WASHINGTON - A gunman shot three people dead Sunday at a Jewish community centre and a retirement community in Kansas, drawing widespread condemnation and consternation on the eve of Passover.
The 70-year-old white male suspect, who is in custody, was not local and did not know the victims, Overland Park Police Department Chief John Douglass told reporters.
The bearded man used a shotgun in the assault and investigators, who are being assisted by the FBI, are trying to determine whether a handgun and assault rifle were involved.
The suspect was heard yelling "Heil Hitler" as police officers escorted him away at an elementary school, local NBC television affiliate KSHB reported. Douglass refused to confirm the report.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Kaste said investigators were looking into the incident as a "hate crime." "We haven't ruled out anything," Kaste added.
"I don't want to say the terrorism word; this is three hours into it. It's only wise and prudent we use every resource we have." Douglass refused to be drawn on whether the "unexpected" shooting was a hate crime, however.
"We know it's a vicious act of violence and you know, obviously, at two Jewish facilities one might make that assumption. We have to know more about it," the police chief said.
President Barack Obama condemned the "horrific" shooting, and pledged the federal government's "full support" in the investigation and to the community.
The initial reports are heartbreaking," he said in a statement offering his condolences to the families of the victims.
'Sad and tragic' day
The first shooting at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City took place around 1:00 pm (1800 GMT) as youths auditioned for a play.
Rabbi Herbert Mandl, who serves as chaplain for the Overland Park Police Department, told CNN that the suspect asked people whether they were Jewish before opening fire.
He killed two people there - one died on the spot and the other succumbed to injuries at a hospital.