Holocaust museum closes to honor slain guard

(JTA) — The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum closed for a day in memory of the guard who was fatally shot by a white supremacist.

The museum’s flags flew at half-staff Thursday to honor Stephen Tyrone Johns, 39, who allegedly was gunned down Wednesday afternoon by 88-year-old James Wenneker von Brunn of Maryland. Johns died from his injuries at George Washington University Hospital shortly after the attack.

Museum leaders said in a statement issued Wednesday that Johns "died heroically in the line of duty today."

"There are no words to express our grief and shock over these events," the statement said. "He served on the Museum’s security staff for six years. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Officer Johns’ family."

The statement also announced the museum’s decision to close Thursday to honor the officer.

Von Brunn entered the museum sometime after 12:30 p.m. Wednesday with a shotgun and opened fire near the metal detectors at the entrance, according to law enforcement authorities and the museum. Other security guards returned fire and the gunman was critically wounded.

A third man reportedly was injured by shattered glass and treated at the scene.

The museum was evacuated following the shooting.

On Thursday, supporters left bouquets of flowers in front of the museum. 

Numerous Jewish organizations, members of Congress and others have released statements reacting to and condemning the shooting attack.

The Washington Post in an editorial Thursday praised Johns, saying "The museum is one of the capital’s most-visited sites and so, if not for the actions of Mr. Johns and his colleague, the loss could have been far greater."

The Post’s editors called on authorities to "thoroughly investigate this incident to confirm that Mr. von Brunn acted alone, as was initially believed. Security procedures should be rechecked. And then the memorial should return to its mission. Given the sorrows and hatreds that persist throughout the world, no reminder was needed of the importance of that job. Yet such a reminder was delivered yesterday, in a most unexpected place."
 

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