No, I am not completely oblivious to breaking news. I’ve just been away from my computer all day. In fact, I was, coincidentally, in Los Angeles Council Chambers listening to the City Council approve the Museum of Tolerance’s expansion plans when I read on my iPhone that a crazed gunman had opened fire at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington.
An 88-year-old white supremacist shot and killed a security guard Wednesday at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum before being shot by two other museum security guards.
Stephen Tyrone Johns, who was on the security staff of the museum for six years, died after being taken to George Washington Hospital in Washington. The shooter, identified as James Wenneker Von Brunn, was taken to the same hospital. Authorities said his injuries were serious.
A third man was injured by shattered glass and was treated at the scene.
The attack marks the fourth time in the last month that Jewish sites or people have been targeted for attack in the United States.
The man who allegedly killed a Jewish Wesleyan University student a month ago was found with a copy of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”; police infiltrated a group of terrorists that allegedly were plotting to bomb a pair of Bronx synagogues; and the alleged shooter at an Arkansas military recruiting center was found to have conducted research on Jewish sites.
Von Brunn entered the museum sometime after 12:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon with a rifle and opened fire near the metal detectors at the entrance, according to police and museum officials. Police say Von Brunn appeared to have acted alone.
The Anti-Defamation League identified Von Brunn, who reportedly lives in Annapolis, Md., as a longtime white supremacist and anti-Semite who is a retired Naval reserve officer and World War II veteran.
Von Brunn, the ADL said, has a self-published anti-Semitic book titled “Tob Shebbe Goyim Harog” (roughly translated from Hebrew as “Kill the Best Gentiles”), as well as many anti-Semitic essays. He also created an anti-Semitic Web site, HolyWesternEmpire.org.
In 1981, while living in New Hampshire, von Brunn was arrested at the headquarters of the Federal Reserve Board after he tried to use a sawed-off shotgun to take board members hostage. He was convicted of attempted armed kidnapping, second-degree burglary, assault with a dangerous weapon, carrying a pistol without a license and two counts of possession of a prohibited weapon.
Von Brunn was sentenced to four to 11 years in prison in 1983. He ended up serving more than six years.
The museum said it will close Thursday in memory of Johns and its flags will be flown at half staff.
The Jewish Journal has been going gangbusters on this story, with a bunch of short stories exploring different angles on von Brunn. (Here is an explanation for his belief that the Talmud encourages Jews to kill the best Gentiles.) Johns, the security guard, is being hailed as the hero he was. And von Brunn is being castigated as the raving white supremacist hatemonger that he is; he makes Bill Johnson and Kevin MacDonald seem well grounded by comparison.
I’m still waiting to learn whether sincere, albeit tragically misguided, religious beliefs influenced von Brunn’s hatred of Jews or if it was just ol’ fashioned anti-Semitism. It’s curious that von Brunn went on this rampage at the age of 88, a number that to white supremacists represents “Heil Hitler.” It should be noted though that von Brunn was disappointed by Hitler: He didn’t think the mass murderer killed enough Jews.