The wheels of justice must be allowed to turn at their own deliberate pace, and we’ve seen plenty of instances where the “hate crime” label was thrown around loosely, but if the horrific shooting in the suburbs of Kansas City on Sunday isn’t a “hate crime,” then we might as well retire the term. There have always been arguments that “hate” is too subjective to have such a central role in the justice system, and we really ought to be more focused on impartially dealing with the “crime” part of the equation.
But in this case, the authorities are taking great care before applying the “hate crimes” label to a 73-year-old white supremacist who opened fire on a Jewish community center and nearby retirement home, killing a 14-year-old boy, his grandfather, and a woman who has not yet been identified. The Kansas City Star reports:
After officers arrested Frazier Glenn Cross ??? an Aurora, Mo., man better known as F. Glenn Miller ??? Sunday afternoon, authorities said he went on a rant inside the patrol car. Though Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass wouldn???t say what Cross hollered, a television crew captured him on video while he was handcuffed in the back of the car.
???Heil Hitler,??? Miller yelled out, and then he bobbed his head up and down.
Four hours after the shooting rampage was first reported, Douglass said in a news conference that it was too early to know definitively what the shooter???s motives were, but added: ???We are investigating this as a hate crime.???
In all, the gunman fired at five people Sunday afternoon, police said, but he missed two of his targets, who were not injured. Police said the man had not only a shotgun but also a handgun and possibly an assault weapon.
Two of the victims who died were shot in a car at the community center, 5801 W. 115th St., Douglass said. One of them was William Lewis Corporon, a Johnson County doctor. The other, Reat Griffin Underwood, was Corporon???s 14-year-old grandson, who died later at Overland Park Regional Medical Center.
The third victim, who was not publicly identified Sunday night was shot and killed in the parking lot of the Village Shalom senior living facility at 5500 W. 123rd St.
Of course the idea of an “assault weapon” had to work its way into the news somehow, even though the murders were committed with a shotgun. Miller fired at two other people but missed, and was arrested near an elementary school. Even if he was only armed with a shotgun, it’s fortunate he was taken into custody before his rampage grew even worse. Local police, and the staff at the community center, responded with commendable speed.
According to eyewitnesses, Miller was smiling when he was arrested. CNN has run two separate articles going into his hate-group history, based largely on information provided by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which sued him back in the 1980s for “operating an illegal paramilitary organization and for intimidating African-Americans,” the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He did some prison time on weapons charges – caught by federal agents in a mobile home in the Ozarks stuffed with “hand grenades, automatic weapons, and thousands of rounds of ammunition,” according to Fox News – cut a plea deal in which he testified against other white supremacists, wrote a torrent of blog posts on anti-Semitic white supremacist sites (where he referred to Jews as “swarthy, hair, bow-legged, beady-eyed, parasitic midgets”) and ran for the Senate in 2010 under the slogan “It’s the Jews, Stupid.” For those looking to play political guilt-by-association games, Miller has run for office as both a Democrat and a Republican over the years.
Given Miller’s history and choice of targets, plus whatever he yelled at the cops when they carted him off, it shouldn’t take long before the official hate-crimes designation is made. He reportedly knew nothing about any of the people he shot at, selecting his victims at random, targeting both a prominently labeled Jewish Community Center and a retirement community called “Village Shalom.” As it happens, the young man and his grandfather murdered outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City were Methodists, arriving at the center to try out for a singing competition, as reported by the Associated Press:
Authorities declined to release the victims’ names pending notification of their relatives. However, the family of the first two victims released a statement identifying them as Dr. William Lewis Corporon, who died at the scene, and his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, who died at Overland Park Regional Medical Center.
They were both Christian, and the family thanked members of their church congregation, among others, for their support.
“We take comfort knowing they are together in Heaven,” the family said. It asked for privacy to mourn.
Rebecca Sturtevant, a hospital spokeswoman, said family members told her Corporon had taken his grandson to the community center so that the boy could try out for a singing competition for high school students. Reat was a freshman at Blue Valley High School and an Eagle Scout.
Authorities nationwide were already on alert for anti-Semitic crimes, as April brings both Passover and Adolf Hitler’s birthday. According to the New York Observer, the shooting in Kansas city prompted New York City mayor Bill deBlasio to announce “the NYPD is taking all steps to ensure the safety and security of Jewish individuals and institutions as Passover is being ushered in.”