"As the defendant approached the entrance to the museum, Special Police Officer ('SPO') Steven [sic] Tyrone Jones, who was employed as a security guard for the museum, opened the door for the defendant," the complaint says. "The defendant raised his rifle, aimed it at SPO Johns and fired one time, striking SPO Johns in the left, upper chest area."
Two additional guards returned fire as von Brunn continued through the door and "raised his firearm as if to fire again," the document continued. "The defendant was shot in the face and fell backwards outside the door."
Ambulances rushed von Brunn and Johns to George Washington University Hospital after the incident. Johns died at the hospital of injuries sustained in the attack, and von Brunn remains in critical condition.
Von Brunn allegedly used a .22-caliber rifle, and the complaint notes that three .22-caliber cartridge casings were recovered at the scene, indicating that the suspect fired three shots.
Already a convicted felon for a 1981 crime, von Brunn was prohibited from possessing a gun.
"Obviously, that will be something that will be followed up," D.C. Metro Police Chief Cathy Lanier said at a press conference Thursday.
People who know von Brunn described him as a volatile, angry man whose raging prejudices ramped up in recent years because of his frustration with the government and the election of the nation's first black president.
"We thought he was like a pressure cooker, just ready to go off," said one resident of Easton, Md., where von Brunn recently lived.
"We always had the sense though that there was an anger under him," said another acquaintance.
"Yes, I would say that he was crazy," a man added.
John de Nugent, a self-described white separatist who never met von Brunn in person but was in contact with him, said Wednesday's shooting didn't come as a surprise to him.
He had given away his computer, and turned control of his Web site, www.holywesternempire.org, over to someone else, de Nugent said. The site is no longer accessible on the Internet.
"When you hear about people giving away precious things, it makes you think that something bad is going to happen," de Nugent said on "Good Morning America."
"I think at least a year ago, his Social Security was slashed. And he felt that this was a direct result of somebody in the federal government reading his Web site, and punishing him for his politically incorrect opinions," de Nugent said. "I think the election of Barack Obama became a tremendous signal of alarm for him."
"The FBI did not have an open investigation on Mr. von Brunn," said Persichini. "But we were aware of him, and he is known as an anti-Semite and a white supremacist that established Web sites that espoused hatred" against Jews, African-Americans and others.
Persichini said individuals who hold such beliefs are often acutely aware of their rights, and the type of activity or speech that would trigger an investigation.
"Law enforcement's challenge every day," he said, "is to balance the civil liberties of the United States citizen against the need to investigate activities that might lead to criminal conduct."
"No matter how offensive to some, we are keenly aware that expressing views is not a crime, and the protections afforded under the constitution cannot be compromised," he continued, stressing that investigators rely on tips in cases like von Brunn's.