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3 killed by gunfire at Jewish facilities in Kansas

| Sunday, April 13, 2014, 9:18 p.m.

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — A man in his 70s opened fire on Sunday outside a Jewish community center and nearby retirement community, killing three people, authorities said.

Overland Park police Chief John Douglass said a person who had been reported to be in critical condition was among the three killed in the attacks, which 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, and another male died in a hospital. The gunman 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 whether the shootings were hate crimes. The Jewish festival of Passover begins on Monday.

“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 is being held in 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 were involved.

The Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park posted on its Facebook page that a “shooting incident” happened near its White Theater entrance.

“Everyone participating in JCC programming has been released to their homes,” the center posted.

There was a heavy police presence at the campus, which spans several acres in an affluent area of Johnson County. Police taped off the entrance to Village Shalom, and several patrol cars and a crime scene unit van were parked in front.

St. Louis resident Kristy Straeb, 47, said her sister-in-law, Stacie Ventimiglia, was at the center's pool with a friend and four little girls younger than 7 for a swimming lesson, which ended about 12:45 p.m. Straeb said they decided at the last minute to get the girls showered.

“They had just gotten the four babies naked, and somebody yelled into the family locker room, ‘We have an active shooter situation. You need to get safe,' ” Straeb said.

The women got into a cubby area and were “ready to push the little girls into four empty lockers,” Straeb said. She noted that the women and their children were not harmed and left the center about 2:45 p.m.

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