Jewish center shootings hit close to home for several Sporting KC players: "It's just terrible"

Juan Agudelo and Matt Besler

Photo Credit: 
USA Today Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – For three of Sporting Kansas City's players, Sunday's deadly outbreak of violence at two local Jewish centers hit especially close to home.

Goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum and defender Matt Besler both grew up in the suburb, and defender Seth Sinovic is from nearby Leawood. On Monday, all three reacted to the shootings in nearby Overland Park with sadness and disbelief.

“It's been a while, but actually I used to go to that place almost daily, way back in the day,” Gruenebaum told MLSsoccer.com. “So to hear about something like that happening is pretty shocking. We live in a somewhat messed-up world. There are a lot of good things going on as well, but when something hits you, it hits you.”

Three people died in the attacks, two of them shot outside the Jewish Community Campus and the third at the Village Shalom assisted living center. One suspect, a 73-year-old white supremacist from southwest Missouri, was arrested shortly after the shootings and could face state and federal charges. A television crew captured him shouting “Heil Hitler” as he sat handcuffed in the back of a police car.

“It's really sad,” Sinovic said. “My family has actually been going there pretty much my entire life, so I'm familiar with the area, familiar with the center. It's really unfortunate and sad that something like that can happen.

“You don't know what to say in situations like this, other than it's sad,” he added. “The thought that someone could be thinking that this is a good thing, that it's an OK thing to do, it's just terrible. It really is.”

Both centers – especially the Jewish Community Campus - are used for a wide variety of community activities, including fitness, scholastic events and both performing and visual arts. None of the three people killed Sunday were Jewish; two attended a United Methodist church and the other was Roman Catholic.

“It goes beyond faith at this point,” said Gruenebaum, who is Jewish. “Anybody, any sane person can look on that and feel for everyone involved in that. You hear on the news almost daily, when things like this happen. Unfortunately, that's just the way it is sometimes – and when it hits you close to home, it hits you that much harder.

“I'm just praying for everyone involved, and hoping that something good happens from it.”

Besler, the only one of the three who hadn't been to the center at least once, said he believes Kansas Citians – who already have rallied around the bereaved and others affected by the shootings – will continue to do so.

“Times like this are never easy, but hopefully the community can come together,” he said. “I think that's what makes Kansas City so special, the people supporting each other. Most people who aren't directly affected, they know somebody that was, or they know somebody that works there or works close by. We've all driven by. I think everyone feels a part of it.”

Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.