By Maria Sudekum
OVERLAND PARK, KAN.: A man in his 70s opened fire Sunday outside of a Jewish community center and nearby retirement community, killing three people, authorities said.
Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass said at a news conference Sunday evening that the attacks apparently occurred minutes apart.
“Today is a sad and very tragic day,” Douglass said. “As you might imagine we are only three hours into this investigation. There’s a lot of innuendo and a lot of assertions going around. There is really very little hardcore information.”
Shots were fired behind the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in a parking lot about 1 p.m., Douglass said. One male died at the scene, another male died at a hospital. The gunman then fled and opened fire at nearby Village Shalom, killing a female, before later being arrested near an elementary school. Two other people were shot at, but the gunfire missed them, Douglass said.
Douglass said it was too early in the investigation to determine if the shootings were hate crimes. The Jewish festival of Passover begins today.
“We know it was a vicious act of violence, and we know obviously it was at two Jewish facilities. One might make that assumption,” Douglass said.
He described the suspect as a white man in his 70s who is not from Kansas. He said the suspect was being held at the Johnson County Detention Center, but did not provide further information.
“We have no indication he knew the victims,” Douglass said, adding that the suspect was not known to Kansas City-area authorities before the shootings.
Douglass said a shotgun was used, and investigators were trying to determine whether a handgun and assault-style rifle also were involved.
The Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park posted on its Facebook page Sunday afternoon that a “shooting incident” happened near its White Theater entrance.
“Everyone participating in JCC programming has been released to their homes,” the center posted later Sunday.
There was a heavy police presence at the campus, which spans several acres in an affluent area of Johnson County, Kansas.
Police had also taped off the entrance to Village Shalom on Sunday afternoon, and several patrol cars and a crime scene unit van were parked in front.
Auditions for the KC SuperStar competition had been expected to draw hundreds of high school students to the Jewish Community Center on Sunday afternoon, but the event’s website said the auditions were canceled.
Other programs at the center Sunday at the time of the shooting included a weekly program for children on the autism spectrum called “Fun and Fitness with Friends” and an acting group rehearsing for a production of To Kill a Mockingbird. About eight or nine children and about six parents were there for the autism program as well as 10 to 12 volunteers and others from the SuperStars auditions and the play rehearsal.
The Kansas City Star contributed to this report.