Shootings at Jewish centers in Kansas leave 3 dead

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A shotgun-wielding man opened fire at two Jewish sites in suburban Kansas City on Sunday, killing three people and shocking a peaceful community.

Police arrested a suspect shortly after the separate shootings but have not released his name or the names of the victims.

The shootings occurred at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City, which is in Overland Park, and at Village Shalom, a retirement home nearby, Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass said at a news conference.

“We’re investigating it as a hate crime. We’re investigating it as a murder,” said Douglass, flanked by a representative of the Kansas City FBI office and prosecutors.

President Obama called the shootings “horrific” and said he was staying in close contact with federal, state and local law enforcement officials to provide additional resources, if needed. “While we do not know all of the details surrounding today’s shooting, the initial reports are heartbreaking,” he said in a statement.

The suspect — a bearded man his 70s, not from Kansas, Douglass said — first went to the community center and opened fire at people in the parking lot in front of the Lewis and Shirley White Theatre in the back area of the center, he said. Two males were killed there; one died immediately and one died from his wounds at an area hospital, Douglass said.

The gunfire erupted at the community center as hundreds of high school singers from across the metro area were readying to audition for the KC SuperStar singing scholarship contest and actors were rehearsing for a production of To Kill a Mockingbird, according to The Kansas City Star.

Minutes later, police received a call of shots fired at Village Shalom. One woman was found dead there, also in the parking lot, Douglass said.

The gunman fired at two other people but missed and they were unharmed, he said. The man used a shotgun to kill his victims at the Jewish Community Center and may have used a handgun when firing at the targets he missed, Douglass said. He said he didn’t know which weapon was used at the retirement home.

After the shootings, police blanketed the area and found the suspect in the parking lot of a nearby elementary school, where he was arrested. Investigators are looking at several things found in the suspect’s car that could be used as evidence, Douglass said. He would not say what those items were.

There were no known prior threats to the community center and it did not appear the shooter knew his victims, he said.

“This was, unfortunately, totally unexpected,” Douglass said. “If we had the slightest hint it was going to happen, we would have done everything we could to stop it.”

On its Facebook page, the community center sent condolences to the victims’ families and reiterated that no shots were fired inside the community center. The center was going to be closed Monday.

“Again, our hearts go out to all those affected and touched by this terrible tragedy,” it said.

 

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