Alleged Holocaust Museum Shooter Hated Jews, Ex-Wife Says

Suspect, 88, in custody, seriously wounded -- has alleged ties to hate site.

ByABC News
June 10, 2009, 2:05 PM

June 10, 2009— -- The elderly man who allegedly triggered a fatal shootout today at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington has a long history of racist and antisemitic anger, but is also an artist with a special fondness for ducks, according to people who know him.

Ever since investigators identified James von Brunn, 88, as the man who allegedly walked into the museum with a .22-caliber rifle this afternoon and began shooting, they have been piecing together a disturbing portrait of him.

Watch "Good Morning America" Thursday for more comments from slain security guard Stephen Tyrone Johns' family and more on this story.

Writings in his name have been found on numerous racist, antisemitic and neo-Nazi Web sites, and his ex-wife told ABC News by phone that "he was eaten alive like a cancer with his hatred of Jews and blacks."

A security guard who was wounded during the shootout, Stephen Tyrone Johns, died as the result of his injuries, the museum's director said today.

Von Brunn, who was also wounded in the exchange of gunfire with Johns and two other guards who rushed to his aid, was in serious condition late today.

Von Brunn's ex-wife, who asked that her name not be used, said she is "totally against" his alleged actions today, calling the incident "very, very sad. Horrible."

The woman said she and the shooting suspect were married for a decade, but divorced about 30 years ago because she disagreed with his extremist views, which she said she learned about after they married.

They had one son, Erik, but, "Our son despised James' beliefs like I did," she said.

Erik von Brunn lived with his father in Easton, Pa., and Annapolis, Md., but now is a student at a college in Maryland and no longer lives with him, the woman added. James von Brunn grew up in Missouri.

Von Brunn's ex-wife said her ex-husband is an artist, and often painted themes with ducks.

She also said she was not aware of any diagnosed mental health issues or other health problems that he had, "but he was an elderly man, he wanted to go out with his boots on like the John Wayne movie 'The Shootist.'"

On the Web site, von Brunn described himself as "an artist and author who lives on Maryland's Eastern Shore". He also claimed a background as a Midwesterner who became a PT boat captain with the Navy reserves in World War II and later worked as an ad executive and film producer in New York City.

He said he has been a member of Mensa, and he has six chapters posted from a book he authored, "Tob Shebbe Goyim Harog," which translates as "To Kill the Best Gentiles!" and claims to outline a Jewish plot against society.