What happened at the DC Holocaust museum?
On the heels of President Obama’s visit to a former Nazi death camp at Buchenwald, Germany — catastrophe at an American museum meant to both honor the victims of the Nazi holocaust, and educate the world about the tragedy.
According to multiple news sources, an elderly gunman opened fire at the Holocaust museum in America’s capital Wednesday, wounding a security guard before being wounded himself. The shooting has sparked rumors of panic in the area around the Holocaust museum — a large and popular spot for tourists. Multiple witnesses have been interviewed, and the shooting situation is “under control” according to DC metropolitan police.
Both the alleged gunman and the wounded security guard were taken to a hospital with gunshot wounds, a police spokesperson said. A third unidentified visitor to the museum was “slightly wounded”, possibly by breaking glass according to MSNBC, but did not need further treatment at the hospital and has been released.
According to DC police, the alleged shooter has been identified as one James Von Brunn, a known white supremacist. Von Brunn is being investigated as the prime suspect in the shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Museum. Apparently, Von Brunn’s vehicle was found near the museum and is being tested for explosives.
The gunman’s motive is still quite unclear, but at least two major news agencies (Fox and NBC) are repoting that their correspondents have been told that the gunman is an 89 year old white male with links to a “major white supremacist organization”. Police helicopters can be seen and heard buzzing the area and police have closed off most nearby roads. This according to DC police Sergeant David Schlosser, who further reported that the gunman walked directly into the building carrying “a long gun.” This would usually imply a rifle or a shotgun, and because there were not multiple shots, most news stations are assuming the gun was a shotgun.
The Sergeant’s statement goes on to say: “My understanding is that two other security officers at the museum returned gunfire at the man that had entered the museum. Both the security guard that was initially shot and that gunman have been transported to George Washington University hospital, and I don’t know the condition of them.”
A witness to the shooting, Maria Hernandez, was with her grandparents, walking through the various exhibits showing the devestating impact of the Holocaust as well as the genocide of six million Jews under the Nazis. Her report:
“We were in the exhibit ‘Remember the Children’ and we heard rounds fired and through the glass doors I saw a security guard firing towards the shooter and a man on his belly on the floor and when I looked back again, we were heading toward the exit, I saw blood all over the floor. He was hit real bad.”
According to other witnesses, the elderly man that entered the museum with his long gun proceeded to fire at one of the security officers. Both the security officer that had been fired upon and the gunman himself are being treated for gunshot wounds.
Witness Angela Andelson, 22, visiting from San Francisco, told reporters that she heard “possibly five shots fired”. Andelson says she was by the main entrance when the gunman came in. Her statement continues:
“I heard a shot and thought it was sort of a loud, like someone had dropped something. So I kind of turned to look and I see all these security guards kind of like ducking. I kind of glanced again and saw a gunman coming in … a long looking kind of gun. I just ran in to one of the exhibits to try to take cover.”
The shooting comes not just days after US President Barack Obama visited a Nazi death camp, but days after he visited the Middle East and all but begged Israel to halt the building of settlements in the West Bank.
A spokesman for the museum told NBC that the building, which is only about 500 yards from the White House, has been completely evacuated, and was being evacuated immediately after the first shots were heard.
The museum boasts a large amount of tourist traffic. According to the museum’s web site, more than 30 million people have visited the museum since it opened in 1993.
During Obama’s visit to Buchenwald last week, the President laid a single white rose on a plaque memorializing the camp’s 57,000 victims. Obama visited the site with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. The trio then took a tour of Buchenwald’s barracks and crematorium.
At a Wednesday afternoon press conference, officials declined to publicly confirm Von Brunn is their suspect. This wouldn’t be the first major brush with the law for James Von Brunn, who was convicted of attempted kidnapping in the early 1980s.
Joseph Persichini, who is assistant director in charge of the Washington FBI field office, police officials have dispatched officers to the suspect’s home to check his computer. He said they are investigating this as a possible hate crime or even a case of attempted domestic terrorism. Von Brunn runs a racist, anti-Semitic Web site — http://www.holywesternempire.org — and also published an anti-Semitic book called “Kill the Best Gentile.”
The U.S. Park Police, in charge of activities near the Holocaust museum and other popular tourist sites, agree with the estimation of witnesses, saying that the gunman in Wednesday’s attack walked into the museum with a “long gun.” A law enforcement source said the gunman was shot in the face, a serious wound, and authorities say he is in critical condition.
In 1983, james Von Brunn was convicted of attempting to kidnap members of the Federal Reserve Board. He was arrested outside the room where the board was meeting, carrying a revolver, knife and sawed-off shotgun. At the time, police said Von Brunn wanted to take the members of the Fed hostage due to their institution of high interest rates and the nation’s economic difficulties. No word yet on any connection between the economic difficulties then and the economic trouble we’re experiencing now.