A white supremacist has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder after three people were shot dead at a Jewish community centre and home for the elderly in the United States.

Frazier Glenn Cross (pictured), 73, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, was reportedly heard by locals shouting “Heil Hitler” as he was handcuffed and led away.

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Suspect Frazier Glenn Cross being led away

A grandfather and his grandson, both Christian, were killed at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Kansas City, while a woman was killed at Village Shalom several streets away. Two other people were shot at but the shooter missed.

Overland Park police Chief John Douglass said: “We are investigating it as a hate crime. We haven’t ruled anything out.”

Asked if it was linked to the start of the Jewish holiday of Passover, Douglass said: “We know it was a vicious act of violence, and we know obviously it was at two Jewish facilities. One might make that assumption.”

According to reports, the Jewish Community Centre was hosting a dance class and an audition for a play, both for teenagers at the time.

The two men were identified as William Lewis Corporon and his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, who were both members of the Church of Resurrection and were killed in the JCC’s car park.

Cross, who also uses the name Frazier Glenn Miller, founded the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and was its “grand dragon” in the 1980s, according to a local law centre which sued him for operating an illegal paramilitary organisation.

The Army veteran and former truck driver later founded another white supremacist group, the White Patriot Party, and ran for Congress in 2006 and 2010 on a white power platform.

In a statement, President Obama called it “heartbreaking” and “horrific,” adding that he had “pledged the full support of the federal government” in the investigation.

“I want to offer my condolences to all the families trying to make sense of this difficult situation and pledge the full support from the federal government as we heal and cope during this trying time,” he said.