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Three people killed in shootings at Jewish centers in Kansas

by Carey Gillam and Kevin Murphy, Reuters

April 13, 2014 | 4:34 pm

Police officers gather at the scene of a shooting at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park, Kansas April 13. Photo by REUTERS/Dave Kaup

Police officers gather at the scene of a shooting at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park, Kansas April 13. Photo by REUTERS/Dave Kaup

Three people were killed in shootings Sunday afternoon at a Jewish community center and at a Jewish elderly care home in a Kansas City suburb, and a suspect has been taken into custody, authorities said.

Police said they did not have a motive for the shootings, but were not ruling out the possibility that the shootings were a hate crime. They have called in the Federal Bureau of Investigation to assist with the investigation, Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass told a news conference.

"We know it's a vicious act of violence," Douglass said.

The shootings started at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park, Kansas, shortly after 1 p.m. local time, and then the shooter moved to the Village Shalom, a retirement community that provides skilled nursing services for residents.

The suspect, a white male in his 70s, was taken into custody at a nearby elementary school, Douglass said. Douglass declined to identify the suspect, but said he was not from Kansas.

Douglass said he could not confirm reports that the suspect had said "Heil Hitler" while in the back of the squad car after being taken into custody.

"The suspect in the back of a car made several statements," Douglass said. "We are sifting through and vetting those for accuracy, number one, and number two we are looking at them for their evidentiary value."

The Jewish Community Center, which is also the site of Kansas City's only Jewish community day school, the Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy, was a hub of activity on Sunday. Several groups were meeting and the academy was preparing for a school dance.

Bailey Wainestock, 16, said she was attending a youth organization meeting with other girls at the community center when they were told it had been locked down due to a shooting. They barricaded the door until security officers rushed them out afterward.

"We didn't know what to think, we were all in shock," Wainestock said in an interview.

Her father, David Wainestock, said the Midwest is supposed to be safe.

"It's pretty traumatic," David Wainestock said. "The thought of something like that happening is terrifying. "In the Midwest we think we're safe from this type of thing. But I guess it doesn't make any difference now."

Reporting by Kevin Murphy and Carey Gillam in Kansas City; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst, Frances Kerry and Meredith Mazzilli

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