An 88-year-old white supremacist shot and killed African-American security guard Stephen Tyrone Johns at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. Wednesday, just before being shot by return fire from two other guards.

Law enforcement sources, who initially refused to name the shooter yesterday, identified the man as James W. von Brunn, an elderly Maryland man with a long history of white supremacist ties. He is still at hospital in “critical condition.”

Von Brunn is, according to a website he maintains called “The Holy Western Empire,” a World War II veteran who served with the U.S. Navy. He’s billed his website as “a new, hard-hitting expose of the Jew conspiracy to destroy the white gene pool.”

Von Brunn has a daunting criminal record. In 1981, armed with two guns, a knife and a mock bomb, he entered the Federal Reserve’s Washington headquarters in an attempt to kidnap officials. He was subsequently arrested on attempted kidnapping, assault, second-degree burglary and weapons charges.

Von Brunn said he tried to commit the crime because he was upset with high interest rates and the state of the economy, which was at that time in a recession. He blamed the Jews for the issue.

After a trial von Brunn was sentenced to six years in prison, a sentence he blamed on a “Negro jury” and a “Jew judge.”

He is also a known Holocaust denier. Von Brunn committed Wednesday’s shooting on the day the museum was set to stage a play about Anne Frank, just two days before what would have been her 80th birthday. He’s said he thinks “The Diary of Anne Frank” was a hoax.

He now faces first-degree murder charges and, if convicted, could face the death penalty.

“There was blood everywhere”

On Wednesday, the shooter, armed with a rifle, walked into the museum around 12:50 p.m. and shot a guard near the security checkpoints and metal detectors.

CNN reports the guard opened the door for the 88-year-old, after which von Brunn pulled out his rifle and shot Officer Johns.

Police Sgt. David Schlosser told reporters two other guards acted quickly and open fired on the assailant, striking him with a bullet.

The Washington Post reports a third person sustained minor injuries in the event.

A young woman interviewed by CNN said she heard five shots and saw the guard lying face down on the ground bleeding. She told the reporter that guards demanded the gunman “drop the weapon.” When he didn’t respond, the two guards began shooting.

“There was blood everywhere,” she said.

Another witness told the Post that he was in line for tickets with his wife and two grandchildren when the shots were fired. He then heard someone yell “hit the deck!” and his family immediately ducked for cover.

They were then evacuated along with a “couple thousand” others, including students on a school trip. All the students are reportedly unharmed.

Surprise attack

Joseph Persichini, assistant director of the Bureau’s Washington field office, said the FBI had no prior knowledge of the attack.

“Preliminary indication is that this incident involved a lone suspect. At this time, we have no additional intelligence information to indicate threats to area landmarks but will monitor the situation closely,” he added.

The Post reports bomb sniffing dogs were deployed to some of the more than 100 locations listed in a notebook found in the gunman’s car.

However, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty said the attack was an “isolated incident.”

The Israeli embassy issued a statement expressing their sadness over the attack.

President Obama has also expressed grief. “This outrageous act reminds us that we must remain vigilant against anti-Semitism and prejudice in all its forms,” he said.

In a statement posted on its website, the Holocaust Museum said Officer Johns “died heroically in the line of duty.” The museum will close Thursday to honor Officer Johns.

Professor says she’s not surprised by shooting

Maki Haberfield, a Hebrew University of Jerusalem alumni and professor of criminal justice at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, says she isn’t surprised this event took place in the nation’s capital.

“If one looks at the proliferation of the right wing militias in this country and their mantras that they, quite openly, place on the web, it is not surprising that we just witnessed this event,” she said Wednesday just hours after the shooting.

Haberfield believes websites that openly display anti-American and racially charged hate should be moderated.

“It should be prevented. There is a freedom of speech but not a freedom of hate speech that incites violent acts. Hate speech is and should be an exception to the freedom of speech,” she said.

She also suggested the U.S. government dedicate more resources to battling homegrown terrorism and train local law enforcement to deal with immediate threats that federal officials wouldn’t be able to handle in a timely manner.

“Local law enforcement is better positioned to identify the homegrown threat,” she said. “[The U.S. should] allocate funds for local law enforcement to have more training and awareness towards home grown groups…[and] start looking at the various modalities of the white neo-Nazis.”

In the past some have argued that security guards at museums should not carry guns since they protect what is, essentially, an educational facility. Haberfield however thinks in places of high sensitivity, like the Holocaust Museum, guards should carry weapons to protect what, for many neo-Nazis, is a symbolic target.

Haberfield also evaluated the emotions of the two guards who shot von Brunn. She praised their quick thinking and good judgement.

“Fear, fear and more fear. People assume that armed individuals, be it police officers or private security, experience high pressured situations in a different way than an average person – it is not true, they are just better equipped to respond in a desired manner but the emotions are the same,” she added.

About The Author

Sachin Seth is the Blast Magazine world news reporter. He writes the Terra blog. You can visit his website at or follow him on twitter @sachinseth

3 Responses

  1. The Disseminating Machine

    The Holocaust museum shooting is terrible!


    George W. Bush continuously criminally stalked Margie Schoedinger to the point that she could not get away from it, and she committed suicide in desperation to escape: he murdered her.

    “In her suit, Margie Schoedinger states that George W. Bush committed sexual crimes against her, organized harassment and moral pressure on her, her family members and close relatives and friends. As Schoedinger said, she was strongly recommended to keep her mouth shut. . . . Furthermore, she alleges that George Bush ordered to show pressure on her to the point, when she commits suicide” (blog of drizzten).

    “One of those very least were George Bush’s personal complicity in the death (murder to be precise) of my friend Margie Schoedinger in September of 2003” (Leola McConnell (Nevada Progressive Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in 2010)).

    Leola McConnell is correct: Bush applying pressure (continuously criminally stalking Margie Schoedinger) purposefully to force Margie Schoedinger to commit suicide does in fact constitute murder.

    BEWARE: If the president of the United States hates one—for whatever reasons—he can continuously criminally stalk one to the point that one cannot get away from it, and one ultimately commits suicide in desperation to escape. He can murder people in this way.

    Bush is getting away with his murder of Margie Schoedinger—with no sheriff, prosecutor, or court willing to uphold the rule of law.

    Bush’s method of murdering Margie Schoedinger cannot exist in a vacuum: he must have murdered other people in the same way.

    Bush should confess, come out with the names of all of the people whom he murdered in the disgusting way he murdered Margie Schoedinger, undergo execution, and accordingly find himself at the intersection where he would be free.

    (There are thousands of copies of the information above on the Internet. It exists very extensively in all major search engines. Please feel free to go to any major search engine, type “George W. Bush continuously criminally stalked Margie Schoedinger to the point that she could not get away from it, and she committed suicide in desperation to escape: he murdered her,” hit “Enter,” and find innumerable results.)
    Andrew Y. Wang
    B.S., Summa Cum Laude, 1996
    Messiah College, Grantham, PA
    Lower Merion High School, Ardmore, PA, 1993

  2. Jake

    So a holocaust-denier is now “right wing?” Someone who is against Israel and Jews is right wing? Someone who hates George W. Bush and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is right wing? What a freaking joke. Ms. Haberfield should be ashamed of herself for exploiting this horrible murder for her own personal gain. All she’s doing is trying to get her name in the paper by telling reporters exactly what they want to hear. John Jay should fire her, immediately. She is an embarrassment to the school.

  3. Publius2

    There is a lot of government chatter about right wing extremists since the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) came out with an advisory that reinforced the stereotype that DHS head, Janet Ann Napolitano placed on about half of America. Half of America? You be the judge. (Information taken from the US Office of Homeland Security – Intelligence and Analysis Assessment Prepared by the Extremism and Radicalization Branch, Homeland Environment Threat Analysis).
    1. Returning Military Veterans
    2. Pro-life Advocates
    3. Second Amendment Advocates
    4. Non Supporter of the President’s Administration
    5. Critical of NAFTA
    6. Against Same Sex Marriage
    7. Those who believe the U.S. economy will collapse
    8. Christians who believe that were living in the ‘end times.’
    9. Unemployed
    10. Concerned about illegal immigration
    11. Concern about a “New World Order
    Then at the end of this list, in echoes that hearken back to Nazi Germany, the DHS advisory says this: “The DHS (Department of Homeland Security) encourages anyone who suspects another of being a right wing extremist to turn them in. “(U) Reporting Notice:
    (U) DHS encourages recipients of this document to report information concerning suspicious or criminal activity to DHS and the FBI.” The quote was followed by a series of telephone numbers and web addresses to the DHS National Operations Center, the National Infrastructure Coordinating Center (NICC) and the FBI.


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