As he headed to the gym at the Jewish Community Center on Sunday, Paul Temme heard gunshots, peered around a vehicle and saw a man firing into the passenger side of a car.
The man had just shot William Lewis Corporon, 69, in the head with a shotgun. Corporon had crumpled to the pavement. Now the gunman was standing on the car’s passenger side, holding what appeared to be a handgun, pumping bullets through the passenger window at Corporon’s grandson, who was still in his seat.
After shooting Reat Underwood, 14, the man calmly walked to the back of his car, which was parked perpendicular behind the victims’ vehicle, blocking them in. He put his shotgun in the open trunk, closed the lid and started to drive away. He hadn’t uttered a word as far as Temme could tell.
Temme, 59, already had dialed 911. Realizing the gunman was trying to get away, Temme chased him. He ran past the victims’ vehicle while relaying details of what happened and a description of the gunman’s car to a police dispatcher.
The gunman looped around in the parking lot, to get to a different exit, and drove back toward Temme. The gunman was in an outer lane, with a small grassy median separating Temme from him.
“He was maybe 60 feet away,” Temme recalled Tuesday.
As the gunman’s car approached, Temme and the gunman locked eyes. The gunman raised a handgun. With no vehicles nearby for cover, Temme dropped to the pavement.
The gunman fired once. Temme jumped up and ran toward a trash bin for cover. He didn’t want to take his chances lying in the open. He didn’t know if the gunman fired at him a second time, but the gunman drove away.
Someone opened a door at the community center, and Temme darted inside. His cellphone had been connected to a police dispatcher the whole time. He told the dispatcher the gunman was fleeing toward the Sprint campus. The dispatcher asked Temme to go back and check on the victims.
Corporon’s head wound clearly indicated he was dead. Shotgun cartridges lay on the ground near his body. A man who appeared to have medical training pulled Reat out of the passenger seat to administer first aid. The boy still had a pulse, Temme said. The boy’s wounds indicated he was shot with a handgun, not a shotgun, Temme said.
Temme immediately believed he knew the motive behind the shootings.
“Because of where we were,” said Temme, who is not Jewish. “I immediately inferred that this was a hate crime. And that he had picked those victims to shoot.”
It appeared the victims had pulled into the parking lot just before the gunman, who apparently followed them to the handicapped stall where Corporon parked.
The gunman apparently had tried to shoot someone else in the parking lot before committing the killings, Temme said. That person had scurried into his car and driven away. The gunman fired at the vehicle with a handgun. A bullet struck the driver’s shoulder bag but didn’t wound him, said Temme, who later talked with that person.
Temme talked to another victim, perhaps the only Jewish victim involved in the shootings, who had been leaving the parking lot during the killings. That victim drove past Corporon’s vehicle and slowed to see what was going on. The gunman apparently turned and fired at him but missed, Temme said.
What upsets Temme more than getting shot at, he said, is the bigotry and the hatred behind the shootings. He’s seen synagogues in the Middle East and in Europe that look like fortresses and always felt proud that the Jewish Community Center, which welcomes people of all religions, could be so open.
“It’s horrifying to see, the actual remnants” of that bigotry, he said.
Also disturbing Temme is the fact the alleged gunman, Frazier Glenn Cross Jr., also known as F. Glenn Miller Jr., a known bigot with a criminal past, could get access to firearms.
“He was tracked. They knew about him,” he said. “And yet look at how easy it is for someone like this to get guns.”