Commentary: Shooting death of Holocaust Museum guard is a hate crime

June 12, 2009 

All it took was a racist gunman filled with hatred and a warped sense of history to kill a guard at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

James W. von Brunn is an 88-year-old white supremacist. In 1981 he tried to raid the Federal Reserve and take board members hostage. He did prison time for that offense. On Wednesday, police and museum workers say, he stood in front of the museum's door with a rifle hidden under a coat when Stephen Johns, a guard, tried to open the door for the elderly man, who opened fire. Other guards shot back, and von Brunn at this writing was in critical condition. Sadly, Mr. Johns died shortly after the skirmish.

Ironically, the white supremacist who wrote for an anti-Semitic book publisher in the 1990s and kept a website dedicated to his hatred of Jews and blacks, fought as a U.S. soldier in World War II. In the Fed case, he testified that his goal was to "deport all Jews and blacks."

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, had been keeping track of this man for decades. But in a nation that rightly values free speech, von Brunn kept espousing his vigilante views. The FBI had not been monitoring him, though U.S. officials noted Thursday that they would pursue this case to the maximum allowed by law. Good.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Miami Herald.

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