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Gunman held for killing three at Kansas Jewish centers

Gunman held for killing three at Kansas Jewish centers

Three people were killed Sunday when a gunman opened fire outside the Overland Park Jewish Community Center in suburban Kansas City, Kansas and at the nearby assisted living residence Village Shalom, authorities said.

One of the victims was reportedly a 15-year-old boy. A spokeswoman for a local hospital had initially said the boy was in critical condition.

The attack began at about 1:00 p.m., local time, when the gunman shot the first two victims, both male, in a parking lot near the JCC’s theater. The man then got in his car and headed to Village Shalom, where he killed a woman in her 70s about 15 minutes after the first shooting.

Rabbi Herbert Mandl, who serves as chaplain for the Overland Park Police Department, told CNN the suspect asked people whether they were Jewish before opening fire, though this claim could not be independently confirmed.

About 75 people were inside the JCC’s theater, most of them children, during the shooting, though the center stressed the incident took place inside the parking lot, according to KCTV television.

Police took one person into custody at the Valley Park Elementary School, several blocks from Village Shalom.

Local news outlets reported that the man was heard yelling “Heil Hitler” as police took him into custody.

Police said the suspected gunman was in his 70s, but did not release his name. They said it could be assumed, given the Jewish facilities that were targeted, that it was a hate crime, but that it was “too early” to formally make that label. The gunman was not from Kansas, and was not known to local police.

Officials said the suspect used a shotgun in the assault and investigators were trying to determine whether a handgun and assault rifle were involved.

A police vehicle near the location of a shooting at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas, Sunday, April 13, 2014 (Photo credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images via JTA Photos)

The Jewish Community Center was put in lockdown after the shooting.

At a press briefing held several hours after the attack, Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass said his department had asked the FBI to be involved in the investigation, and a special agent had already been assigned.

“The community center has really worked hard to maintain a safe environment and we have worked with them,” Douglass said. “This is a very sad and tragic day and there are no other words to express the senseless things that happened this afternoon,”

As the incident began, a group of kids was filing into the JCC ahead of an audition for the high school singing competition KC Superstar. They were told to find shelter in the locker rooms.

The Village Shalom assisted living residence (screen capture: Fox News)

“I thought he was shooting an air rifle and all of a sudden he shot at me,” Mark Brodky, a member at the JCC, told Action News. He said the man shot out the windows of his car.

Phyllis Cantor, who is undergoing rehabilitation at Village Shalom, told KCTV5 that many police officers were at the scene and there was particular focus on a white car in the parking lot.

Yahav Barnea, who works at the JCC, told Israel’s Channel 2 News that there were several events taking place at the center as well as the singing contest, including Jewish youth movement events, and that the JCC’s fitness center was also open.

She said local community leaders had received routine security warnings ahead of Passover, “but nothing specific for this area.”

“Our hearts go out to the families who have suffered loss on this tragic day,” the JCC said in a statement. “Our heartfelt gratitude as well to all those in Kansas City and around the world who have expressed sympathy, concern and support.”

The center would remain closed through Monday, the JCC said.

By The Times of Israel

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