The suspect in Wednesday’s shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Museum is an Annapolis resident who served time in prison in the 1980s for trying to kidnap members of the Federal Reserve Board and gave possible insight into his motivations on a personal Web site.
James W. von Brunn - an elderly man who authorities say used a “long gun” to fire shots inside the museum Wednesday - espoused anti-Semitic ideology on a Web site, www.holywesternempire.org, and appears to have ties to white supremacists. He was arrested in 1981 for the Federal Reserve incident.
Police at the time of the prior incident said von Brunn was detained outside a room where board members were meeting on Constitution Avenue in Northwest, and was carrying a revolver, knife and sawed-off shotgun. Authorities also said that von Brunn told them he planned to take members hostage because of their role in high interest rates and economic problems in the country.
Von Brunn was sentenced in 1983 by a D.C. Superior Court judge to a minimum term of more than four years in prison on charges that included attempted kidnapping. The anti-Semitic site says von Brunn served 6.5 years in federal prison.
The Western Empire Web site also says von Brunn received a journalism degree from a midwestern university, was a member of a fraternity, played varsity football and served as a PT-boat captain, receiving a commendation and four battle stars for his service.
It says he served as an advertising executive and film-producer in New York City for 20 years, according to the site, and is a member of Mensa.
The Web site also features a synopsis and advertisement for von Brunn’s book, titled “Kill the Best Gentiles!”
“This carefully documented treatise exposes the JEWS and explains what you must do to protect your White family,” the site states. “Kill the Best Gentiles! is a must for every concerned parent and a manual for every student of World History.”
Meanwhile, plainclothes officers Wednesday closed off the Annapolis apartment complex where von Brunn lived. Teenager Joshua Shyman, who lives in the same building, described the area as a “friendly place.”
“It’s scary for me,” said Joshua, 16, who also said both of his great-grandparents died in the Holocaust. “I never imagined something like that would happen here.”
Kristi Jourdan and Tom Lobianco contributed to this report.