James W. Von Brunn, believed to be shooter
Helicopter near the scene of the attack
Photo: AP

Museum shooter identified as known white supremacist

US authorities identify 89-year-old James Von Brunn as man who opened fire at Washington Holocaust Museum, managing to fatally wound security guard before being shot by other guards. Known as a 'virulent' anti-Semite, Von Brunn is said to be in critical condition

An elderly gunman, said by authorities to have a violent and virulently anti-Semitic past, stepped inside the crowded US Holocaust Memorial Museum on Wednesday, opened fire with a rifle and fatally wounded a security guard before being shot by other officers. He is in critical condition.


A law enforcement official identified the shooter as James Von Brunn, an 89-year-old man known to be a white supremacist. Washington Police Chief Cathy Lanier said Von Brunn was "engaged by security guards immediately after entering the door" with a rifle. "The second he stepped into the building he began firing."


Von Brunn's vehicle was found near the museum and was tested for explosives.


Museum officials identified the dead guard as Stephen T. Johns, a six-year veteran of the facility. In an e-mail, director Sara Bloomfield said he "died heroically in the line of duty."

According to Joseph Persichini, assistant director in charge of the Washington FBI field office, authorities have dispatched people to a suspect's home to check his computer. He said they are investigating this as a possible hate crime or domestic terrorism.


Von Brunn has a racist, anti-Semitic website and wrote a book called "Kill the Best Gentile."

In 1983, Von Brunn was convicted of attempting to kidnap members of the Federal Reserve Board. He was arrested two years earlier outside the room where the board was meeting, carrying a revolver, knife and sawed-off shotgun.

Screenshot from Von Brunn's website


At the time, police said Von Brunn wanted to take the members hostage because of high interest rates and US economic difficulties. Writings attributed to Von Brunn on the Internet say the Holocaust was a hoax and decry a Jewish conspiracy to "destroy the white gene pool."


"At Auschwitz the 'Holocaust' myth became Reality, and Germany, cultural gem of the West, became a pariah among world nations," it says.


Obama 'saddened'

At the White House, press secretary Robert Gibbs said he informed US President Barack Obama of the events and said the president was "obviously saddened by what has happened."


Police initially gave slightly different information, saying three people had been shot. Fire department spokesman Alan Etter told CNN television a third person was hurt after being cut by broken glass.


The museum normally has a heavy security presence with guards positioned both inside and outside. All visitors are required to pass through metal detectors at the entrance, and bags are screened.

The museum, located near the Washington Monument, is a popular tourist attraction. It draws about 1.7 million visitors each year.

Police outside Holocaust Museum (Photo: AP)


Roads surrounding the museum have been closed and blocked off with yellow tape. Several police cars and officers on horses surround the area.


The FBI said it had dispatched its National Capital Response Squad, which deals with such emergencies in the Washington area, to the site.


Kids on field trip fled museum

Sandy Perkins said her daughter, Abigail, called her shortly after the shooting. The teen was on a school trip to the museum and told her mother students heard several shots before they were told to leave the building.


Abigail said some of her friends were very shaken, but all were otherwise fine, Sandy Perkins said. The teens did not see where the shots were coming from.


Linda Elston, who is visiting the museum, said she was on the lower level of the museum watching a film when she and others were told to evacuate. "It was totally full of people," Elston said. "It took us a while to get out."


She said she did not hear any shots and did not immediately know why there was an evacuation. The experience left her feeling "a little anxious," she said.


Stephanie Geraghty, 28, who had been visiting the museum, said the shooter appeared to be a white male carrying a silver gun.


"I heard the first shot, it sounded like something had been dropped from the upper stories down," she told Reuters. "The next two came really fast; bam bam. At that point everyone took off, chaos, running."


Reuters contributed to this report


פרסום ראשון: 06.10.09, 20:32
 new comment
This will delete your current comment