WASHINGTON ““ A security guard died Wednesday at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington after an elderly man entered with a shotgun.
The shooter entered shortly before 1 p.m. and opened fire on the guard near the metal detectors at the entrance, according to the museum and a District of Columbia police spokesman. Other security guards returned fire and the gunman was wounded.
Both men were transported to George Washington University Hospital where the security guard, Officer Stephen Tyrone Johns, died from his injuries, the museum announced shortly after 4 p.m.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the officer and his family,” it said in a statement.
The museum announced it would be closed Thursday in memory of Johns.
The condition of the gunman remains unknown. A third man reportedly was injured by shattered glass and treated at the scene.
“We are horrified by what happened in Washington today,” said U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) in a statement. “It is especially shocking that this attack took place at a museum designed to prevent violence and remind us of the dangers of hatred and bigotry. Our thoughts and prayers are with the security officer’s family, the staff of the museum and the museum visitors who were there today.”
The museum was evacuated following the shooting.
Media identified the shooter as James Wenneker von Brunn, 88. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a Montgomery, Ala.-based group that tracks hate groups, identified von Brunn as a longtime white supremacist based on Maryland’s eastern shore.
On his Web site, HolyWesternEmpire.org, von Brunn claims that in 1981 he attempted to arrest the leadership of the Federal Reserve. He says he was arrested after surrendering to a guard who called von Brunn’s bluff on his threats to open fire. According to von Brunn, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison. According to the Anti-Defamation League, von Brunn used a sawed-off shotgun to try to take Federal Reserve Board members hostage on grounds that Jews control the nation’s banking system. The organization confirmed his imprisonment.
In a statement Wednesday evening, the ADL described von Brunn as a longtime white supremacist and anti-Semite. A backgrounder on von Brunn is available on the ADL’s Website, www.adl.org/main_Extremism/Von_Brunn.htm.
“Brunn’s evil attack, at the very place that was created to remember and teach about evil in the world,” Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director, said in a statement, “is an immediate reminder that words of hate matter, that we can never afford to ignore hate because words of hate can easily become acts of hate, no matter the place, no matter the age of the hatemonger.”
U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9) issued a statement after the shooting calling for vigilance and praising the quick response of the museum’s security team.
“I want to express my appreciation to the heroic security officer for protecting the people inside the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum,” he said. “My prayers are with his family, for he made the ultimate sacrifice. I am grateful as well for the other security officers who responded so heroically and professionally and stopped this mad man from further destruction. This incident should be a wake up call to everyone around the country and the world that hateful people really do exist and are not afraid to commit heinous acts of violence.