By Kevin Murphy and Carey Gillam
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 memorial service in honor of 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 murdering Reat Underwood, 14, and his grandfather, 69-year-old William Corporon, both shot in the head in the parking lot outside the Jewish Community Center. Underwood was about to audition for a singing competition held annually as a community fundraiser.
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.
Speaking at the memorial, U.S. Attorney Eric Holder called the killings “unspeakable acts of violence.
“In this celebratory Holy Week … a pall has been cast over our great nation,” Holder said, referring to the week in Christianity that culminates in Easter Sunday.
“Every alleged hate crime, no matter who the intended target, is an affront to who we are. These acts cannot be ignored. We are united in our condemnation of this heinous attack and our commitment to seeing that justice is served.”
The ‘service of unity and hope,’ featured comments by Jewish and Christian leaders. Images of the victims, suspended on video screens in the large theater, smiled down on the crowd.
“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 Thursday. “We know that hope and love will overcome bigotry and racism.”
(Reporting by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City and reporting and writing by Carey Gillam in Overland Park; Editing by Bernadette Baum)