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Guard Killed In Holocaust Museum Shooting

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

Here in Washington, D.C., a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Museum has been killed.

Law enforcement officials say a lone gunman walked into the museum and opened fire this afternoon. Authorities say the suspect, a white supremacist named James Von Brunn, was shot by security guards. He's now in critical condition.

NPR's Allison Keyes reports.

ALLISON KEYES: Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier says the suspect walked into the museum's main entrance carrying a visible rifle and opened fire on security guard Steven Tyrone Johns.

NORRIS: From the information we have at this point, it appears that, immediately as he entered the front doors of the museum, he raised the rifle and started shooting.

KEYES: Johns was hit and two other security guards fired back at the suspect. Lanier says a nearby off-duty D.C. police officer rushed to help.

NORRIS: The officer immediately entered the museum, supported by United States Park Police and security from the museum, and rendered aid immediately to the victims until they were transported by the D.C. fire department and EMS.

KEYES: But the security guard, Officer Steve Tyrone Johns, died at the hospital. Officials at the Holocaust Museum issued a statement saying he died heroically in the line of duty and there are no words to express their grief and shock. Johns had been on the museum staff for six years.

Witnesses describe a chaotic scene, with security guards yelling to the thousands of people in the museum at the time to run, not to stop and not to look back.

Outside of the Holocaust Museum, chief of staff William Parsons had high praise for all of the security guards.

NORRIS: We just want to say that never take your guard force or your security people for granted. These folks are trained. They train all the time. They did exactly what they were supposed to do to protect people at the museum.

KEYES: Law enforcement officials say Von Brunn, the suspect, appears to have been acting alone and that they had no prior threats to the Holocaust Museum before the shooting. Officials are investigating Von Brunn's connection with several white supremacist Web sites.

In 1981, Von Brunn pulled out a shotgun at the Federal Reserve Board headquarters, threatening to take members of the board hostage.

NORRIS: He's been associated with a lot of the leading neo-Nazi thinkers and so on around this country going back really a very long ways. At one point, James Von Brunn wrote a book, which he called "Kill the Best Gentiles!" His description of this book was, quote, "a new, hard-hitting expose of the Jew conspiracy to destroy the white gene pool."

KEYES: Officials at the Holocaust Museum say the facility will be closed tomorrow in honor of Officer Johns, and the flags there will be flown at half staff in his memory.

Allison Keyes, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Allison Keyes
Allison Keyes is an award-winning journalist with almost 20 years of experience in print, radio, and television. She has been reporting for NPR's national desk since October 2005. Her reports can be heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition Sunday.