Right-wing extremists get help from older assailants

The suspected gunman in the Sunday murder of three people at Jewish centers in Kansas is not your typical senior citizen: a 73-year-old retiree accused of going on a hate-filled, shotgun-wielding rampage.

But cases like that of Frazier Glenn Cross – elderly, radicalized and bent on acts of violence – are not unheard of among right-wing extremists and white supremacists.

As groups like the Ku Klux Klan are aging and splintering, their former members often act as "lone wolves" -- willing to carry out violent attacks despite their age, said Mark Pitcavage, director of investigative research at the Anti-Defamation League, which monitors hate crimes.

"There is a track record of it happening," he said. "We see people in their 60s and their 80s in very violent confrontation with police and other groups."

Other recent examples of older hate crime suspects:

- James von Brunn, a longtime neo-Nazi who was 88 in 2009 when he opened fire at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, killing a security guard before being shot and wounded by other guards on duty.

- Dennis Mahon, 62, a white supremacist who was convicted to 40 years in federal prison last year for sending a 2004 mail bomb that injured a black city official in suburban Phoenix.

- Keith Gilbert, a neo-nazi and former Aryan Nation aide, who was 66 in 2007 when a federal judge sentenced him to eight years in prison on gun charges.

Cross, also known as Frazier Glenn Miller, was booked Sunday on premeditated first-degree murder charges for allegedly gunning down a man and his teenage grandson outside the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kan., and a woman outside a nearby retirement home.

On Monday, authorities said they plan to file hate crime charges against Cross, who, if convicted, could face the federal death penalty. "We are in a very good place from an evidence standpoint, and we will be presenting to a grand jury," said Barry Grissom, the U.S. Attorney for the district of Kansas.

Cross founded and ran the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1980s and was involved in forming illegal paramilitary groups, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. But after being indicted on weapons charges, Cross testified against former Klan associates and other white supremacists in 1999 and was exiled from the movement for more than a decade, Pitcavage said.

The USA is currently in the fifth year of a violent wave of right-wing extremism, including anti-government groups and white supremacists, which encourages violent acts by lone wolf assailants, he said. Cross, though on the periphery of the white supremacist movement, was still active alone.

Unlike left-wing extremists and domestic Islamic militants, who tend to be younger, right-wing extremists are often radicalized around middle age and could lash out with a violent act well into their retirement years, Pitcavage said.

And, as in the case of Cross, that elderly persona could be disarming, he said.

"We don't always associate older people with having a propensity for violence," Pitcavage said. "Law enforcement sometimes are taken unaware."


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