A man in his 70s has been arrested after three people were killed in gun attacks outside a Jewish community centre and nearby retirement community in the US state of Kansas, authorities have said.

John Douglass, a local police chief, said shots were fired at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Kansas City at about 1pm local time on Sunday. One man died at the scene, and another died at hospital.

The gunman then moved to the nearby Village Shalom, where he shot dead a woman. He shot at two other people but missed, Douglass said. A man was later arrested near a school. 

"Today is a sad and very tragic day," Douglass said. "As you might imagine we are only three hours into this investigation. There's a lot of innuendo and a lot of assertions going around. There is really very little hardcore information."

Douglass said the suspect made several statements to police, "but it's too early to tell you what he may or may not have said".

He also said it was too early in the investigation to determine whether there was an anti-Jewish motive for the attacks or if they will be investigated as hate crimes. The Jewish festival of Passover begins on Monday.

"We know it was a vicious act of violence, and we know obviously it was at two Jewish facilities. One might make that assumption,'' Douglass said.

He described the suspect as a white man in his 70s who is not from Kansas. 

Douglass said a shotgun was used, and investigators were trying to determine whether a handgun and assault-style rifle also were involved.

Source: AP