It took less than a day of trial testimony for F. Glenn Miller Jr. to begin making statements that placed him at the scene of a fatal shooting spree last year in Overland Park.
Miller, acting as his own attorney, essentially conceded while cross-examining witnesses to the April 13, 2014, shooting deaths of two people outside the Jewish Community Center that he was the shooter. Miller is also on trial for a third shooting death that occurred nearby at the Village Shalom retirement community.
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James Coombes testified Monday about having numerous shots fired at him that day in the parking lot outside the community center.
“I’m glad I didn’t shoot you, by the way,” Miller said to Coombes while questioning him.
Miller also commented on the bravery of another witness, Paul Temme, who had shots fired at him and chased after the gunman in an attempt to get his car’s license plate number.
“I thought you were a brave man,” he said to Temme. “I couldn’t believe you were chasing me.”
Coombes and Temme were among the eight witnesses who took the stand Monday in Johnson County District Court during the first day of testimony in Miller’s capital murder trial.
The 74-year-old Missouri man is charged with killing William Corporon, 69, and his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Underwood, outside the Jewish Community Center. A few minutes later, 53-year-old Terri LaManno was killed outside Village Shalom, about five blocks away.
Miller, also known as Frazier Glenn Cross Jr., faces a possible death sentence if he is convicted. He also is charged with three counts of attempted first-degree murder for allegedly firing shots at Temme, Coombes and Mark Brodkey, a retired physician.
Before testimony began, Chief Deputy District Attorney Chris McMullin described in his opening statement that prosecutors will present a “mountain” of evidence showing that Miller committed the crimes.
Miller chose to target the Jewish facilities because “his sole mission was to find and kill as many Jewish people as he could,” McMullin told jurors. None of those shot that day was Jewish.
McMullin said that Miller turned his car into a “mobile arsenal” containing four firearms and a large amount of ammunition. He also described in graphic detail the wounds suffered by the victims, all of whom were hit with shotgun blasts fired at close range.
He said prosecutors also will play an audio recording of Miller confessing to the crimes.
“I did it, and I’m proud of it,” he quoted Miller as saying.
Miller’s opening statement was punctuated by many objections from prosecutors because he was getting into topics that District Judge Kelly Ryan had already told him were not permissible during the guilt phase of the trial.
After jurors were excused from the courtroom, Miller said he was only trying to explain what his state of mind was on the day of the shootings.
But Miller’s contention that he acted because of the “Jewish genocide against the white race” was not relevant to the question of whether he was guilty of capital murder, the judge said.
Miller promised jurors that he would testify and asked them to find him not guilty.
All of Monday’s testimony pertained to the events at the Jewish Community Center.
Overland Park police Sgt. Marty Ingram, who was off duty, working as a security officer, testified that he was inside the front door of the center’s White Theatre when he heard two loud shotgun blasts. He said the glass windows shattered “almost instantaneously.”
Ingram said he yelled for other people inside to take cover. He then took up a defensive position and determined that if anyone tried to come inside, he would try to stop them.
Ingram also testified that after the shooting stopped, he went outside and found Corporon laying on the ground dead beside his pickup truck. He then found Corporon’s grandson, also severely wounded, and he and another man began performing first aid on the boy.
Ingram testified that after Miller was arrested nearby, he accompanied several eyewitnesses to that location to see whether they could identify Miller. Two of those witnesses had been shot at outside the community center. Both said that Miller was the person who had shot at them, Ingram said.
A third witness, from the Village Shalom shooting scene, said that Miller bore many of the physical characteristics of the shooter but that she thought the shooter’s beard was longer than that of Miller.
Ingram also testified that when he arrived at the location where Miller was arrested, he heard Miller say, “Heil Hitler. … How many Jews did I kill?”
Thomas Bates, an Army combat medic, testified that he was working at the center when he heard gunfire.
Bates got his medical bag from his vehicle, “said a prayer” and went to the sound of the gunfire. He got to the scene where Corporon and Reat were shot and began efforts to save the boy’s life.
Bates worked on him while Ingram cradled Reat’s head.
Both men described hearing a woman’s “horrific” scream. They learned later that it was Mindy Corporon, Reat’s mother and the daughter of William Corporon.
Bates said he told another man to take her from the scene. “She didn’t need to see her son like that,” he testified.
Michael Metcalf, who had taken his 14-year-old son to the center for a baseball umpire clinic, testified that he and his son were walking to the entrance when they heard gunfire.
Metcalf said that before he and his son ran for cover, he saw a man pointing a shotgun at a truck and saw a body on the ground.
In the courtroom Monday, Metcalf identified Miller as the gunman.
Brodkey was driving away after working out in the fitness center when he saw a man firing a gun. As Brodkey drove past, a shotgun blast shattered two of his vehicle’s windows and he was cut by flying glass. On Monday, he identified Miller as the gunman.
Temme testified that he had just arrived to work out at the fitness center when he heard a sound and saw a man firing into a pickup truck. When he saw the gunman drive away, Temme ran after him in an attempt to get a license number. He stopped when the driver turned the vehicle back in his direction. Temme said the man stopped, pointed a handgun and fired.
Temme dove to the ground, then took cover behind a trash container.
Miller asked Temme whether he considered himself brave for doing what he did.
“Brave or foolish,” Temme said. “It’s a fine line.”
When Temme said he didn’t know if more than one shot was fired at him, Miller said, “It was two.”
The day’s final witness was Coombes, who was arriving to work as an usher at a production of “To Kill a Mockingbird” at the center.
Coombes said he had just gotten out of his car when a man he later identified as Miller pulled up in a small white car and fired a pistol at him.
Coombes said he laid back in his car to shield himself from the shots before the man drove away. Coombes said one shot struck a leather satchel he was carrying.
Miller told Coombes on Monday that he was “amazed” because Coombes didn’t show any fear.
That was when he told Coonbes he was glad he didn’t shoot him.
Testimony is scheduled to continue Tuesday.