Jewish center shooting comes amid decade-long slide in anti-Jewish incidents (+video)

Jewish center shooting suspect Frazier Glenn Miller has a long history with hate groups and the shootings will be treated as hate crimes. But Jews have come a long way 'in finding full acceptance in society,' a report says.

By , Staff writer

US President Barack Obama warns that religious violence has no place in society after a gunman with alleged anti-Semitic ties killed three people at a Jewish center and retirement home

Frazier Glenn Miller, the man in custody in connection with the killing of three people near Kansas City, Kan., Sunday, was well known to law-enforcement officials as the former leader of a paramilitary organization that avowed white supremacist beliefs.

Mr. Miller was arrested Sunday in Overland Park, Kan., following a rampage in which police say he fired at five people, killing three. Two victims were were shot in their car outside a Jewish community center while the third was killed in the parking lot of a Jewish senior living facility.

According to local media reports, Miller was smiling as he was arrested, and he shouted “Heil Hitler” while being handcuffed in the back of a patrol car.

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“This was a hate crime,” Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass said at a news conference Monday.

The shooting comes at a time when incidents against Jews in the United States are dropping significantly. In a study released earlier this month, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported a 19 percent decline in 2013 compared with the year before.

This continues "a decade-long downward slide and [marks] one of the lowest levels of incidents reported by the Anti-Defamation League since it started keeping records in 1979," the report says.

“The falling number of incidents targeting Jews is another indication of just how far we have come in finding full acceptance in society, and it is a reflection of how much progress our country has made in shunning bigotry and hatred,” added ADL National Director Abraham Foxman in the report.

But the report noted that assaults against Jews or people who were thought to be Jewish rose in 2013 to 31 from 17 the year before – though there were no deaths. In one incident in Los Angeles last June, five men yelled "Heil Hitler!" before punching a Jewish man in the throat.

Last week, the ADL released an alert to all Jewish institutions warning of the increased potential of violent attacks in the coming week due to the Passover holiday and the April 20 birthdate of Adolf Hitler.

Miller's real name is Frazier Glenn Cross, but he is better known as Miller and has been entrenched in the hate movement for at least four decades, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit civil rights organization in Montgomery, Ala., which tracks hate group activity. Before his involvement in the hate movement, he served in the US Army for 20 years, which included two tours of duty in Vietnam and 13 years as a member of the Green Berets.

The SPLC has argued during the past decade that Miller represents a new kind of figure in the hate crime movement because he often seeks publicity. He created his own website, ran for state and federal office in North Carolina and Missouri, and published a 2002 autobiography.

In 2010, he gained national attention when he ran for one of Missouri's US Senate seats. The Missouri Broadcasters Association asked the Federal Communications Commissions if it had to air his ads, which were racist and anti-Semitic. (FCC rules dictate that any network that airs any campaign ads must air the ads of any candidate.) The FCC said that the commercials should not be banned, but ruled that the decision was up to individual stations.

Miller first became known to law enforcement in Angier, N.C., as the “grand dragon” of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and later as a member of the White Patriot Party. The SPLC brought a lawsuit alleging that Miller was operating an illegal paramilitary organization on his 25-acre farm that targeted blacks. Miller was found in criminal contempt and given a six-month prison term.

After disappearing on bond during the appeals process, he was caught, along with other Klan members, by federal agents. They found a weapons arsenal including hand grenades, automatic weapons, and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Miller was eventually indicted for plotting the assassination of SPLC founder Morris Dees, plotting robberies, and a weapons charge.

He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a five-year federal prison term, which was reduced to three years after he agreed to testify against 14 fellow white supremacist leaders.

Police say Miller was armed with a shotgun, handgun, and assault weapon Sunday.

Kansas recorded zero incidents of anti-Jewish assault, vandalism or harassment in 2012 or 2013, according to the ADL report. A total of 751 incidents were recorded nationwide in 2013, with New York (203) and California (143) topping the list.

‘‘The attacks on the Jewish community centers in Overland Park are a cowardly, unspeakable and heinous act of violence,’’ said Karen Aroesty, ADL St. Louis regional director, in a statement released Monday.

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