United States Holocaust Memorial Museum shooting

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United States Holocaust Memorial Museum shooting
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum after the shooting.jpeg
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on the day after the shooting.
LocationUnited States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
DateJune 10, 2009 (2009-06-10)
12:50 p.m.[1] (EST)
Attack type
Shooting, hate crime
WeaponsWinchester Model 1906 .22-caliber rifle[2]
Non-fatal injuries
2 (including the perpetrator)[4][5]
PerpetratorJames Wenneker von Brunn[3]
MotiveAntisemitism, Holocaust denial

At about 12:50 p.m. on June 10, 2009, 88-year-old white supremacist James Wenneker von Brunn entered the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. with a rifle and fatally shot Museum Special Police Officer Stephen Tyrone Johns. Other security guards returned fire, wounding von Brunn, who was apprehended.[1][4][5][6]

Von Brunn was charged in federal court on June 11, 2009, with first-degree murder and firearms violations.[7] On July 29, 2009, von Brunn was indicted by a federal grand jury on seven counts, including four which made him eligible for the death penalty; the charges included hate crime counts.[8][9] In September 2009, a judge ordered von Brunn to undergo a competency evaluation to determine whether or not he could stand trial.[10] On January 6, 2010, von Brunn died of natural causes while awaiting trial.[11]

Von Brunn was a white supremacist and Holocaust denier. He had previously been convicted of entering a federal building with various weapons in 1981 while trying to place the members of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, who he considered to be treasonous, under citizen's arrest.[6][12]


The Holocaust Museum has been a target for antisemites and Holocaust deniers since it was established in 1993. In 2002, federal prosecutors said two white supremacists plotted to blow up the museum with a fertilizer bomb, as was used to blow up a federal building in Oklahoma in 1995.[13]


At about 12:49 p.m., 88-year-old James von Brunn[14][15][16] drove his car to the 14th Street entrance of the museum.[1][7] Von Brunn entered the museum when Museum Special Police Officer Stephen Tyrone Johns opened the door for him.[17] Authorities said he raised a Winchester Model 1906 .22-caliber rifle[2] and shot Special Police Officer Johns,[4][5] who later died of his injuries at the George Washington University Hospital.[3] Two other Special Police Officers stationed with Officer Johns, Harry Weeks and Jason "Mac" McCuiston, returned fire, wounding von Brunn with a shot to the face.[18] According to police officers at the scene, a third person was injured by broken glass but refused treatment at the hospital.[3]

Immediate aftermath[edit]

A sign honoring Stephen Tyrone Johns, the Special Police Officer shot and killed during the shooting, located in the museum's lobby.

The Washington Post reported that "if it weren't for the quick response of the private guards on duty, more people could have been killed or wounded." Mayor Adrian Fenty stated that the officers' efforts "to bring this gunman down so quickly ... saved the lives of countless people... This could have been much, much worse."[19] Inside, the museum was crowded with visiting schoolchildren.[4] Museum officials said that "the entire incident unfolded in approximately two minutes."[20]

After the shooting, the nearby U.S. Department of Agriculture Administration Building, Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and the USDA's Sidney R. Yates Federal Building were closed.[21] Portions of 14th Street and Independence Avenue in the Southwest quadrant were closed until later in the night.[22] The car driven by von Brunn was found double parked in front of the museum and tested for explosives.[23]

Police said they found a notebook on von Brunn that contained a list of District locations, including the Washington National Cathedral; they dispatched bomb squads to at least 10 sites.[24] The notebook also contained this passage, signed by von Brunn: "You want my weapons—this is how you'll get them. The Holocaust is a lie. Obama was created by Jews. Obama does what his Jew owners tell him to do. Jews captured America's money. Jews control the mass media. The 1st Amendment is abrogated henceforth."[7]

The FBI and Washington, D.C. police chief Cathy L. Lanier said that it appeared von Brunn was acting alone at the time of the shooting, and the FBI said it had no knowledge of any threat against the museum.[25][26] The museum's director of security said they receive threats, but "nothing this significant recently".[13]

Possible motives[edit]

Several news agencies have noted the timing of the June 10 shooting; it came shortly after Obama's June 5 visit to and speech at the Buchenwald concentration camp,[27] and that "President Obama’s recent visit to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp, in Germany, may have set off the shooter."[28]

On his website, von Brunn stated that his conviction in the 1980s was by "a Negro jury, Jew/Negro attorneys" and that he was "sentenced to prison for eleven years by a Jew judge." A Court of Appeals denied his appeal.[15]


Special Police Officer Stephen Tyrone Johns (October 4, 1969 – June 10, 2009), a Temple Hills, Maryland native, was an employee of Wackenhut who was, at the time of the shooting, stationed at the door of the museum when von Brunn entered with a .22 caliber long rifle and shot him. He later died at the George Washington University Hospital. His funeral was held on June 19, 2009 at Ebenezer AME Church in Fort Washington, Maryland, with 2,000 attendees,[29] and he was subsequently interred. Johns was married to Zakiah Johns (since May 2008) with a son, Stephen Johns, Jr., and two stepsons, Jeffrey Pollard and Tysean Lawson-Bey.[30] The American Jewish Committee established a memorial fund for the family.[31]


James W. von Brunn died in prison while awaiting trial on January 6, 2010.[6] He was in poor health and suffered from congestive heart failure and sepsis.[6]

Following his death, the Washington Post notes: "His guilt was never in serious doubt -- the shooting was witnessed by dozens of people, it was captured on surveillance video and the assailant was carted away in an ambulance -- but some had hoped to glean some insights into von Brunn's psyche during the court process. Many, including Johns's relatives, remain shocked that anyone could be filled with so much hatred that he would shoot a helpful security guard at a museum that serves as a memorial to the slaughter of millions of people."[6]

Witnesses and events at the museum[edit]

Present at the museum during the shooting was former United States Secretary of Defense William Cohen, awaiting his wife Janet Langhart; the two were at the museum for the premiere of Langhart's one-act play, Anne and Emmett. The play imagines a conversation between two teenagers, Nazi victim Anne Frank and Jim Crow victim Emmett Till. Her play was to be presented in honor of the eightieth anniversary of Anne Frank's birth.[32]


The day after the shooting, the Holocaust Museum's flag flew at half-staff in memory of the murdered guard, Stephen Tyrone Johns.

The Israeli embassy in Washington condemned the attack. U.S. President Barack Obama said, "This outrageous act reminds us that we must remain vigilant against anti-Semitism and prejudice in all its forms."[33][34]

The Southern Poverty Law Center, Anti-Defamation League, and FBI stated they had been monitoring von Brunn's Internet postings, but were unable to take action because his comments had not crossed the line from free speech into illegal threats or incitement.[35][36]

On June 11, 2009, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington and the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington led a prayer vigil which took place in front of the museum to honor Stephen Johns, the slain officer.[37] Approximately 100 people attended the event, including officials from the Israeli and German embassies.[38] The Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned the attack as well.[24] When the museum reopened on June 12, 2009, Director Sara Bloomfield said attendance was normal or even higher than usual. Many visitors said their attendance was a statement against hate and intolerance. A 17-year-old girl who was in the museum the day of the shooting stated, "It's important to come back, because if you don't, they win. It's a form of terrorism."[39]

On the white nationalist Internet forum Stormfront, some users criticized von Brunn's actions, saying they hurt the forum's cause. Others supported him in threads that were later removed.[40]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Halsey III, Ashley; Paul Duggan (2009-06-11). "'Was He Capable of This? Yes.'". Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-06-13.
  2. ^ a b Syeed, Nafeesa; Epso, David (2009-06-10). "Elderly gunman kills guard at Holocaust Museum". Yahoo! News. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2009-06-13. Retrieved 2009-06-10.
  3. ^ a b c d "Shooting reported at Holocaust Museum in Washington". CNN. 2009-06-10. Retrieved 2009-06-10.
  4. ^ a b c d "Guard Slain in Museum Shootout ID'd; Gunman Hospitalized". WJLA-TV. 2009-06-10. Archived from the original on 2009-06-13. Retrieved 2009-06-10.
  5. ^ a b c Wilgoren, Debbi; Branigin, William (2009-06-10). "2 People Shot at U.S. Holocaust Museum". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-06-10.
  6. ^ a b c d e Del Quentin Wilber, Von Brunn, white supremacist Holocaust museum shooter, dies, Washington Post (January 7, 2010), B01.
  7. ^ a b c "Criminal Complaint (U.S v. James Wenneker von Brunn)". FindLaw. 2009-06-11. Retrieved 2009-06-11.
  8. ^ Wilber, Del Quentin (2009-07-29). "Holocaust Museum Shooter Indicted on First-Degree Murder". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-07-30.
  9. ^ "James Von Brunn Indicted for Murder of Special Police Officer Stephen Johns and Hate Crimes Charges for Attack on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum" (Press release). Federal Bureau of Investigation. 2009-07-29. Retrieved 2009-07-30.
  10. ^ "North Carolina: Shooting Defendant Is Transferred". The New York Times. Associated Press. 2009-09-28. pp. A23. Retrieved 2009-09-29.
  11. ^ Pilkington, Ed (January 7, 2010). "Holocaust museum shooting suspect dies". The Guardian. London: guardian.co.uk. Retrieved January 7, 2010.
  12. ^ "Suspect is seized in Capital in threat at Federal Reserve". The New York Times. United Press International. 1981-12-08.
  13. ^ a b Frommer, Frederic J. (2002-07-26). "Holocaust Museum has attracted anti-Semitism, hatred from its inception". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2009-06-15. Retrieved 2009-06-14.
  14. ^ Condon, Stephanie (2009-06-10). "Shooting Suspect Wrote Of "Holocaust Hoax"". CBS News. Retrieved 2009-06-12.
  15. ^ a b Reid, Tim (2009-06-10). "White supremacist James W Von Brunn opens fire at Holocaust museum". The Times. London. Retrieved 2009-06-10.
  16. ^ "Gunman Shoots, Kills Guard At Holocaust Museum". National Public Radio. 2009-06-10. Retrieved 2009-06-11.
  17. ^ Sisk, Richard; Schapiro, Richard (2009-06-11). "'Obama created by Jews': Holocaust Museum shooting suspect James von Brunn's chilling racist note". Daily News. Retrieved 2009-06-11.
  18. ^ "Guards Who Stopped Von Brunn Were Retired Cop, Ex-Marine". The Washington Post. 2009-06-12. Retrieved 2009-06-13.[dead link]
  19. ^ Davenport, Christian (2009-06-12). "Fast Action By Guards Saved Lives, Officials Say". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-06-12.
  20. ^ "Gunman Opens Fire Inside Holocaust Museum, Kills Security Guard". Fox News. June 10, 2009. Archived from the original on May 27, 2010.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  21. ^ Felde, Kitty (June 11, 2009). "A Bad Day at the Museum". Southern California Public Radio. Archived from the original on June 3, 2011.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  22. ^ Mathis, Sommer (2009-06-10). "Street Closures Affiliated with Holocaust Museum Shooting". DCist. Archived from the original on 2009-06-14. Retrieved 2009-06-12.
  23. ^ "Guard dies after Holocaust museum shooting". MSNBC. Associated Press. 2009-06-11. Retrieved 2009-06-13.
  24. ^ a b Meyer, Josh; Zajaz, Andrew; Oliphant, James (2009-06-11). "Maryland man held in Holocaust museum attack". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2009-06-11.[dead link]
  25. ^ "Gunman, guards exchange fire in D.C. Museum". WTOP-FM. 2009-06-10. Retrieved 2009-06-10.
  26. ^ "Statement Regarding Shooting at United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C." (Press release). Federal Bureau of Investigation. June 10, 2009.
  27. ^ Alingod, Kris (2009-06-12). "Less Than A Week After Obama's Buchenwald Visit, House Passes Resolution Condemning Holocaust Shooting". All Headline News. Retrieved 2009-06-17.[dead link]
  28. ^ Lawn, Connie (2009-06-17). "Shooting in the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC". Scoop. Retrieved 2009-06-17.
  29. ^ Keith L. Alexander and Hamil R. Harris (June 20, 2009). "Grieving for 'Another Victim of an Evil ... Mentality'". Washington Post.
  30. ^ "Stephen Tyrone Johns (1970–2009)". Find a Grave.
  31. ^ Eric Fingerhut (June 11, 2009). "AJC sets up fund for family of Officer Johns". Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
  32. ^ Grossman, Cathy Lynn (2009-06-10). "Tragedy at the Holocaust museum and giving voice to the slain". USA Today. Retrieved 2009-06-11.
  33. ^ "On the Holocaust Museum Shooting". whitehouse.gov. 2009-06-10.
  34. ^ "US Holocaust museum guard killed". BBC News. June 11, 2009.
  35. ^ Meyer, Josh (June 12, 2009). "Investigators in Holocaust museum shooting continue to look for clues". Los Angeles Times.
  36. ^ Weiss, Debra Cassens (June 11, 2009). "Southern Poverty Law Center Had Monitored Museum Shooting Suspect". ABA Journal.
  37. ^ Mathis, Sommer (June 11, 2009). "Holocaust Museum Shooting Vigil Planned for 2 p.m." DCist. Archived from the original on June 14, 2009.
  38. ^ Giaimo, Melissa (June 12, 2009). "Tourists shocked, but carrying on". The Washington Times.
  39. ^ Davenport, Christian (June 11, 2009). "Stepping Up to Defy Intolerance". The Washington Post.
  40. ^ Mitchell, Greg (June 10, 2009). "What the Media Missed in Museum Shooting: Far-Right Reaction". Editor & Publisher. Archived from the original on June 17, 2009.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)

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