Attorney General Eric Holder has ordered a Justice Department investigation into whether federal hate crimes were committed in shootings at two Jewish facilities in Kansas that killed three people.
In a statement, Holder said he has instructed the department to provide all available support to state and local authorities to determine whether the shootings outside Kansas City over the weekend broke federal hate crimes law.
The attorney general said the senseless acts of violence are all the more heartbreaking because they were carried out on the eve of Passover.
Holder said the Justice Department will do everything in its power to ensure justice is served in the case on behalf of the victims and their families. Two men were killed on April 13 behind the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park, Kan. The gunman fled and opened fire at nearby Village Shalom, killing a woman, before being arrested near an elementary school.
Federal hate crimes are acts of violence committed on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation or disability. U.S. law enforcement agencies reported 5,796 hate crime incidents in 2012, according to the latest figure available from the FBI.
A known white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan leader, Frazier Glenn Cross, was jailed in the shootings on a preliminary charge of first-degree murder. The 73-year-old man also was known as Frazier Glenn Miller. He founded the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and served as its "grand dragon" before launching the supremacist White Patriot Party, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups and their leaders.