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THE SITUATION ROOM
Guard Killed at Holocaust Museum
Aired June 10, 2009 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The shooting happened hours before a play's premiere about Anne Frank and Emmett Till, Anne Frank, who died in the Holocaust, and Emmett Till, killed in a racist lynching in the Deep South right here in the United States.
The attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, was among those who was supposed to attend the play at the Holocaust Museum tonight.
Let's go straight to CNN senior White House correspondent Ed Henry. He is on the scene for us over at the Holocaust Memorial Museum, only a few blocks away, Ed, from the White House.
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
As soon as we got the call, jumped in a taxi, headed over here. There were sirens blaring from literally every direction in downtown Washington, as various law enforcement officials swooped down on the scene behind me at the Holocaust Memorial Museum.
All this began about 12:50 p.m. Eastern time. That's when we are told a lone gunman, the suspect, went into the museum on his own right around the magnetometers and literally just with a rifle out in the open started shooting at a security guard, as you mentioned, Stephen Tyrone Johns.
One eyewitness on the scene told me that there was literally blood everywhere as the officer was face down on the ground, blood coming out profusely. Another eyewitness described a chaotic scene.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I heard three gunshots. And I am not sure what order they happened in. But as I looked over to see what was happening, I saw a security guard kneeling down by the -- by the entrance and returning fire.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now, other eyewitnesses tell us they actually heard a total of five shots between the shots from the suspect originally, as well as several security officers returning fire and -- and shooting the suspect as well.
What's -- what is quite fascinating is how all this played out in terms of the fact that there were at least a couple thousand people inside the museum, according to officials here on the scene.
So, Stephen Tyrone Johns obviously potentially saved many, many lives by jumping into the line of fire, reacting so quickly. That's why the Holocaust Museum tonight has put out a statement calling him a hero, saying they are closing down the museum not just tonight, but also tomorrow, in his honor -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And our deepest condolences to Mr. Johns' family.
The president was informed right away, as you know, about what was going on. And it comes only a few days after he spoke emotionally and very passionately about the Holocaust, what it means, both in his speech on the Middle East in Cairo, his address to the Muslim and Arab world, as well as the next day, when he went to the Buchenwald concentration camp.
So, I am sure, Ed, what happened at the Holocaust Memorial Museum hit home very, very closely for him.
HENRY: It certainly did.
That's why we are told by top White House officials the president was getting reports from the Situation Room at the White House, up-to- the-minute intelligence reports, about the situation. There were also FBI officials among those law enforcement folks the I mentioned descending upon the scene.
Those FBI officials trying to make sure there was no terror link here, that it was not beyond that lone gunman. They're very sensitive to that, obviously. Let's not forget, in addition to the president's speech last week to the Muslim world, also, just a few weeks ago, there was a report by the homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, warning about extremist groups that could be active in the United States.
Now, tragically, perhaps some of that coming true -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed Henry is over there at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum right here in Washington, D.C. Thanks very much.
Lots of folks were getting ready, a lot of VIPs were getting ready to go to the Holocaust Memorial Museum later tonight for the premiere of a major play.
BLITZER: Joining us now, Tom Foreman is with me, but the former secretary of defense, William Cohen, and his wife, Janet Langhart Cohen.
You were both there on the scene when this unfolded, right over there on 14th Street. This is the entrance to the Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Secretary Cohen, first of all, tell us why you were there, and then we're going to go through exactly what the two of you saw and heard, because I know you've just come here from giving a statement to the police.
WILLIAM COHEN, FMR. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Actually, I was there. Janet was on her way. And that first slide you had up, if you could put that back up, I can show you where the entrance was.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I will pull that up right here.
COHEN: Yes, indeed.
FOREMAN: There we go.
BLITZER: Yes. Go ahead.
COHEN: In any event, they have reserve parking out front.
BLITZER: On the 14th Street side.
COHEN: On the 14th side. They were going to make arrangements for the driver to drop Janet off, and I would go out and greet her. We were going through a dress rehearsal for Janet's play called "Anne and Emmett," which is about hate...
BLITZER: And we're going to talk about that, but -- so tell us what exactly you saw when you were there around 1: 00 in the afternoon.
COHEN: Well, I was on the phone calling Janet to say, "How far were you away?" because they're making arrangements out front to accommodate the car. At that point, I noticed there was a car that was double parked out in the street, which I thought was unusual.
FOREMAN: You're saying right here.
COHEN: Right. He was double parked out there. And an older man -- I didn't pay much attention to him. I was on the phone.
And then I lost concentration on him until I -- actually, I was an ear witness, because I heard the first shot ring out. And there was no mistaking on my part. I have heard many gunshots in the past, and it was clear what was going on.
BLITZER: How many shots did you hear?
COHEN: I heard about four in a row after the first one. And it was "Bam, bam, bam, bam." And it was clear what was going on.
BLITZER: About how close to this incident were you?
COHEN: I was about 30, 40 feet away.
FOREMAN: This is the map of the place. This is the entrance to the road. You're talking about double parking right out here.
This is the entrance. This is where the magnetometer is, over in this area right here.
So, roughly, where were you?
COHEN: I was about here.
FOREMAN: You were about in this area? OK.
BLITZER: So you were outside the building or inside the building?
COHEN: I was inside the building.
BLITZER: Inside the building.
FOREMAN: You're standing in this area. You were noticing the car out here.
BLITZER: That's that red car that you spotted out there, which we believe was the vehicle that this individual drove.
COHEN: I just noticed that car that was out there, it seemed to be out of place out in the street. And again, I was on the phone talking with Janet at the time. And so, when I heard the shots, I immediately ducked down. I was with Arthur Berger, who is...
BLITZER: One of the spokesmen for the museum.
COHEN: For the museum. He and I were together. He saw actually the man lift the -- come in with a rifle. And so, when the shots rang out, we just ducked down and scattered and went up the stairs to the right.
FOREMAN: Up in this area over here.
BLITZER: Did you say a rifle or a shotgun?
COHEN: He had a -- it looked like a rifle.
BLITZER: It looked like a long rifle?
COHEN: And so we ran up the stairs to get -- we didn't know how many shooters were there. We didn't know how many shots were going to continue, how many people were involved.
So we ran up the stairs and stayed up there. And then we prevented anybody from coming down. Once the shots rang out, people started to panic and wanted to evacuate the building. And they wanted to come down that stairway. And so I said, "Don't go down."
FOREMAN: And this would have been a natural exit for them.
COHEN: It's a natural exit. They all started to rush that way. And we said, "Don't go out. You can't go down there. There's been a shooting."
FOREMAN: When you heard the sound -- I mean, this was a very short distance here. This is, what, 30 feet? It's less than that maybe. COHEN: It's very short.
BLITZER: From the entrance to the magnetometers.
COHEN: We were right about here, the two of us.
FOREMAN: And did you actually see the shooter at all at that moment, or you just heard the motion?
COHEN: No. I just heard the shots ring out and knew what they were at the time, and then ducked. Arthur had seen the man raise the rifle, walk in with a rifle.
FOREMAN: No kidding?
So -- and do you have a sense of -- there are three different entrances here. When you saw this car, did you see it through this portal? Was it over here? Did you see it through this portal?
COHEN: I was looking here. I was...
FOREMAN: So you were looking right through this portal right here to see a car somewhere out here?
BLITZER: Yes. I just want to be clear, Secretary.
Erase this, Tom.
Because show us exactly where you were and where the shooter, you believe, was on that area over there. This is -- I just want to point out this is 14th Street over here. This is the entrance going right here.
So, approximately where were you?
COHEN: I would be in this area here.
BLITZER: Right over there.
COHEN: There's a window right here.
BLITZER: And the shooter was walking in that building when he started shooting?
COHEN: He walked in. I did not see...
BLITZER: And where was that? Show us where the entrance would be right around -- over here, right?
COHEN: This is the exit. I would be standing right here. He would be coming in this way.
FOREMAN: OK. So, you believe he came in through here.
COHEN: That's my -- yes. I didn't see him walk in. So...
BLITZER: Yes. So that's speculative.
FOREMAN: But you could see -- you could see a car that seemed out of place out here somewhere?
COHEN: There seemed to be a car that was double parked out there.
BLITZER: And Arthur Berger, as you're saying, did see the actual incident unfold?
COHEN: As we ran up the stairs, he said he saw the man with what looked like a rifle.
BLITZER: And so what did you do when you heard the shots? I mean...
COHEN: We ducked.
BLITZER: You actually dropped to the ground?
COHEN: We ducked down and took off, and ran up the stairs to get out of the line of fire. And we got upstairs and we didn't know if someone was going to come up behind us, so we had everybody who was naturally coming down -- we stopped them and said, "Don't go down there. It's dangerous."
BLITZER: And Janet, where were you at that time? You were still on your way to the museum.
JANET LANGHART COHEN, PLAYWRIGHT: I was on my way leaving home. We were just turning on to Nebraska Avenue in Chevy Chase. And Bill rang me and said, "There's been a shooting at the Museum." And I know he wouldn't joke about a thing like that, and I said, "What are you talking about?"
And he described to me what he just described to you. And my first concern was for him. He heard it. He and Arthur were right there, close enough to hear the sound just ring out.
And then I thought about the kids of my play. They're rehearsing. We have kids playing Anne Frank and Emmett Till. And my director was there, my whole staff was there.
I know that the Meyerhoff auditorium is down in the well. You can't even get a signal on your cell phone from there, so I thought maybe...
FOREMAN: The Meyerhoff is right down in this area, isn't it.
BLITZER: It's in the lower level.
LANGHART COHEN: Yes, in the lower level. You have to go down. So they didn't hear a thing. They didn't know what was happening. Someone came in and said, "You've got to get out of here."
And one of our team is diabetic and she left her medicine there, and we had to have a SWAT team go back in to get the medicine, because as I was approaching, I had a nice officer, Officer Jeff Block (ph), who escorted me up to the steps, because my husband said, "This is my wife, you have to let her in." I wanted to find out how my husband was.
There were helicopters all around, police cars. Everything was cordoned off.
I thought at first maybe President Obama was traveling through the city because, you know, here in Washington that frequently happens. And then I got there and the officer in charge at the door said, "This is a crime scene, ma'am. I don't care who said you can get in. You cannot get in. Nobody's getting out, nobody's getting in."
BLITZER: And you're not in contact with the secretary.
LANGHART COHEN: Because the signals keep going.
BLITZER: In and out.
LANGHART COHEN: And I finally call him.
The officer talks to you.
Officer Block (ph) talks to Bill and says, you know, "Can you let her in?" I said, "Can you let him out?" And I wanted to find out if everyone was OK.
BLITZER: Did they actually let you in the building then?
LANGHART COHEN: No. They couldn't. It's a crime scene.
BLITZER: Yes. So you were in there the whole time, basically, and you didn't get out. So you didn't see Janet for a while.
COHEN: No. I didn't see her. I ended up walking over to the...
BLITZER: Later. After you did, you gave a statement to the police and all of that.
How worried were you about your husband?
LANGHART COHEN: I was very worried. I was worried about my husband. I was worried about the kids, because there's always kids, as you say, lots of kids in the Museum.
My team was there. And the Museum, we know why this Museum is sacred. We know why we have the Holocaust Museum.
And for someone to come in and desecrate it -- and our whole play is about hate, to eradicate hate, and this is an example of hatred -- people denying the Holocaust, people denying that there were people who suffered and died. And I brought "Anne and Emmett" -- Anne Frank, we know who she was. Emmett Till, the young black boy who was lynched in Money, Mississippi, in 1955.
I wanted to bring them together in an imaginary conversation to talk about eradicating things like this. And the good people -- Anne Frank said she believed in the goodness of people. The good people have to stand up and do more than just guard our buildings.
And the guard -- I know I knew this guard. I lived in the Holocaust Museum every day for the last week or so. I would see all the security guards. And I know we know the young man that died.
And I just want to say how sorry we are to his family.
BLITZER: And we now know, unfortunately, the name of the security guard who was shot and killed at the Holocaust Memorial Museum, Stephen Tyrone Johns. He was killed in the line of duty, shot at the Holocaust Memorial Museum, and then died at George Washington University Hospital.
Our deepest condolences to Officer Johns' family and his close friends, a very sad day, indeed.
We are standing by, by the way. There's going to be a news conference over at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. We will go there. We will bring it to you. We will tell you what is going on, the latest in the investigation.
A white supremacist and Holocaust-denier known for his racist and anti-Semitic rants. We're going to be taking a closer look at the long history of the suspect in the Holocaust Museum killing.
And three apparent hate crimes carried out by what are described as lone wolf gunmen in the span of only a few weeks -- is there any way to prevent such killings? We're going to hearing from a top security expert.
Our coverage of the breaking news will continue right after this.
BLITZER: The breaking news we have been following now, the shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum right here in Washington, D.C., today: A man walked in and shot and killed a security guard right at the entrance to the museum.
CNN's Brian Todd has been looking at the suspect and some of the hate-filled writings.
There is a long paper trail there, Brian, and there's also a criminal record.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf.
James Von Brunn has got a book that looks to have been self- published about the year of 2002. It is entitled "Kill the Best Gentiles." And the first six chapters are posted on his Web site. It is full of anti-Semitic diatribes and Holocaust denial.
One passage -- quote -- "History shows us that Jews are compulsive liars. It is a genetic characteristic that all Jews share. All Jews know the Holocaust is a lie."
Now, Von Brunn describes his political beliefs on the founding of Israel with this quote: "Jews were guaranteed the state of Israel, quid pro quo, for again bringing America into the war against Germany."
And, on one page, he lays out what he believes is a Jewish strategy for dominating the world. One part, he writes, was to convert the American republic into a democracy. Another was to establish a central bank. He also says Jews plotted to capture control of the mass media, to enact personal income tax.
He ends that graph with the quote, "Jews tend to destroy what they most envy."
Wolf, it's a -- it is a long and very disturbing picture on his Web site and on his -- in his book that is posted on that Web site.
BLITZER: And he also blames other ethnic groups for some of his own legal problems.
TODD: That's right, and including one very well-documented legal problem.
We know that he served six years in prison on an attempted kidnapping and firearms charge, this from an incident in the early 1980s where he tried to make what he called a -- quote -- "citizen's legal arrest" of members of the -- excuse me -- the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.
Now, on his Web site, Von Brunn said he was -- quote -- pardon me -- "convicted by a Negro jury, Jew Negro attorneys and sentenced to prison for 11 years by a Jew judge" -- so, again, on that Web site blaming his conviction on those charges in 19 -- his conviction, actually, and sentencing was in 1983. The incident happened in 1981, but again blaming those -- those convictions and his sentencing on -- on minority groups.
BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much.
We are standing by for the news conference over at the Holocaust Memorial Museum. We will go there. We will tell you what they are saying, the latest on the investigation.
Let's talk a little bit about the breaking news, the horrible news here in Washington today.
Joining us now is Fran Townsend. She is a former homeland security adviser to then President George W. Bush. She's a CNN national security contributor.
How can these kinds of incidents be prevented?
FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it is almost impossible, Wolf, although the FBI puts out a tremendous amount of resources against domestic terrorism, which most people don't realize.
Before 9/11, there were 30 joint terrorism task forces in this country. They bring together all the federal law enforcement agencies, including state and locals, who of course have got the best sense of what is going on in their communities.
We now have over 100 of them. And each one of those joint terrorism task forces has a domestic terrorism unit that looks at just these sorts of things. Remember, the FBI has got a long history with these sorts of groups, going back Ruby Ridge, the Montana Freemen, Waco, and then of course the tragedy in Oklahoma City.
When we saw support domestically for these groups drop off, the murder of children and Americans in the American heartland by Americans, obviously, there was some drop-off. But the FBI never -- never walked away from the domestic terrorism problem.
When I was in the White House, the big focus was the ELF and ALF, the Environmental Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front. Mostly, they destroy property. They make very vitriolic comments and hateful remarks. But that was the focus.
But you could see this growing. And particularly during the primaries, we worried about the rise of hateful rhetoric of supremacist groups, particularly around the candidacy of Barack Obama.
BLITZER: But they can go ahead and rant and write "kill Jews, kill blacks." They can do all that. That's not illegal.
TOWNSEND: That's right, because that is protected as free speech under our Constitution.
So -- but the FBI infiltrates those groups, monitors those Web site, monitors those -- that hateful rhetoric. You are quit right, Wolf. Most of those groups don't ever go the next step and take action on it.
And that's why, when they don't, when these individuals are lone wolves and not affiliated with a group, they are very hard to detect. You can be sure, right now, as we're speaking, the federal government, the FBI are working with state and locals to go back and do searches of this guy -- the shooter's e-mails, his telephone records, to look to see if he has got any affiliation or any -- with any group or other individuals who could be out there.
It looks like a lone wolf now, but you be sure the feds will investigate here.
BLITZER: They're going to be busy, because we just did a preliminary search. And there is a ton of writings. This guy has got a long, long paper trail, as you heard from Brian Todd as well.
You have a killer go and kill the abortion doctor in Kansas. Another killer kills an Army recruiter in Little Rock, Arkansas. You have seen several police officers gunned down in recent weeks. And, today, we see what happens at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
So, when we talk about domestic terrorists, it is one thing to talk about al Qaeda and foreign terrorists, but there's a problem potentially here at home as well.
And that's why I say to you the American people, our viewers, are to take some comfort in the fact that there are resources throughout the federal government and law enforcement in particular devoted to this. It is very difficult. While they infiltrate groups and they collect intelligence, it is very hard to identify the lone wolf.
BLITZER: Fran Townsend, thanks very much for joining us. What a story that we're watching.
Once again, we are waiting for that news conference to begin over at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum here in Washington. We will tell you what they are saying. We will go there. Stand by for that.
Eyewitness to a tragedy. A family visiting Washington, D.C., from Kansas was at the museum when today's shooting occurred. They are going to be joining us with their own harrowing story. Stand by. That is coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And we will have more on the alleged gunman. An extremely disturbing history is emerging about this 88-year-old suspect.
And we will go live to George Washington University Hospital, where a Holocaust Museum guard died, and the suspect is at that same hospital right now in critical condition.
BLITZER: The suspect in the shooting death over at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum today is a white supremacist well-known to CNN's Special Investigations Unit.
Let's go to CNN's Drew Griffin, how is taking a closer look at the story.
The name was new to all of us, but not new to a lot of folks who monitor these groups, Drew.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: No, they have been tracking him for years at the Southern Poverty Law Center. And I just got off the phone, Wolf, with a -- a former FBI investigator who was looking into it and actually infiltrated some of these hate crime groups. He says this Von Brunn character had been at Klan rallies back in 2005 and 2006, Klan rallies in South Carolina, where he was introduced as one of the old-timers of the movement, a guy who had written books about white supremacy, and said that all of his speeches and talks were about the hatred of Jews.
I just want to add on to what Brian Todd was reporting about this man's background. And there are some interesting parallels, Wolf, between 1981, new president, country in recession. And Von Brunn is convicted of walking into the Federal Reserve Board armed with a rifle and a pistol, very similar, eerily similar, to what happened today, new president and recession. And here is Von Brunn again, the only two times he shows up as far as we can tell and the law enforcement.
BLITZER: Yes. And it's almost eerie, the fact that the president of the United States, Drew, as you know, only spoke very movingly about the Holocaust last Thursday in his speech in Cairo and then on Friday when he visited the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany.
You told me something I want you to share with our viewers, the fact that a lot of these Holocaust-deniers, white supremacists, neo- Nazis, they like to visit these Holocaust memorial museums.
GRIFFIN: They absolutely do.
And I remember covering a story in Los Angeles with a former neo- Nazi who said his family would go on vacations to these museums, would look at the paraphernalia, the Nazi paraphernalia in particular. They liked to see those guns, those uniforms, the intricate details of a S.S. officer's patch on his arm.
They were going purely for the enjoyment of looking at this Nazi paraphernalia, not for war and remembrance, more for glorification of that whole entire Nazi era and -- and Hitler era in the world's history.
They frequent them a lot. And I have also heard that from even Klansmen in South Carolina, where I covered. They like to view this stuff. They also like to collect it, many of them. And so, they go to these museums where some of the largest collections of this stuff exist.
BLITZER: And I asked Mark Potok, a man you know very well, from the Southern Poverty Law Center how many of these individuals who are obsessed with denying the Holocaust, white supremacists, anti-Semites, hard-core, are out there. And he stunned me by saying maybe 100,000, 200,000 in the United States.
That sounds like a small city, if you will, Drew.
There are groups spread all over the country. In fact, the Southern Poverty Law Center even has a virtual map where you can see where these hate groups are. They are not all white supremacists, now. There are some other hate groups as well, but 926 hate groups spread over the country.
There are 13 in Maryland alone, where this alleged shooter is from. So, they are spread out all across the country, all connected, whether directly or formally or indirectly, by the Internet and the Web site. This is how they spread their message, which is Holocaust- denial, as you said, and yet blame Jews, blacks, every kind of minority group for what they feel is the destruction of the white race.
Von Brunn, in one of his postings on a Web site -- you talk about a Holocaust-denier -- he says Hitler's biggest mistake was that he didn't gas the Jews. Frightening stuff.
BLITZER: Yes, very frightening.
And -- and they -- the experts who study this say that they have been energized, these white supremacists, by the election of an African-American president to the United States, which is obviously very, very disturbing.
Drew, stand by.
I want to just update our viewers on what is going on.
For those in the United States and around the world who might just be tuning in right now, we are following a horrific story here in Washington, D.C.
Earlier today, a few hours ago, a man walked into the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum right on the National Mall in Washington and opened fire, shooting a guard. That guard, tragically, unfortunately, was killed.
He died at George Washington University Hospital. The suspect, an 88-year-old white supremacist, was also shot by other guards at the entrance to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. That -- that suspect has been taken to George Washington University Hospital, only a few blocks away.
And that's where CNN's Kate Bolduan is standing by with more on this part of the story.
Kate, what else do we know about the condition of this suspect, James Von Brunn?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The latest we have from DC police is that James Von Brunn remains in critical condition here at George Washington University Hospital.
Wolf, let me lay out what we've seen so far. As you've been -- as you've been reporting, just around 1:00 this afternoon is when the shooting happened. Shortly thereafter -- I'm told it's within minutes -- both the shooter, James Von Brunn, as well as the security guard, Stephen Tyrone Johns, were rushed here to George Washington University Hospital. It's the nearest trauma center, under two miles to -- from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. They were rushed here.
Johns, we are now told, of course, as you said, been -- has died. And Von Brunn remains in critical condition.
Now, what I've seen since I've been here, Wolf, a lot of police activity. We've seen many police officers, as well as detectives, coming in and out of the hospital; early on, restricting movement, obviously, trying to get control of the situation as these ambulances were coming in and the situation was very much a tense situation.
Since, we've seen things calm down. But I have -- when we -- since we've been here, I've seen what appears to be detectives removing what could be bagged evidence from the hospital. So we are seeing activity continue here this evening.
The latest from the hospital, they're now deferring all inquiries, all comments to DC police, who say they will not officially have another update this evening -- pushing this all toward tomorrow morning's press conference of the mayor, as well -- along with the DC police chief.
But where -- we are told James Von Brunn remains in critical condition here at George Washington University Hospital.
BLITZER: Yes. It's really shaken up this community, the city today, indeed, the ramifications from this horrific shooting.
Thanks very much, Kate Bolduan.
BLITZER: We'll be getting back to you.
Abbi Tatton is joining us.
She's been looking into the suspect online. And there's, as I've been saying, a long, long paper trail online -- Abbi.
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this is certainly someone -- it's not someone that's anonymous. You can find James Von Brunn online. There's a Web site dedicated to promoting his book, publishing online his writings -- writings that are signed by James Von Brunn -- rambling statements about his beliefs, which are essentially that there is a Jew conspiracy -- and pushing people to read this stuff online.
We can't authenticate this photo, but this is a short bio, which says that James Von Brunn was a World War II veteran.
A lot of this Web site that we're showing you right now has been used to describe what happened in 1981, this incident that we've been talking about where James Von Brunn tried to kidnap members of the Federal Reserve. He calls it the Federal Reserve Caper. We know that he did it with a sawn-off shotgun and was later sentenced to a prison term.
In it, he describes just exactly what he wants to do: "My objective was to arrest Paul Volcker" -- then Fed chair -- "and the Fed Board of Governors. I intended to bind their hands and persuade them to appear on television."
The reason he wanted to do this, to kidnap members of the Federal Reserve, he thought the Fed was unconstitutional. He also thought the Fed was controlled by Jews.
We know that he served a prison term for that -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The -- there's a long list -- and I know it's getting very difficult to even get to some of these Web sites -- of what's going on, Abbi.
But give us a little bit more specific background on these enormous postings that have been up there.
TATTON: Well, this posting we're talking specifically is on a Web site. We cannot confirm it's actually James Von Brunn's, but it contains all his rambling statements. It's called "Holy Western Empire." Yes, it's hard to get on right now, because so many people have been going to it.
It is listed to somebody else, somebody in Michigan. But all of the postings on it, all the biographical information is about James Von Brunn.
It's accepting donations to pay for this self-published book that Brian Todd was telling us about earlier. And all the writings are on there. Some of it pretty wild and out there -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Abbi, thanks very much.
Only moments ago, there was a statement that was released over at the news conference at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Let's listen in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARA BLOOMFIELD, DIRECTOR, U.S. HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM: Welcome.
Obviously, there are no words to express our grief and shock over the horrific event that took place at this museum today and our great sadness at the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Officer Stephen Johns, who served as a member of our security staff for over six years. He was an outstanding colleague and beloved of all of us, a great friend who greeted us every day with a wonderful smile on his face. And he will be sorely missed. And our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.
I also want to announce that we've made a decision that in honor of Officer Johns, we are closing the museum tomorrow and our flags are flying at half staff in his memory.
The museum is a very safe place to visit.
Our officers are well trained. And the officers who responded to this incident today really performed heroically, as, of course, did Officer Johns, who died in the line of duty.
But these officers that responded to this incident today did exactly as they were trained. And we're extremely proud of how they behaved.
So this is the kind of thing that we do prepare for, as we're prepared for everything at this museum.
And I am here with our chief of security, Mr. Rosboschil, who is available to answer any questions.
But we take security here very seriously. And the security and the safety of our visitors and our staff is the highest priority of this institution.
So, if you have any questions?
QUESTION: Did Officer Johns have a -- a family?
How old was he?
JOSEPH ROSBOSCHIL, DIRECTOR, WACKENHUT SECURITY: Yes, he did. I don't have his exact age right now. He did have a wife. In fact, I could refer you to Wackenhut Security and they can provide you more details on his family.
QUESTION: Could you -- could you tell us, I mean, do you get threats here at the museum from right-wing -- I mean, I -- do you get threats?
And were you -- was this guy at all on your radar?
ROSBOSCHIL: We do get occasional threats. Nothing significant of recent. And we've not had any dealings with this individual.
QUESTION: Have you been told that the (INAUDIBLE)?
ROSBOSCHIL: I have not been told that as of yet. That's part of the police investigation. Any questions related to that, I would encourage you to contact the Metropolitan Police Department.
QUESTION: Sir, are you (INAUDIBLE) your security. I mean, here, the gunman was able to drive up to the front of the museum, leave his car, get out and walk inside.
ROSBOSCHIL: At this point, we'll -- we'll review all of our security measures. But, you know, our officers are well-trained to -- to handle these types of situations. And we believe they acted heroically today.
QUESTION: Are there guards on the outside of the museum (INAUDIBLE) that section of the roadway?
ROSBOSCHIL: We -- we're not at liberty to reveal our security postings, but we do have, obviously, officers posted at various locations.
QUESTION: How would you quantify your security versus other museums in the city?
Obviously, your site has special significance.
Was your security ramped up compared to other sites?
ROSBOSCHIL: I believe we have a much higher level of security than many other museums here in the District of Columbia.
QUESTION: You know, one thing that a lot of people have commented on is that this is a place of peace, a place that, hopefully, is designed to prevent violence in the future. And -- and there's a certain particular poignancy and tragedy to the idea that the violence (INAUDIBLE).
Do you have any thoughts on that?
BLOOMFIELD: Well, perhaps you could say that we don't know, really -- well, there's much more investigation to do in this incident. But perhaps you could say this incident is ever more reason why this museum exists -- to teach the point about our common humanity and the need for all of us to work toward a more peaceful and just world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Sara Bloomfield is the executive director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
We've just received a statement from President Obama on what happened today at that museum.
Let me read it to you: "I'm shocked and saddened by today's shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. This outrageous act reminds us that we must remain vigilant against anti-Semitism and prejudice in all its forms. No American institution is more important to this effort than the Holocaust Museum. And no act of violence will diminish our determination to honor those who were lost by building a more peaceful and tolerant world."
The president continuing: "Today, we have lost a courageous security guard, who stood watch at this place of solemn remembrance. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends in this painful time."
That security guard, Stephen Tyrone Johns, he served at the Holocaust Museum for the past six years. And we want to wish his family and all of his friends our deepest, deepest condolences, as well. There he is, Stephen Tyrone Johns, doing his job, as he has for six years at the Holocaust Museum.
Joining us now are Dave Unruh of Wichita, Kansas and his entire family. Karen, his wife, is here; Dalton and Drew, his two sons.
Dave, you were there. You were tourists, like millions of others who have gone to the Holocaust Museum. You came in.
Was this the first time you were there today?
DAVE UNRUH, HOLOCAUST MUSEUM TOURIST: I had visited previously. This is the first time for my two grandsons to visit.
BLITZER: And so you want -- oh, these are your grandsons?
D. UNRUH: Correct.
BLITZER: All right. So let's -- let's talk a little bit about where you were and what you saw.
D. UNRUH: Well, we were waiting in line to enter the museum proper. We were inside the building and had gone through "Daniel's Story," which is an exhibit there at the museum. And we were just ready to enter the museum itself.
And we heard some gunshot noises, one, and then several others that followed rapidly. And you could tell instinctively that this was -- was gunshot -- gunfire.
BLITZER: You knew for sure it was a gunshot?
D. UNRUH: Well, you -- you hear that noise, you're thinking gunfire and then everybody says, hit the floor. Get down. And we heard that order -- that command, from I don't know who. And so the four of us hit the ground immediately.
BLITZER: When you say hit the ground, Karen, you literally fell to the ground?
KAREN UNRUH, HOLOCAUST MUSEUM TOURIST: Well, actually, we stepped a couple of steps back into a little coved out area and we hit the floor.
BLITZER: And then you went down and you put your hands over your head.
K. UNRUH: We just squatted down as far as we could get down.
BLITZER: You must have been terrified.
K. UNRUH: I was terrified, because I was on the outside. I mean the guys were up in the corner and I'm on the outside, thinking if he comes running by, I'm right on the edge here.
BLITZER: And then you have your two grandsons with you, as well. K. UNRUH: And I have my two grandsons. They were pretty much behind Dave and I.
BLITZER: Did you realize, Dalton, what was going on?
DALTON UNRUH, HOLOCAUST MUSEUM TOURIST: Not at the time. I was kind of shocked. I didn't know what to think. And then I finally came to my senses and realized that.
BLITZER: That this was -- had you ever heard a gunshot before?
DALTON UNRUH: Well, not in an enclosed area like it was. Like outside, I've heard gunshots. But this was totally different.
BLITZER: Were you scared, Drew?
DREW UNRUH, HOLOCAUST MUSEUM TOURIST: Yes, I was. I was really scared. I just listened to my grandpa and did what he said, pretty much.
BLITZER: All right.
So how long did you stay down on the ground before you -- you decided that it was a good opportunity to get out of there?
D. UNRUH: Well, we -- it seemed like a long time. It was probably just a matter of a couple of minutes. And I kept trying to calm the family. But then we heard someone give the order: "Get up and run, get up and run."
So we didn't question. We got up and went with the flow of the crowd. And we ended -- went out the back door of the museum or the -- the other entrance.
BLITZER: To Raoul Wallenberg Place.
D. UNRUH: Right.
BLITZER: Which is really 15th Street, behind, on the other side, near the Washington Monument.
D. UNRUH: That's right. And we -- we got out, went around the building. And they started to evacuate the entire building, which took some time. But people were separated from their groups. There were a lot of school kids there that got separated. Family members got separated. We were trying to help some of those that came by.
But it was a -- a very terrifying few minutes.
BLITZER: You're from Wichita, Kansas?
D. UNRUH: Correct.
BLITZER: Why did you want to bring your grandsons to the Holocaust Museum? D. UNRUH: Well, we wanted them to see our nation's capital, first of all. But the Holocaust Museum, we think, is an important part of the history of -- of mankind, something that they needed to see, understand and try to process so that they understand about prejudice and what happens from that.
BLITZER: What did you learn, Dalton?
DALTON UNRUH: Well, we didn't really get to see the tour, because we got -- we were in line for it. But it was pretty interesting from "Daniel's Story."
BLITZER: It's a powerful -- it's a powerful reminder of the evil of mankind, isn't it, Drew?
DREW UNRUH: Yes, just like going through that exhibit we -- I learned a lot about just like things kids went through.
BLITZER: You know, there's been 27 million visitors to that museum since it opened back in 1994. And many of them -- most of them, I think -- have been young kids, like your grandsons, who need to see what happened during World War II.
D. UNRUH: Well, I think it's an important part of -- of what we have to offer to help develop a correct world view.
BLITZER: Dave and Karen and Dalton and Drew, we're thankful that you guys are OK. I know this is a day you will never forget. You'll always remember what happened. But we're grateful that you guys emerged OK.
D. UNRUH: Thank you very much.
K. UNRUH: Thank you.
BLITZER: Thanks for coming in.
K. UNRUH: Thank you very much.
BLITZER: A deadly shooting over at the Holocaust Museum is putting a spotlight back on a controversial Homeland Security memo warning of potential domestic terrorist threats.
Did it predict an incident like this?
And it was just last week that President Obama visited a concentration camp in Germany and talked about Holocaust denial. We're going to bring you his comments in a new context.
All that coming up.
BLITZER: President Obama says he was shocked and saddened by today's shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum here in Washington, D.C.. In a statement, the president says -- and I'm quoting now -- "It reminds us that we must remain vigilant against anti-Semitism and prejudice in all its forms."
A security guard, Stephen Tyrone Johns, is dead. He was shot by a lone gunman who entered the museum. The gunman was then shot himself. He's in critical condition over at George Washington University Hospital right now.
Law enforcement sources tell CNN the suspect is an 88-year-old white supremacist named James Von Brunn. He has a long history of ties to white supremacist groups.
Let's talk about what has happened here in Washington today.
Joining us, Gloria Borger, John King and Joe Johns -- Gloria, I want to play for you and for our viewers what the president of the United States said last Thursday in Cairo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM JUNE 4, 2009)
OBAMA: Six million Jews were killed -- more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, it is ignorant and it is hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews is deeply wrong and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories, while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And the next day, Gloria, he went to the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany and he added this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM JUNE 5, 2009)
OBAMA: And we're here today because we know this work is not yet finished. To this day, there are those who insist that the Holocaust never happened -- a denial of fact and truth that is baseless and ignorant and hateful.
This place is the ultimate rebuke to such thoughts -- a reminder of our duty to confront those who would tell lies about our history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And then on this day, only a few days later, Gloria, a man walks into the Holocaust Memorial Museum and starts firing a rifle and kills a security guard.
It's a tragic, tragic moment that a lot of folks in Washington will remember forever.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It will. And when you think of this man, he's clearly a Holocaust a so-called. He's a bigot. He's anti-Semitic. And the words that you heard from President Obama clearly would not sit well with him. We have no idea at all, Wolf, whether it had anything to do with what he did today at the Holocaust Museum.
But in his zeitgeist, you know, the world is changing and in a way he probably doesn't like.
BLITZER: And, you know, John, you and I and a lot of us, we talk to local law enforcement -- state, federal, Secret Service. They've seen an upsurge since the president of the United States was elected. A lot of these white supremacists, they hate the idea that there's an African-American who's president of the United States.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it's important to note that, yes, they have seen an up tick in chatter among these groups. I don't think they would say there's up tick in membership among these groups. But people who are the haters are more vocal at a time when they feel maybe backed into a corner.
But this is -- one (INAUDIBLE) to know, I think it's very careful, especially in the early hours after this, that we wait and see what the police find. They will look at his e-mails. They will look at his home. They will look at all the evidence. They will find out if this is one man who has a past history of being a hater acting alone and whether there was anyone else involved, whether any other laws were broken in addition to this heinous murder today, Wolf -- should he have had a gun in the first place, because he was convicted of crimes in the past.
All of that will be gone through in the days to come.
I think what law enforcement would tell you is they are paying closer attention because of the potential of certain things, because we have our first African-American president. But they wouldn't tell you there are more of them, that they're just more vocal.
BLITZER: And, Joe, your name is Joe Jones, but, unfortunately, the security guard who worked at that museum for six years, his last name is Johns, as well.
First of all, no relation to you.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's correct. No relation at all -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. You've been in Washington for a long time, just as all of us have been. On a day like this -- and probably for a few days -- maybe the politics, the bitter politics, will go away. But we shouldn't necessarily hold our breath for too long.
JOHNS: Well, that's for sure. The other thing you have to think of at a time like this is a lot of younger people, particularly in this country, almost see the kind of thing that happened today as an anachronism -- something out of place and time. But it's a real reminder that anger, hate, prejudice, anti-Semitism, still exists in this country, despite the fact the president of the United States is an African-American. It's still out there.
One other thing about what John said, it's very true, a lot of law enforcement people in this town I've covered before will look for the triggers here. And one trigger, you have to say, it isn't necessarily all about hate. It's also about economics.
JOHNS: In 1981, when this guy did what he did with the Federal Reserve and got arrested for it, it was a very bad economic time -- high interest rates and so on. Here we have another bad economic time. Those are some other ties people are going to throw into the mix...
JOHNS: ...not just question of hate.
BORGER: And I spoke with someone in law enforcement today, who said that you really can't emphasize that enough, that there's a lot of sense of displacement and marginalization, particularly with someone like this, who has acted out on -- on his economic despair before.
BLITZER: And, John, I just want to read to you that Department of Homeland Security report that was issued last April: "DHS has concluded that white supremacist lone wolves pose the most significant domestic terrorist threat because of their low profile and autonomy, separate from any formalized group which hampers warning efforts."
It's pretty chilling when you reread that line.
KING: It is chilling when you read that. Remember, the controversy about that report was the suggestion that it was possible some of these groups would try to recruit veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan who might be a little down on their luck, who might be coming home at a time of a bad economy and unable to find jobs.
But in terms of, Wolf, this is what law enforcement always worries about the most and, especially, so much work was done after 9/11 to look for any terrorist organizations inside the United States -- anyone who didn't belong in this country from overseas.
But what do law enforcement organizations worry about in any case, especially hate like this -- the most, somebody, all by themselves who, 99 days out of 100, is a law-abiding citizen. You can't see them doing anything.
This man had a hateful Web site. That's not illegal in the United States. You can think horrible thoughts, you just can't act on them.
And how do you control or watch just one person?
That's always the biggest fear of law enforcement.
BLITZER: All right, guys. Thanks very much.
Lou is going to have a lot more coming up at the top of the hour on this story -- Lou, give us a little preview.
LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Indeed, Wolf.
Tonight, we'll have the very latest on the killing of the security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The FBI now says that shooting the work of a single gunman. The attack came without warning. The suspect tonight is in critical condition, after other security guards fired back at him. We'll have the very latest for you on what law enforcement is now saying about the shooter's motive, his history with hate groups.
And the victim and the suspect rushed to a nearby trauma center at George Washington University Hospital. We'll have the very latest for you on all of that, a great deal more and why, among the other questions we'll be asking and seeking to answer here tonight, why did this man, with his criminal background and record, have a gun?
All of that, all the day's news, at the top of the hour -- Wolf, back you to.
BLITZER: All right. Lou, stand by.
We'll get to you in a couple of moments, when we come back.
There are other important developments that happened today. We'll update you on some significant news.
BLITZER: Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM, right now -- Fred, what's going on?
WHITFIELD: Hello again, Wolf.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is proposing giving shareholders at public companies a nonbinding vote on executive compensation. Geithner is taking a more hands-on approach with companies receiving government bailout money. Today, the administration appointed a so- called pay czar who will oversee compensation plans.
And a major reprieve for Chrysler. Today it forged a critical partnership with Italian automaker, Fiat -- a move that will save the company from liquidation. Company officials say Chrysler factories that were idle during the bankruptcy process will be up and running soon.
And good news for an American dad -- Brazil's Supreme Court blocked a bid to prevent a 9-year-old boy from being reunited with his father in the United States. The case now goes to the Brazilian federal court, which will hear an appeal from the boy's stepfamily to keep him in Brazil -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Fred, thanks very much.
That's it for me. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.