Former Overland Park police chief reflects on Jewish Community Center tragedy after shooter dies in prison

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Frazier Glenn Cross Jr., who committed three murders in an effort to kill Jewish people, died at the El Dorado Correctional Facility near Wichita.

Cross was sentenced to death for his crimes.

It will go down as one of the most heinous attacks on the community in history for the Kansas City area. Many involved and affected by it have moved on, but Cross’s death brings the memories to the surface once again.

“It happened on my watch,” said former Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass, who was just four days from retiring when he got the call of an active shooter at the Jewish Community Center on April 13, 2014. “I had a really good relationship with lots of parts of the community and I felt a responsibility to take care of them.”

Douglas spent his entire career with the Overland Park Police Department, 41 years serving and protecting the community.

“There’s probably five or six things that leave a mark on your soul and the way you see the world,” Douglass said.”That certainly was one of those, five or six things.”

Self described white supremacist, Cross had emphysema and drove from Southwest Missouri to Overland Park with the express goal of killing Jewish people before he died.

“This man was beyond belief as a bigot,” Douglass said. “I mean, the things he said and his mental mental state, what he wanted to accomplish. He was horrible in that respect.”

Fourteen-year-old Reit Underwood, his grandfather 69-year-old Dr. William Corporon and 53-year-old Terri LaManno were murdered that day.

“The irony was the people that he shot and killed were non-Jews,” Douglass said. “No less tragic but so fruitless, he accomplished absolutely nothing even in his twisted demented way.”

The man who Douglass described as pure evil did not win that day or ever. Dying in prison, a convicted murderer. The beauty of the human spirit growing out of the hatred he planted.

“The community, best I can tell, has continued to rap its arms around this particular group,” Douglass said of the support for the Jewish community and victim’s families. “He tried to single them out, to move them away from the herd and the exact opposite took place.”

The Corporon family issued this statement regarding Cross’s death: (statement)

Cross is believed to have died of natural causes. An autopsy will be preformed to determine his cause of death.

The Corporon released the following statement Tuesday:

“Our family learned in the late evening hours of May 3, 2021, that the convicted murderer who took the lives of our family members, William L Corporon MD and Reat Griffin Underwood as well as the life of Teresa LaManno on April 13, 2014, had died of natural causes. We choose to not use his name ensuring he occupies zero percent of our consciousness.”

“We offer gratitude to the first responders, Overland Park Regional Medical Center, police, detectives and the Johnson County District Attorney’s office for their assistance with all matters relating to the soulful lives taken and the capture and conviction of the shooter. A jury of his peers convicted him. A judge sentenced him to death row, and this is where he took his last breath.”

“The murderer took the lives of two Methodists and a Catholic while intending to murder Jews. No one should have lost their lives at his hands.”

“We are neither happy nor sad. He stole so much from our family, but he didn’t steal our hearts or our dignity. He did not steal our memories, the love that sustains us or the ability to offer forgiveness and kindness in the face of such tragedy.”

“With shear grit, determination and faith, our family forgave this murderer his sins against us. In no way does this forgiveness mean that his actions were correct. Our forgiveness releases the hate from our own hearts. Hate comes in all shapes and sizes, all colors and creeds. We pray that our healing journey helps others move forward during their own struggles and challenges. Don’t allow hate to occupy your heart or mind. It will rot you from the inside out. This murderer was rotten to his core. At no time did he ask for our forgiveness or offer regret for his actions.  He was taught to hate by his own father from the time he was young.  Only knowing how to hate another drove him to murder. This is heartbreaking.”

“We are sad. We miss our family, Bill (aka Popeye) and Reat. But we don’t carry the weight of hate in our hearts.”

“As Christians and people of faith we learned the Gospels. The Gospels taught us to forgive.”

“On May 3, Healing a Shattered Soul, a memoir by Mindy Corporon was published. The fact that this memoir – Mindy’s faithful journey of courageous kindness after the trauma and grief of domestic terrorism was published on the same day the murderer who inflicted horrendous pain into our lives, died, is not lost on us. In fact, we feel even more connected to our family members in Heaven with each passing minute.”

“Typically, we have answered the question about “closure” to say that there is no closure when you lose a loved one. In the same way, you lose a limb, you learn to live without it. We are thankful that the court system, media and our families no longer have any need to concern themselves with a potential appeal from the convicted.”

“Thank you for your prayers upon our family and others who suffer at the consequences of hate. We each have a responsibility to love our neighbor. Our family started the Faith Always Wins Foundation to promote dialogue for the betterment of our world through kindness, faith and healing. Our work will continue.”

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