Guard Killed at Holocaust Museum
As schoolchildren and families toured the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum a man barged in with a rifle Wednesday and opened fire, fatally injuring a security guard before he was shot by two other guards.
James Wenneker von Brunn, 88, of Annapolis, Md., who served five years in federal prison for a 1981 attempted armed kidnapping at the Federal Reserve, was identified as the gunman, according to two law enforcement officials. They declined to be identified because they were not authorized to comment.
Stephen Johns, 39, a six-year employee of the museum, died at a hospital, where von Brunn was in critical condition Wednesday night.
Museum Chairman Fred Zeidman said Johns died "heroically." ''There are no words to express our grief and shock," he said in a written statement.
President Obama said, "Today, we have lost a courageous security guard who stood watch at this place of solemn remembrance."
The museum would remain closed today and flags would be flown at half-staff in Johns' honor, Zeidman said.
Washington Police Chief Cathy Lanier said the gunman acted alone. She and Joseph Persichini, an assistant FBI director, said there was no threat before the attack.
The shooting echoed through the steel and brick chambers of the museum, just south of the National Mall. Visitors described a frantic scene as shots rang out, sending children running and adults dropping to the floor.
Mark Lippert, 46, of Spring Valley, Ill., was headed for the children's section when he heard shots. "Then I saw three kids running my way," he said. "They all had this look on their face. It was indescribable."
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, issued a statement saying von Brunn was well-known in the white supremacist movement and calling him a "raging anti-Semite." He is listed online as author of a book with a chapter titled "The "Holocaust' Hoax."
An online statement under his name said. "Prepare to die, White America - you deserve it. Heil Hitler!"