OVERLAND PARK, Kansas - A white supremacist charged in shootings that left three people dead at two Jewish community sites in suburban Kansas City was brought into a video conference room in a wheelchair Tuesday to make his first court appearance.
Wearing a dark, sleeveless anti-suicide smock, Frazier Glenn Cross stood under his own power to face the camera, crossing his arms and speaking only when answering routine questions from the judge in a Johnson County courtroom several miles away. He requested a court-appointed lawyer.
A Johnson County Sheriff's Office spokesman declined to say Tuesday why Cross was in a wheelchair.
Prosecutors declined to answer questions about Cross' health Monday. The 73-year-old is being held on $10 million bond and his next court appearance is scheduled for April 24.
Kansas prosecutors filed state-level murder charges Tuesday against the white supremacist accused in shootings that left three people dead at two Jewish community sites in suburban Kansas City.
Frazier Glenn Cross has been charged with one count of capital murder for the deaths of a 14-year-old boy and his grandfather outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City, Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said at a news conference. Cross also faces one count of first-degree, premeditated murder for the death of a woman who was gunned down while visiting her mother at a nearby retirement complex.
The capital murder charge carries the death penalty as possible punishment, Howe said, while the first-degree murder charge carries a life sentence with no chance for parole for at least 25 years. Cross is being held on $10 million bond, and is scheduled to appear in court later Tuesday.
Cross, a 73-year-old Vietnam War veteran from southwest Missouri, founded the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in his native North Carolina and later the White Patriot Party.
Federal prosecutors say there's enough evidence to warrant putting the case before a grand jury as a hate crime. Moving the case from state to federal prosecutors would likely mean tougher punishments if Cross is convicted, but U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said Tuesday that federal charges in the case were likely a week or more away, and Cross' state case would have to be resolved before he could be moved to a federal trial.
"Our system is more nimble, we can move a little bit quicker than the federal system. We've alleged he came into the community I've been elected to protect. ... This isn't about retribution, this is about seeking justice," Howe said.
Cross shouted "Heil Hitler" at television cameras as he was arrested after Sunday's killings, which shocked the city on the eve of Passover and refocused attention on the nation's problem with race-related violence.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that monitors the activities of known white supremacists, says Cross, who also went by the name Frazier Glenn Miller, has been immersed in white supremacy most of his life. During the early 1980s, Cross was "one of the more notorious white supremacists in the U.S.," according to the Anti-Defamation League, and served as the Carolina Knights' "grand dragon" before launching the supremacist White Patriot Party, the law center said.
By 1987, Cross was the target of a nationwide manhunt for violating terms of his bond while appealing a North Carolina conviction for operating a paramilitary camp. Federal agents tracked him along with three other men to a rural Missouri mobile home stocked with hand grenades, automatic weapons and thousands of bullets.
A federal grand jury indicted Cross on weapons charges and accused him of plotting robberies and the assassination of the law center's founder, Morris Dees. He served three years in federal prison, and, as part of a plea bargain, testified against other Klan leaders in a 1988 sedition trial.
Cross ran for the U.S. House in 2006 and the U.S. Senate in 2010 in Missouri, each time espousing a white-power platform. During his Senate run as a registered write-in candidate, Cross' effort to air anti-Semitic ads was scuttled by the Federal Communications Commission, which concluded Cross was not a "bona fide" candidate entitled to mandatory access to airwaves.