OVERLAND PARK, KANSAS— Thousands gathered at a Methodist church in Kansas on Friday to mourn a teenager and his grandfather who were shot dead outside a Jewish community center last weekend in what authorities say was an anti-Semitic hate crime.
While Reat Underwood, 14, and his grandfather, William Corporon, 69, were not Jewish, they were both gunned down on their way into the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, a suburb of Kansas City, where Underwood was planning to audition for a singing competition.
A third victim, 53-year-old Terri LaManno, who was a practicing Catholic, was shot dead a few minutes later outside a Jewish retirement facility. The funeral for LaManno was held on Thursday.
On Friday, the main sanctuary for the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, which holds 3,400 people, was filled to capacity for the service for Underwood and Corporon.
Boy Scouts dressed in uniform seated people at the funeral as music played in the background, including the song You're Gonna Miss Me When I am Gone. The song is one that Reat, who was working to achieve the highest rank of Eagle Scout, had planned to sing at the audition at the community center, according to his family.
Pictures of Reat and his grandfather flashed across the video screens on either side of the sanctuary. Children carried carnations, and dozens of bouquets of flowers spilled over the altar.
“We want to celebrate their lives in a big way for Reat and Bill were amazing people,” said Karen Lampe, executive pastor at the church, at the start of the service.
Arriving at the church, Lisa Morrison stood with her 11-year-old son, a friend of Reat's family, and said they wanted to let family members know they are not alone in their grief.
“I believe it is a tragedy for our nation that we still have individuals in our society who would hate and kill someone just because of their religion,” said Morrison, who lives in Overland Park.
While all of the victims were Christian, authorities have said the suspect in the shootings outside Jewish facilities was an avowed white supremacist who was targeting Jews.
The killings, which took place the day before the start of the Jewish celebration of Passover and a week before the Christian Easter holiday, have resonated across the United States.
Leaders from a range of religious organizations have called for unity to combat ongoing hatred and violence. And the Kansas City Interfaith Council has called for a “global prayer for community peace” to honor the victims and their families on Sunday.
Corporon was remembered as a physician who practiced family medicine in Oklahoma before moving to the Kansas City area to be closer to his grandchildren.
Reat, who called his grandfather “Popeye,” was described as a gifted singer and performer who participated in debate and theater at the local high school where he was a freshman.
There was little talk of the suspect in the killings. Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, also known as avowed white supremacist Glenn Miller, is being held on $10 million bond on a charge of capital murder and premeditated first-degree murder for the killings.
Federal prosecutors have said they also plan to file federal hate crime charges against Cross, known by law enforcement as a senior member of the white supremacy movement and someone who had made repeated threats against Jewish people.