Monday visitors to the fitness center Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas, may have to find alternate arrangements for a period of time after a Sunday afternoon shooting on April 13, 2014, which has left 3 dead and several injured.
The Jewish Community Center is a popular venue for masters swim classes and a frequent busy hub of fitness activities and participants be it at the gym or pool. The JCC gymnasium has two cross court basketball courts and holds early morning open gym hours.
The shootings were first reported at 1:03 P.M. central time outside the Jewish Community Center at 115th and Nall in Overland Park where the suspect killed 2 people. Minutes later police received a call on another active shooting situation outside Village Shalom Retirement Community at 123rd and Nall where the 3rd death occurred. The suspect was arrested at Valley Park Elementary School at 123rd and Lamar. In all, the gunman shot at five people, police said. According to police, he used a shotgun. They were exploring the possibility that a handgun and an assault rifle were also involved.
To say the community of this Kansas City suburb is shocked is an understatement. Overland Park rarely is first hand witness to these acts of violence. The Jewish Community Center is located near high end residential areas, shopping and busy restaurants as well as next door to Sprint World Headquarters. The Community Center was on lockdown until shortly after 3 P.M. on Sunday. Several witnesses say they took cover in the locker rooms of the building. The back doors to the Jewish Community Center have extensive damage, according to police.
The suspect was described as a white male, in his 70’s with a beard. Police have not identified him and said he does not live in the area and was not known to them before this day. From JTA.org, “Rabbi Herbert Mandl, who works with the Overland Park police, told CNN that the gunman asked people if they were Jewish” and shot them if they said yes. The man taken into custody was apprehended at a nearby elementary school and was heard yelling “heil Hitler,” according to KSHB-TV. “It’s too early in the investigation to try and label it,” Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass said, adding however that with “two Jewish facilities, one might make that assumption.” The shooting also coincided with Passover-related activities for the Jewish community. Police are still investigating the scene and interviewing the suspect.