For two Duke alumni, the shootings at Jewish community centers in Kansas City last weekend had an unusual significance.
As reporters for The Chronicle in the 1980s, Robert Satloff and Shep Moyle interviewed the alleged shooter, Frazier Glenn Miller, for a piece examining the local presence of the Ku Klux Klan. But the interview turned into something more daunting when Miller discovered that Satloff is Jewish—resulting in Satloff being locked in a hot car under armed guard for two and a half hours while Moyle interviewed Miller, surrounded by a circle of followers carrying guns. The pair recalled the encounter more than three decades later, noting with regret that Miller apparently had not changed over the years.
"I was stunned by the coincidence that in a country full of 350 million people—with more than its fair share of crazies—the same person I had met so many years ago was behind this horrible shooting," Satloff, Trinity '83, said.
Miller allegedly shot a boy and his grandfather outside a Jewish community center and a woman at a Jewish assisted living facility, both near Kansas City, Kan., Sunday afternoon. Miller was said to be shouting pro-Nazi phrases at the time of the shooting.
Satloff noted that before the interview, Miller— the Grand Dragon of the KKK's Carolina Knights at the time—instructed him not to bring any black or Jewish reporters or photographers. Satloff decided to go to the interview regardless, taking several precautions for safety—wearing a cross around his neck, manufacturing a press pass that used the name Robert Statler, Jr. and bringing along a fellow reporter who met Miller's qualifications.
But Miller's first words to Satloff were, "Are you a Jew?" and he refused to believe anything to the contrary, Satloff recounted in the article, titled "Jewish editor locked in car, guarded by armed Klansmen." For two and a half hours, Satloff was locked in a hot car and kept under the watch of an armed guard led by a uniformed Nazi.
"When you're [college-aged], you think you're indestructible and you do crazy things—some people jump off bridges to go diving, some people trek across the Himalayas, and I did this," Satloff said. "I always knew in retrospective when I got older that it was probably a stupid thing to do, but I never quite appreciated the danger of the risk until this weekend."
With Satloff locked away, his colleague Moyle, Trinity '84 and a current member of the Board of Trustees, conducted the interview with Miller. The article, "Grand Dragon vows all-white nation in the Carolinas," ran alongside Satloff's description of the day's events and shows Miller as an intensely racist and violent anti-Semite.
"First, I was frightened for my friend [Satloff], but second—to be 18 years old and confronted by this kind of hatred and anti-Semitism was something I certainly was not prepared for," Moyle said.
Even 30 years later, Moyle recalled Miller's intensity, noting that Miller did not break eye contact with him once during the two and a half hour interview. Miller was articulate and even charismatic, Moyle noted.
"To see that now, 33 years later, someone could carry that hate, that vitriol, that anti-Semitism with him and act upon it at the age of 73—it's scary, and so very sad," Moyle said.
Miller will be charged with hate crimes for last weekend's shootings, which resulted in three deaths.
"I just feel horribly sad that this guy never got stopped in all those years," Satloff said.
Duke alumni recall violent encounter with KC shooter years ago
Chronicle File Photos