The Washington Post talks to some of James von Brunn’s former neighbors, who say they knew he was a white supremacist — and an angry man:
"Was he capable of this? Yes," said Laura Era, who saw him explode with anger twice in her Harrison Street art gallery. "Our intuition that he was creepy, that he might go postal, all came back to us when we heard the news."
And they have this story about Era’s mother and a date she went on with von Brunn:
Von Brunn’s determination to make the case that the Holocaust was a fraud found its way into every conversation of consequence and poisoned the few friendships he attempted, people who know him said. He invited Laura Era’s mother, Dorothy Newland, now 88, out to supper one evening about 10 years ago. She thought him "a good looking, well-spoken man."
But as they shared drinks and salads at the Rustic Inn, he talked about a book he was writing.
"It was all about things he objected to," Newland said. "He was very definitely against certain political things. I don’t remember the details or whether it was particularly racist. I only listened with half an ear because I knew I wouldn’t buy the book." She had heard enough, however, to know not to date him a second time.
The book, eventually titled "Kill the Best Gentiles!," rails against the Talmud, blacks and Jews, and belief in the Holocaust. He posted similar rants on his Web site.
The Washington Times’s print edition has an interesting article on whether Holocaust denial should be illegal in the United States, like it is in some European countries. Unfortunately, the article doesn’t appear to be online, but one excerpt:
"That’s not something that in this country, the ADL would support being criminalized," said Steven Freeman, director of the legal affairs department at the Anti-Defamation League.
"Each country has its own history and makes decisions about where to draw the line. We shouldn’t be second-guessing other countries. But that doesn’t mean we can’t exercise our own free speech rights to debunk [Holocaust denial] and to talk about how crazy it is. That’s what we do and have been doing."
And The Washington Post explores the difficulty of tracking people like von Brunn and respecting the Constitution:
The FBI was "aware" of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum shooting suspect and his history of hateful writings about religious and ethnic minorities, but authorities had not opened a criminal investigation of him before Wednesday’s deadly attack, officials said yesterday.
The case of James W. von Brunn, who had a decades-old felony conviction for storming the Federal Reserve headquarters in a bid to kidnap board members and propagate his views against blacks and Jews, underscores the challenge that a rising tide of Web-based white supremacists poses to law enforcement, which walks a fine line between policing potential violence and respecting free speech, experts say.
The Israeli Project founder and president Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi tells the Annapolis Capital she thinks von Brunn was the man who distributed hate flyers in her neighborhood in 2005 (although the Post article linked above says he didn’t move to Annapolis until late 2006):
Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, an Annapolis resident and president of an international nonprofit organization, The Israel Project, said she believes the 22-page leaflet of white-supremacist propaganda left on her property in December 2005 can be traced to von Brunn.
Blogs and news reports on the Internet have alleged von Brunn was closely affiliated with leaders of the National Alliance, a West Virginia-based group that espouses anti-Semitic and racist propaganda.
The alliance produced the literature that appeared on the lawns of area homes four years ago, roiling the community for months.
"I don’t have a membership card from him, but I do know that the fliers had National Alliance on them and he was very closely linked with them," Mizrahi said.
"And we don’t know whether he was the only one living in Annapolis or whether this ends with an 88-year-old man in a hospital. I mean we don’t know if there are associates remaining (in Annapolis), plotting more evil actions." …
Mizrahi said she filed an official complaint with county police in 2005 and was told by officers that 13 other people also had filed complaints.
She said officers also said the person responsible for the circulation of the literature was "a cranky old man" who had not committed a crime because of his right to free speech.
The Post also has the first interview with the two guards who shot back at von Brunn:
The security guards who returned fire when a white supremacist allegedly gunned down their colleague at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on Wednesday were a recently retired D.C. police officer and a former Marine, both of whom had worked at the museum only a few weeks.
The former D.C. police officer is Harry Weeks, who retired from the force in February after 27 years. The second guard is Jason "Mac" McCuiston, 30, a former Marine who had worked as a police officer outside Atlanta before returning to the Washington area and taking the job at the museum.
Both men live in Charles County, about an hour outside Washington. In interviews this morning with The Washington Post, they said they had become fast friends since starting their jobs.
Weeks has worked at the museum since early April; McCuiston started later that month.
Neither of the guards were supposed to be working Wednesday, when James W. von Brunn allegedly entered the museum and immediately began shooting, fatally injuring security guard Stephen T. Johns, 39. Both said they had accepted overtime assignments to help with the crowds and VIPs expected to be at the museum that evening for the opening of a new play about racial tolerance, written by the wife of former defense secretary William Cohen.
Earlier that morning, the three guards had joked about a basketball game they planned to play together this Sunday. Weeks said he would guard the much taller Johns, who stood 6 feet 6 inches tall.
"It’s so hard to believe that he is gone," Weeks said of Johns.
Weeks said he had never seriously contemplated the threat of a gunman at the museum.
But McCuiston said, "It is a target. People don’t look at it as one. But you know that’s just the way the world goes around, unfortunately."
Remembering Stephen Johns:
Opening the museum door was a final gesture of goodwill for a man who had long opened his own door for friends, family and anyone in need. He was a "care bear" who despite the imposing mass that made him well suited for security — 6 feet 6 inches and more than 300 pounds — "wouldn’t harm anybody," said Brian Lennon, a longtime friend and onetime roommate …
Yesterday, [son] Stephen Jr. sat with his grandmother, Jacqueline Carter, on the couch in her white Colonial-style Temple Hills home.
"To me, he was a pretty great guy, and he was always there for me," Stephen Jr. said. "When I had heard about what happened, I was just . . . sad. Mad at the guy that shot him."
Carter struggled with her emotions as she talked about the loss of her only son. "People can say that I know how you feel, and I do appreciate that and all," she said. "But right this second, I just miss my son, knowing that I am not going to see him again."
Carter said her son had once considered training to become a police officer but was dissuaded by his first wife. Instead, he stuck to his career as a security guard. He had worked at the Holocaust Museum for six years. Before that, he had worked at the Whole Foods grocery in Logan Circle.
Johns was attached to his job, [friend Anthony] Harmon said. "It was the best thing that ever happened to him," he said. "We’d do things, and he’d say: ‘I can’t stay out too late. I’ve got work in the morning.’ "
And a Jewish couple who took great pleasure that von Brunn probably never knew he sold his old house to a Jewish family. From the Post:
James W. von Brunn — racist, domestic terrorist and anti-Semite — never knew that when he and his then-wife sold their Lebanon, N.H., home in 1982, they sold it to a Jewish family.
The von Brunns had moved to Maryland before we looked at the house, and he was incarcerated when we bought it, imprisoned for attempting to hold hostage members of the Federal Reserve Board. When we moved in, we realized we’d bought it from an anti-Semite survivalist because he’d left behind several boxes of anti-Jewish books. We immediately added them to the trash.
Anyway, James W. von Brunn, we want you to know we took great pleasure in living there despite the hate-filled man who occupied it before we did. We celebrated Passover Seders, exchanged Hanukkah gifts and raised two wonderful Jewish children there.