City Desk

Tragedy at the Holocaust Museum: Loose Lips Daily

As much local politics as humanly possible. Send your tips, releases, stories, events, etc. to lips@washingtoncitypaper.com. And get LL Daily sent straight to your inbox every morning!

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—"Hundreds Watch Gay Marriage Referendum Hearing"; "Breaking: Fenty Press Conference on Holocaust Museum Shooting"; "Shooting At Holocaust Museum; Alleged Perp James Von Brunn Had Criminal Record"

IN LL WEEKLY—The Defense Won't Rest: Peter Nickles goes after lawyer Gregory Lattimer for releasing information on police foul-ups in the DeOnté Rawlings case.

Morning all. Shortly before 1 p.m. yesterday, James W. von Brunn, 88, walked into the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and opened fire with a rifle, murdering security guard Stephen T. Johns, a 39-year-old Oxon Hill resident. Other guards fired back, striking von Brunn in the head. He is in critical condition. Lede-alls from City Paper, WaPo, NYT, CNN, The Hill, WTOP, WUSA-TV, WTTG-TV, Examiner, NC8, and WaTimes, which notes that 'a notebook was found on Mr. von Brunn with a list of other D.C. sites. A police bomb squad searched and secured the sites. The source said fewer than 10 sites were on the list.'

AFTER THE JUMP—Much more on museum tragedy; Harry Jackson living with another man; hotel hearing set; and another mayoral challenger named Brown

Johns, 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds, is remembered in a WaTimes memorial piece. 'Gregory Bryant, Mr. Johns' direct supervisor, described the slain officer as a "gentle giant." "Always with a smile on his face," Mr. Bryant told The Washington Times as a fellow security officer handed him a piece of black tape to put over his badge in honor of their fallen comrade.' He is survived by son Stephen Jr., 11. Also WaPo, WUSA-TV, NC8, WRC-TV, WAMU-FM, AP, and WTOP, which reports that Johns was a 1988 graduate of Crossland High School in Temple Hills. 'Johns had been posted at the museum since joining [Wackenhut] in 2003....He was known as "Big John" to his colleagues.'

Darryl Fears and Marc Fisher team up with a profile of von Brunn, detailing his 'Long History of Hate.' Von Brunn was 'growing despondent,' they write. 'John de Nugent, an acquaintance who describes himself as a white separatist, noticed the change when they last spoke two weeks ago. "He said his Social Security had been cut and that he was barely making it," de Nugent said. "He felt it was the direct result of someone in Washington looking at his Web site." In one of his e-mail blasts expressing his white supremacist views, [von Brunn] told readers that they shouldn't expect to hear from him again....The e-mails were getting violent in tone: "It's time to kill all the Jews."' Also WTOP, AP, WTTG-TV, and ABC News. In Examiner, Leah Fabel adds that von Brunn 'was particularly focused on the June 8, 1967, attack on the U.S.S. Liberty, struck by Israeli fighter jets during the Six-Day War, which resulted in the deaths of 34 American crewmembers. The incident is recognized by the U.S. government as having been friendly-fire, but has been seized upon by conspiracy theorists.' Also see Gary Emerling's WaTimes piece.

EYEWITNESS—Former defense secretary William Cohen was yards away from the shooting. WRC-TV with the interview.

In the aftermath, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, FBI Washington Field Office chief Joe Persichini, DDOT Director Gabe Klein, and others stood before national cameras on 14th Street SW yesterday afternoon. After approaching the microphones, Fenty seemed unusually nervous, but ran a tight, to-the-point presser. Another is scheduled for 11 a.m. today.

Here's Fenty on WRC-TV this morning: 'I think going forward the District of Columbia will continue to be the exciting, welcoming, hospitality-tourism-focused place it's always been....What happened yesterday...shows that there are madmen in our midst; there are people who are gonna do crazy things. But the level of security in the city, both public and private, is very strong. This could have been a much, much worse incident.'

WHAT ABOUT THE GUNS?—After the shooting, Fenty declined to link the incident to congressional attempts to soften the District's gun laws. Vincent Gray had no such qualms: 'Gray said the city, as the nation's capitol, can draw armed extremists and "makes people uniquely vulnerable,"' D.C. Wire reports. '"It's hard for me to realize why anyone would want to make this an easier place to have guns," Gray said. "If anything, it should be more secure."' Michael A. Brown and Eleanor Holmes Norton issued similar statements. WaTimes and The Hill covered the gun politicking.

WELCOME BACK—To police spokeswoman Traci Hughes, who was on her third day back from maternity leave yesterday.

WHAT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE THE STORY OF THE DAY—Board of Elections and Ethics hears cases for and against allowing gay-marriage recognition measure on the ballot. LL was there, so was Michael Neibauer of Examiner: 'Rhetoric from both sides was passionate and in some cases vitriolic toward the opposing viewpoint. But for board members Charles Lowery and Errol Arthur, the question was clear: Would the referendum violate the city's Human Rights Act, which bars discrimination based on sexual orientation? If it would, under the law, then the matter does not belong on the ballot.' And Tim Craig reports in WaPo, 'Because of the vacancy on the three-member election board, [Arthur and Lowery] are the only sitting members. If there is a split decision, the referendum will not be allowed to go forward, although proponents vow to take the issue to court. During questioning of witnesses, Arthur and Lowery appeared sympathetic to arguments that a referendum might run counter to the Human Rights Act.' And do see Rick Rosendall's wrapup at the GLAA blog. A decision is expected no later than Monday.

HUH?—Blade: '[T]he D.C. condo [Harry Jackson] claims as his residence belongs to another man, who has reportedly told sources in the building that Jackson is his "roommate." The condo in question, unit 630 in the upscale Whitman, is a one-bedroom apartment. Residents of the building estimate that a third of the units are gay-owned....So, let's recap. The anti-gay minister heading an effort to derail same-sex marriage in D.C. lives in a one-bedroom apartment with a male roommate in a building 30 percent occupied by gays.'

Forgot this yesterday: Ward 1 Dems vote overwhelmingly in support of gay marriage.

Jonetta Rose Barras with a nice column today, about effort to create the D.C. Open Government Coalition. '*Ron Susman, a former partner with the Boston-based Ropes & Gray law firm, with decades of expertise in freedom of information issues at the national and international levels, initiated the project....Melissa Davenport currently serves as executive director of the open government coalition. During the past few weeks, she's met with a host of people from various communities — former D.C. Councilwoman Kathy Patterson, former president of the Federation of Citizens Association George Clark and the American Civil Liberties Union's Fritz Milhauser — hoping to persuade them to join the crusade. Noting that she wants a "cooperative relationship" with the government, Davenport intends to talk with someone in the Fenty administration before the group's formal organizational meeting later this month. "Our sense is that the District's FOIA law is fine. By the letter, information should be pretty accessible," Davenport said. "We want to be sure that there isn't an automatic default of nondisclosure that essentially [translates to] 'We will withhold unless you make us disclose.'"'

Federal judge denies bail to accused Cuban spies, citing flight risk and a strong government case. Writes Mary Beth Sheridan in WaPo, 'The judge...noted that Walter Kendall Myers, 72, and his wife, Gwendolyn, 71, had marked on their calendar a yacht trip to the Caribbean in November with no return date, indicating a possible escape plan. "To put it bluntly, the government's case seems at this point insuperable," wrote U.S. Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola, in an opinion issued after a hearing in U.S. District Court.' Also WRC-TV, WTTG-TV, Legal Times.

Biz Journal's Jonathan O'Connell covers efforts to establish a more rigorous process for disposing of city property. Harry Thomas Jr.'s legislation, he writes, would 'dramatically broaden the process by which the city declares land surplus, a precursor to any sale or lease. It would create major new requirements for public input — such as by requiring two public hearings in the vicinity of the property and mailing postcards about meetings to everyone in the affected zip code — and require new disclosures and analyses from the mayor's office before any property could be made available....Barry Kreiswirth, a legislative aide to Deputy Mayor Valerie Santos, said the bill "will have a number of negative impacts on community redevelopment and the facilities planning process."'

OPM releases first-ever facilities plan, NC8 reports: 'The master plan for city government facilities creates a strategy for managing the owned and leased space. District leaders say it's about transparency....[T]he plan defines future investments and construction priorities. It also raises the bar for environmental standards in both existing buildings and new ones.'

CNS News covers possible end to congressional restrictions on abortion funding in the District. 'Last month, President Obama called for an amendment that would repeal the Dornan Amendment—a law that bans the appropriation of funding for abortion in the District of Columbia. The amendment would make tax funded abortion legal in D.C....The proposed amendment would simply insert the word "federal" before "funds" in the provisions of the law. While D.C. would still be banned from tapping congressionally appropriated funds for abortion, it could still use local tax revenue to fund abortion.'

Army Corps to Congress: Spring Valley chemical weapons cleanup will be done next year. Hopefully. WTOP reports, 'Despite plans to wrap up cleanup work in 2010, the Army's Addison Davis says results of testing being presently conducted may change that schedule. "The Army will not leave Spring Valley until the work is done," Davis told the subcommittee.'

Georgia man convicted in an Atlanta federal court of conspiring to support terrorists, four years after videotaping sites in and around Washington. Syed Haris Ahmed, 24, writes Carrie Johnson in WaPo, 'made short digital videos of area landmarks, including the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, the George Washington National Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, the World Bank and fuel tanks near Interstate 95 in Northern Virginia, according to the indictment. Investigators later discovered that the footage was shared with Younis Tsouli, an alleged recruiter for al-Qaeda in Iraq, and Aabid Hussein Khan, who authorities say has ties to Pakistani Islamist militant groups such as Lashkar-i-Taiba.' Ahmed faces up to 15 years in prison.

Convention-center hotel plan moves forward with key council support: Kwame Brown and Jack Evans have scheduled a joint hearing on the plan for June 24. Brown titled his surprise press release 'It's Time to Build a Hotel!' As Craig notes at D.C. Wire, 'Evans, who is pro-development, was widely expected to be supportive the calls for more public financing. But Brown's forceful comments come as surprise, which could provide a crucial boost to efforts to get the legislation through the Council.' Also Biz Journal.

UGH—Another Brown running for mayor: Nikita Stewart reports at D.C. Wire that Sulaimon Brown, a former Fenty campaign volunteer, is pursuing a run for the mayoralty. 'Brown, 38, who says he's an auditor by trade, said his job now is "full-time candidate." The...native Washingtonian said in an interview that he attended Duke Ellington School of the Arts and the University of the District of Columbia. He now lives in Northeast in Ward 5. He will kickoff his campaign on June 27 and said he is not worried about Fenty's $2 million-plus campaign warchest. "Well, we intend to run a strong grassroots campaign. A campaign is about all about the people. We intend to get the people behind us," Brown said.'

WAMU-FM's Kavitha Cardoza interviews Sen. Dick Durbin, noted voucher foe. He calls the decision to allow voucher holders to finish their schooling 'humane,' and would entertain allowing further vouchers, but only for clearly high-performing schools.

Metro gets first down payment on $200M in total stimulus funds. WTOP reports that WMATA 'will use $17.7 million in stimulus money to make track improvements, expand a chemical detection system, upgrade fare machines and build a new Metro sales center.'

BAD BLOCK—Man slain last night in alley behind 1300 block of Columbia Road NW.

Woman killed early yesterday morning when fire swept her duplex on the 5000 block of Just Street NE is ID'd as Ida Speight, 55. NC8, WRC-TV, WaPo, WTTG-TV.

Voice of the Hill: '7th Street closure question
appears far from settled'...'The issue has ignited an uproar among business owners, vendors and residents. Proponents of the street closure say a closed 200 block of 7th Street is safer and attracts tourists. Opponents reply that the closure of the street after the April 2007 fire that shuttered the market has harmed business for brick-and-mortar shops and vendors due to the flow of pedestrian traffic and the elimination of parking spaces.'

DCHVRA aftermath from Informer, Reason mag.

GOTTA SEE THIS—Conan O'Brien randomly clowns on WUSA-TV's Armando Trull, via DCist.

According to survey, 87 percent of DCPS students want to pursue higher education, Bill Turque reports for D.C. Wire. So why are less than half of them graduating from high school? 'Nearly 80 percent said family or financial concerns drive students to drop out....Fifty-five percent said they have been suspended at least once and two-thirds say unfair school rules such as suspension policies play a role in students quitting....Safety emerged as a major concern: ninety-one percent said that more secure schools would probably increase graduation rates.'

More on proposed MetroAccess reform, from Examiner's Kytja Weir.

Memorial to mental-health patients is dedicated at St. Elizabeths, Hamil Harris reports in WaPo. '[T]he historic Southeast Washington hospital will be the site of a nine-acre memorial to people who have died on the grounds of mental hospitals nationwide. A granite marker with the quote "I must fight in the open" was installed during the ceremony.'

Delaware brothers file suit against the Archdiocese of Washington, WaPo reports, alleging that it 'knew or should have known that Monsignor R. Joseph Dooley would molest them [in the 1950s and 60s] because the church knew of other incidents involving boys abused by Dooley.' The alleged abuse took place in Rehoboth Beach, but Dooley also served at churches in Bethesda and the District.

Akridge's 700 6th St. NW building, openign next week, to have 'largest green roof on a private sector building.'

DCmud reports big problems for the Floridian.

Patrick Mara describes his use of technology in his council run.

Vince Gray's 'extended family' includes aspiring Redskins center Edwin Williams.

Real World D.C.: Confirmed.

Comcast to the rescue: Screen on the Green will go on!

Among D.C. area airports, National has the best on-time record.

Neighbors want city to crack down on messy GWU student group house.

D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—10 a.m.: Committee on Health hearing on B18-240 ("Prescription Drug Dispensing Practices Reform Act of 2009"), JAWB 500.

ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—6:45 a.m.: guest, Connecting with the Mayor, WRC-TV; 7:10 a.m.: guest, Fenty on Fox, WTTG-TV; 11 a.m.: remarks, Holocaust Museum shooting update, 14th Street SW between Independence Avenue and Jefferson Drive.

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Comments

  1. #1

    You know, it doesn't mean someone is a conspiracy theorist if they are interested in the forensic evidence. von Brunn is no less the criminal responsible for the murder of Johns if he performed actions which resulted in his being shot at by museum guards, and if Johns was in the line of that very foreseeable fire. Clearly, von Brunn, who was old, egotistical and wanting to go out in blaze of "glory" intended to commit "suicide by cop" in the Holocaust museum.

    What concerns me is that the narrative of belief is always competing against the facts of the case. To me this is not a good development in our society.

    Yes, Johns was protecting the public. Yes, his death was a tragedy. Yes, von Brunn intended harm at the museum. But did a bullet from his gun kill the guard? It does not appear to some to be the case. A simple test of the bullet should which entered Johns should put the rest to the case. Authorities who will not make this public only contribute to the mystery.

    von Brunn is a felon. He is responsible for the ultimate outcome. There is no innocent purpose in a entering a museum like that with an open firearm. Guards may reasonably conclude that his firing it - in whatever direction - was provocation. And if he did not actually fire? Was this his attempt to fire up the gun nuts? Maybe. Like the Dr. Tiller case, this is probably an example of provocation to polarize the country, by another loser.

    But don't dismiss all questions. No society filled with propaganda devoid of facts is superior to one which accepts facts no matter where they lead. It is a short step from good-guys/bad-guys propaganda to lies and judicial torture and murder. I don't think we want to go there, although our toes have been drifting in the water on that one.

  2. #2

    By the way, I never heard a word about von Brunn being interested in the case of USS Liberty. However, James Bamford, former member of the NSA and also many of the crew of the ship who spoke to him, are convinced by the evidence, which is abundant, that the state of Israel, a nation state and not the same as "Israel" as the words are read in a synagogue, actually intended to knock out the spy ship during the very hot 1967 war in which the air forces of both Syria and Egypt were knocked out by the state of Israel. If you get between something like that, and you are following it blow by blow, the word for your getting blasted is not friendly fire. The US was not in this instance a co-military force with Israel. It was not friend and against friend. It was Israel against a spy during its conflict.

    Nobody needs a conspiracy theory to see that. But LBJ ordered a cover-up. LBJ was like that. But since he is dead, naturally there are those who want to know what he really did during his administration (as opposed to the propaganda). Well, they are called "historians".

  3. #3

    Dianne, are you saying that vonBrunn didn't kill Johns or are you saying extract the bullet(s) and do a forensic account and autopsy?

    Your account is the first I've heard in terms of possible "friendly fire". If this can be proven, it doesn't make Johns any less a hero, but it puts the other guards and possibly Wackenhut in a bad light.

    The Liberty attack is almost as famous a cover-up as Watergate, however the political motivations for protecting the information were different. Not that the U.S. hasn't made vengeance or preemtive type attacks but the Liberty ultimately would've made Israel (nation-state) look bad in the U.S. eyes and in the countries of that region (Syria, Egypt, etc.)

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