OVERLAND PARK, Kansas (Reuters) - The scene of what authorities say was a hate crime just days ago became the setting for tears, prayers and calls for peace as religious leaders gathered at a Kansas Jewish community center for a service to honor the three people shot dead on Sunday.
Heavy security surrounded the Jewish Community Center on Thursday in suburban Overland Park, Kansas, where two of the victims were gunned down, and several hundred people crowded into the center’s auditorium for the interfaith service.
“We all needed to come together to ... bring into this tragedy God, heaven, peace and love,” Jacob Schreiber, president and chief executive of the Jewish Community Center, told the gathering.
Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, also known as avowed white supremacist Glenn Miller, is being held on $10 million bond on a charge of capital murder and premeditated first-degree murder for the killings on the eve of the Jewish Passover holiday.
Federal prosecutors have said they also plan to file federal hate crime charges against Cross, known by law enforcement as a senior member of the white supremacy movement and someone who had made repeated threats against Jewish people.
Cross is accused of killing Reat Underwood, 14, and his grandfather, William Corporon, 69, both shot in the head in the parking lot outside the center where Underwood was about to audition for an annual singing competition.
A third victim, 53-year-old Terri LaManno, an occupational therapist, was shot dead minutes later at a Jewish retirement home about a mile away where she was visiting her mother.
Though officials said Cross appeared to be targeting Jews, Underwood and Corporon were Methodists, and LaManno was Catholic. A funeral service for LaManno was held Thursday.
Speaking at the memorial, U.S. Attorney Eric Holder called the killings unspeakable acts of violence at a time when Jewish families come together for Passover and Christian families to celebrate Holy Week that culminates in Easter Sunday.
“These acts cannot be ignored and their impact is not limited to particular communities or to particular individuals,” Holder said.
“That’s why today, although our hearts are truly broken, all Americans stand with the people of Overland Park, of Leawood and of Kansas City,” he said. “We are united in our condemnation of this heinous attack and in our commitment to see that justice is served.”
The “service of unity and hope,” featured comments by Jewish and Christian leaders. Smiling images of the victims were projected on video screens in the large theater.
“This speaks to the strength of the Kansas City community,” said Eric Morgenstern, former board member of the Jewish Community Center who was volunteering at the event. “We know that hope and love will overcome bigotry and racism.”
Renee Franklin said after the service that the community’s response was comforting.
“It’s important to take a stand and to show that life continues and that their deaths were not in vain,” said Franklin, an Overland Park resident.
U.S. Representatives Emanuel Cleaver, a Democrat representing Kansas City, Missouri, and Kevin Yoder, a Kansas Republican, were among officials who attended the memorial.
“Here in the heartland we have sometimes overlooked the threats we face in our community,” Yoder said afterward. “This is a moment for us to say ‘how do we assure this never happens again and that it gets proper attention from our national government to make sure security measures are in place.’”
Reporting by Kevin Murphy and Carey Gillam; Writing by Carey Gillam; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Ken Wills