Updated 11:16 a.m. Tuesday with murder charges filed against Miller:
When Ellen Futterman heard the name of the man suspected of shooting three people to death at two Jewish agencies in suburban Kansas City, she thought back to a telephone interview she did in 2010.
As part of her work on a series of stories about hate crimes, Futterman, the editor of the St. Louis Jewish Light, talked with people like Joseph Paul Franklin, who was executed last year for a murder outside a Richmond Heights synagogue in 1977, and leaders of the Westboro Baptist Church, infamous for their protests outside military funerals.
She also spoke by phone to Frazier Glenn Cross, better known as F. Glenn Miller, an avowed anti-Semite who was then running a write-in campaign for the U.S. Senate from Missouri. He is suspected of killing three people at the Jewish Community Center and a Jewish retirement community in Overland Park, Kan., on Sunday.
On Tuesday, prosecutors filed two types of murder charges against Miller in the deaths of a teen, his grandfather and a woman who was visiting her mother at the retirement facility.
In an interview with St. Louis Public Radio Monday, Futterman recalled Miller’s rants about how Jews were running the government and the media and demonizing the word “German,” and how he was campaigning as a white separatist “to expose Jewish genocide against the white gentiles.”
She recalled that when he was a guest at one point with Howard Stern and was asked whom he hated most — blacks, gays or Jews — his response was that Jews were the worst by far.
“A lot of the stuff he said didn’t make a lot of sense to me, to be honest with you,” she said. “But he basically said that the Jews are to blame for everything that is wrong with this country.”
Having heard similar views from others, Futterman said Miller’s talk didn’t strike her as anything to be too concerned about.
“A lot of it just seemed to me like people spouting,” she said, “not something you take seriously. It saddens me as a human to hear what they have to say, but I don’t think at the time I found myself that worried about what he was saying. It sounded more like he was blowing a lot of smoke …
“With folks like that, you think they’re a lot of talk. So when I heard about his actions, I was really shocked.”
Futterman and Karen Aroesty, St. Louis regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, both said that trying to predict whether or when the talk from someone like Miller might boil over into violence is hardly possible. Aroesty said that the ADL has been aware of Miller for a long time.
“Do I think he was capable of committing violence against Jews and Jewish institutions?” Aroesty asked. “Absolutely. He was virulently hateful and has been consistent for decades. He has been involved in violence himself. He has been someone who has incited others to violence.
“So is he capable? Yeah. Is there a crystal ball out there so we can know what is going to be a trigger that is going to send somebody to either do this kind of extraordinary behavior on the spur of the moment or to carefully plan the activities that occurred yesterday? I think until more information is available, it would be hard to speculate. But does he have the capacity? You bet.”
Alert had been issued
Noting that mid-April is a frequent time for terrorist activity — the bombing in Oklahoma City, the siege at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, shootings at Virginia Tech and Columbine, last year’s explosions at the Boston Marathon — as well as the April 20 birthday of Adolf Hitler, Aroesty said that the ADL had issued an alert for possible violence against Jewish agencies.
And, she noted, the fatal shooting of a security guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., in 2009 and wounding of five people by a gunman at the Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles in 1999 have also put people on their guard.
“It’s really sad to say that we have to anticipate consistently being a target as a religious community,” she said “But we’ve had to be a target and have to expect to continue to be a target into the future. It’s so sad. It’s terribly sad for a people to have to think about all the time.
“But then again, you could argue that the kinds of things that the Jewish community has had are sometimes experienced by all religious communities, and that’s sometimes the nature of the way hate violence ends up being directed.”
Futterman noted that she has continued a Google alert for hate crimes that she set up when she was working on the stories for the Jewish Light, which were published in collaboration with the St. Louis Beacon.
Stories from around the world pop up almost daily, she said.
“It’s extremely upsetting to me,” Futterman said. “I still get these hate crime alerts. It’s something that I feel very dedicated to keeping on top of because of the series I did and its aftermath. I wish there was nothing to write about anymore, but unfortunately there is.”
Recalling her interview with Miller, she said she introduced herself as being with the Jewish Light and he asked whether she was Jewish. She said she was, and Miller was happy to talk with her for as long as she would listen.
“I remember feeling shaky afterward,” she said. “It’s really hard to listen to somebody spout so much hatred. It really is. It’s difficult to hear. It’s difficult to collect your thoughts and to have a conversation with somebody who has so much venom in him.”
Obama, Blunt respond
After the shootings in suburban Kansas City Sunday, President Barack Obama expressed his condolences. He expanded on those thoughts Monday at a prayer breakfast, saying that “this morning our prayers are with the people of Overland Park … Innocent people were killed. Their families were devastated. And this violence has struck the heart of the Jewish community in Kansas City.”
Noting that the head of a United Methodist church where two of the victims worshipped had delivered a sermon at a prayer service at the National Cathedral last year, Obama noted the religious context for the time of year at which the shootings had occurred.
“That this occurred now — as Jews were preparing to celebrate Passover, as Christians were observing Palm Sunday — makes this tragedy all the more painful,” he said. “And today, as Passover begins, we’re seeing a number of synagogues and Jewish community centers take added security precautions. Nobody should have to worry about their security when gathering with their fellow believers. No one should ever have to fear for their safety when they go to pray.
“And as a government, we’re going to provide whatever assistance is needed to support the investigation. As Americans, we not only need to open our hearts to the families of the victims, we’ve got to stand united against this kind of terrible violence, which has no place in our society. And we have to keep coming together across faiths to combat the ignorance and intolerance, including anti-Semitism that can lead to hatred and to violence, because we’re all children of God. We’re all made in His image, all worthy of his love and dignity. And we see what happens around the world when this kind of religious-based or tinged violence can rear its ugly head. It’s got no place in our society.”
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., released this statement about the shootings:
“This kind of senseless attack on our community is repugnant any day, but choosing Passover as a time to demonstrate this hateful intolerance shows how disturbed this person must be. This suspect clearly has a history of outrageous behavior, and I join all Missourians in condemning this devastating act of violence. I plan to stay in touch with community leaders and am thinking of the victims and their families who have suffered a great loss.”
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