Dechter. 

A community who teaches the next generation to meet hate with goodwill. "We will not allow their putting out candles, their putting out people's lives, we will strike a match and we will light up this world," said Posner. 

Cross is still in custody while the FBi and police finalize a list of charges which will include at least first-degree murder. 

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