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 his guilt in front of the jury while cross-examining witnesses to the April 13, 2014, shooting deaths of two people outside the Jewish Community Center. Miller is also on trial in a third shooting death that occurred nearby at the Village Shalom retirement community.
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.
Miller, a 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.
He said prosecutors 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.
All of Monday’s testimony pertained to the events at the Jewish Community Center.
Overland Park police Sgt. Marty Ingram, who was working off duty 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 lying on the ground dead beside his pickup. He then found Corporon’s severely wounded grandson, and he and another man began performing first aid on the boy.
Ingram testified that after Miller was arrested nearby, he accompanied several witnesses to that location to see whether they could identify Miller. Two of those witnesses had been shot at outside the community center. Both said Miller was the person who had shot at them, Ingram said.
A third witness, from the Village Shalom shooting scene, said Miller bore many of the physical characteristics of the shooter but that she thought the shooter’s beard was longer than that of Miller.
Testimony is scheduled to continue Tuesday.