On Palm Sunday, a hate-mongering racist picked two Jewish sites in Overland Park, Kan. — the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and Village Shalom Retirement Community in Leawood — to shoot three unsuspecting and innocent people.
The 73-year-old man from southwest Missouri had driven three hours to Overland Park, where on the community center parking lot he fired into a car, killing a grandfather and his 14-year-old grandson. Shortly after that, he killed a woman in the parking lot of the retirement community as she arrived to visit her mother, a resident there.
Police then arrested the shooter.
The grandfather was William Lewis Corporon, a doctor who practiced family medicine in Oklahoma before moving to the Kansas City area to be closer to his grandchildren and continue practicing medicine. His grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, a high schooler active in debate and theater, was at the community center to audition for a singing competition.
Authorities identified the third victim as Terri LaManno, 53, who was making her regular Sunday afternoon visit to Village Shalom to see her mother. LaManno was an occupational therapist at the Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired in Kansas City.
The gunman, Frazier Glenn Cross, who also goes by Frazier Glenn Miller, has a lengthy resume of anti-Semitism and white supremacist activism. Authorities say he has been active in the white supremacy movement since the 1970s. He was a Green Beret who served 20 years in the Army, including two tours in Vietnam. The Southern Poverty Law Center said his racist views were shaped early in life.
In the early 1980s, Cross founded and ran the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He preferred fatigues to traditional white robes worn by the Klan; he recruited active-duty soldiers as members.
The Anti-Defamation League said its files show the group “drew notoriety for its paramilitary training exercises” and was behind several attacks on African Americans. They described Cross as “one of the more notorious white supremacists in the U.S.”
The SPLC sued Cross for operating an illegal paramilitary organization and for intimidating African Americans. A court settlement barred the Knights from operating, but within a month Cross came up with another group, the White Patriot Party.
After a Marine admitted selling the group anti-tank rockets, mines and explosives, a court found Cross in contempt for forming another paramilitary group and sentenced him to six months in prison. He appealed and bolted.
While underground, he sent supporters a “kill” list with an assigned point system: Blacks (1 point), “White race traitors” (10), Jews (10), judges (50) and SPLC founder Morris Dees (888).
The FBI caught up with Cross and tear-gassed him out of a Missouri mobile home, where they found a cache of weapons. He served three years in federal prison on weapons charges and for plotting robberies and the assassination of Dees. He struck a plea bargain to receive the short sentence by agreeing to testify against 14 other white supremacists in a sedition trial in Arkansas in 1988.
Then, reviled in white supremacist circles as a “race traitor” himself, he kept a low profile for a while but held onto his perverse views. In 2005, he published two issues of The Aryan Alternative, a racist tabloid. Both were large press runs, and the publications floated around for years.
He reportedly posted more than 12,000 times on the Vanguard News Network, an anti-Semitic, white supremacist website.
Ironically, the grandfather and grandson whom Cross shot in the community center parking lot were not Jewish. They were Methodists. And Terri LaManno wasn’t Jewish either but Catholic.
Cross is in a heap of trouble now, facing murder charges. Authorities are trying to determine whether they also will charge him with hate crimes, even though none of his victims was Jewish.
Hatred itself is not a crime. Any person in America is free to hate any other person or group of people without risk of arrest or punishment as long as another person or persons is not physically or psychologically harmed by the acting out of that hate.
The only cure for hate is a changed heart. That doesn’t necessarily happen in a court of law or behind bars. In the case of Cross, deeply embedded hate at a young age has resulted in a wasted life and flowered into a premeditated rage. For him, hate finally grew to its logical conclusion.
A person rarely controls hate. Rather, hate controls that person.
Bil Webb is editor of Word&Way.