June 11th, 2009
08:13 PM ET

At the aftermath of the Holocaust museum shootout

Inside the Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Larry Shaughnessy
CNN Producer

We came in the same way hundreds of tourists escaped Wednesday afternoon's shootout. The "back" door of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. The security officers were on duty. Still professional, helpful, kind. But not happy, not upbeat. Not after one of their own gave his life protecting the museum's visitors.

The Museum gave CNN exclusive access to the building Thursday, the first news crew inside since the shooting.

The first sign that there'd been trouble. A worker was sweeping up trash left behind yesterday... a single brown flip lay on the floor in the midst of torn papers and dust. It appeared during the rush to safety someone lost a shoe and didn't try to go back and get it.

We noticed almost none of the security officers were wearing body armor. Of the dozen or so officers on duty only one was wearing a bullet-resistant vest. We asked if that was a concern, he said "Everyone will have one soon." He didn't elaborate.

And the officers each had a black piece of tape stretched across their badge. It's a time-honored tradition when people in law enforcement lose a colleague. A tradition too often repeated in America.

One officer showed us a t-shirt he had made up for his fellow officers to remember their friend. "RIP Big Johns" it read. Big Johns was the nickname they used for Officer Johns.

And make no mistake they are "officers" NOT "guards." Several times we were asked to make sure CNN didn't call them guards. They are trained law enforcement officers. They carry guns. DC Metropolitan Police Department formally swears them in before they start their jobs.

We were there to interview Sara Bloomfield, the Director of the Memorial Museum. But before she arrived we were allowed to see the entrance where a gunman opened fire, killing Officer Stephen Tyrone Johns.

The crime scene investigators had finished their work. Marking each bullet hole with a number. The one in the wall across from the metal detectors at the entrance was number 9.

We could see visitors come up to the door that Officer Johns held open for his killer, taking pictures of the spider-webs of cracks the spread from each bullet hole.

A cleaning crew was busy scrubbing the floor around the metal detectors, making sure when the doors open Friday morning, there'll be no sign of what happened.

Another crew took the bullet-riddled door off its hinges and carted it away. When visitors do return Friday, the only violence they'll be reminded of will be the violence perpetrated by the Nazis on millions of Jews during World War Two.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Hate Crime
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Lampe

    Wendybama: Where have you been for the last 4 years at least. There was nothing reported about GWB but Hate. Mostly from Democrats and their supporters. The man that did this, has been hating for a very long time. This did not just start because Obama became POTUS. And really there has been more hate directed at Gov. Palin, then there could ever be about Obama. And really people who blog hate-filled remarks against someone because they don't have your beliefs, are no better than people who make remarks on T.V. or the Radio. HATE is HATE, if you spew it from your mouth, you are no better than the man that has been hating for all these years.

    June 12, 2009 at 10:34 am |
  2. Als

    White people are killing white people because jews are white. Hate is so stupid the world globaly should be laughing at how ignorant we really are. Pres Obama is white and black and related to some famous white people.

    June 12, 2009 at 7:36 am |
  3. Renee

    This is so so sad that some Whites feel that they are the only race that can live here in the United States Of America I just don'nt understand where some of these White People get thier thinking from some of these Whites are so mess up mentally it is so sad!!! Some of these Whites have so much hate in their hearts until I feel they are the Terrorist Some of these White people have to accept that the world is changing and they cannot rule evey thing anymore that's over. God didnot mean for that to be so. God want everyone to be treated equal and share and every one have a chance at what ever thier dreams and goals are to be able to achive that. But some of these White People are so hateful and mean want everything for themselves.Some of these White people are so evil!!!

    June 12, 2009 at 5:36 am |
  4. Clarissa

    I hope this mans' death does not go in vain, as I know the museum is the point of awareness. The horrible events that occured that day are a reminder that hate lingers on. Fortunately, we live in a diverse society. Unfortunately, others wish to unleash their hate/message where they can (as in America); yet, do not where they are not welcomed/allowed to abroad.
    I feel it is a slap in the face to every war veteran when people participate in these hate groups, promoting violence, or at all. Our men did not serve and die in WW1&2 to be honored in this way on home soil. Shame on them all. Or any war at all, fighting for rights of freedom of others; only for people who either dropped out of school and were told a whole different version of events or an old man spooked them into believing what he thought he knew.

    June 12, 2009 at 3:15 am |
  5. elisabeth hayden

    my child's bus was running late in DC and his school group was not inside the museum as scheduled at the time of the shooting.
    Thank You to the brave officers in DC and around the country who protect our children every day. I mourn for Officer Johns family and thank them for their sacrifice.
    The United States really is the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave because of our soldiers and our lawn enforcement officers.

    June 12, 2009 at 3:10 am |
  6. Brian

    The media is highlighting the fact that the anti-abortion and skinhead movements are celebrating the crimes of James Von Brunn and Scott Roeder, but ignoring the fact that these groups are complicit in these crimes and actively creating additional domestic terrorists, the same way Al Queda does. There is no such thing as a lone wolf, and we are not looking hard enough for those who encouraged their murderous thoughts, those who suggested targets, those who plotted and planned. These domestic Al Queda's need to be brought out into the open.

    June 12, 2009 at 2:19 am |
  7. Linda Finch

    I think "the media" is giving this old crackpot too much power. He's one of these wannabe white fascists who can't even paint the swastica in the right direction when terrorizing a Jewish temple with spray paint in the night. Sure, there are a few real fascist groups for whites as for every race, radical ones like La Raza, etc. Quit serving his ends by giving him more and more publicity. He doesn't represent generic passive whites who simply want to remain amongst their own Northern-European culture groups. He's a nut.

    June 12, 2009 at 2:09 am |
  8. amy

    it is no wonder there is so much crap these days look at all the media on every channel it seems they are all competing on stories giving rapist serial bombers serial killers gays pornography child molesters hate groups it gives these fools their fame. why glamorize this things don't have to go into detail try finding good things to report there are good things that happen it just isnt glamorized like the bad. maybe if people start seeing good things going on it may rub off. also children see this and it not only gives them ideas it shows them that we live in a depressing world man against man instead of teaching our children man lending man a hand.... it is in movies on tv on the internet start spreading good things, you can still have a great story without all the garbage, there used to be restrictions what happened..

    June 12, 2009 at 2:01 am |
  9. Karen

    Darrell in Iowa

    Your the hate monger.

    Rush Limbaugh does suck. He is a fake like Obama.

    June 12, 2009 at 1:13 am |
  10. Christine Speed

    If the Jewish people can pursue people for anti-defamation, and we have laws against hate speech, why aren't these measures applied to curb the hate speech of the Republican Party and the far right when they defame President Obama? The accusations they make are so inflammatory they have now produced this spate of extreme right wing murders. How many more people have to die? As a Republican, I call on the Republican Party to stop the hate speech immediately and to rein in those talk show hosts. If you don't, I'm leaving. The Republican Party has become an embarrassment. I won't be associated with it. (from Orange County)

    June 11, 2009 at 11:46 pm |
  11. Anita

    Anderson, why give so much time to the killer? Why not honor the officer that was murdered? yYou flubbed his name in that short blurb. You should spend more time honoring the hero instead of the villian.

    June 11, 2009 at 11:40 pm |
  12. JBStephens

    My heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the security guard killed. Like most of us, I absolutely deplore all violence against innocents.

    One thing that puzzles me about CNN's coverage and language when speaking of this insane racist is the term "right-wing extremist". I don't know if this man was involved either Democratic or Republican politics or who he might have voted for. Von Brunn's note read much like the Reverend Jeremiah Wright's rant this weekend and he is a left-winger who voted for Obama.

    June 11, 2009 at 11:11 pm |
  13. elsa

    My family is a mix of several races–the map of hate-organizations is astounding. I would like to have more specificity. Where are they in northern VA? Why are they so covert?

    June 11, 2009 at 10:45 pm |
  14. Joshua D Holsinger

    I feel vary sad for the Gaurd Killed I hope that his Son will base his life on what a hero His farther Was that he should take all that he has learned from his Dad take that and grow Bacause old Bigets don't die
    some just smell that way

    they needs to be some thing Honoring this man who Died doing his job he should up and did not allow this cruel man to hurt any one else even though the target probly was in fact that poor man who was shot
    I think they should give this old SOB a choice of two pushments he can spend his life speaking out against what he has done or spend his life in prison

    June 11, 2009 at 10:29 pm |
  15. Darrell in Iowa

    While the rest of the nation mourns what happens....hate mongers like Rush Limbaugh continue their insanity. When will the radio stations and advertisers who support Limbaugh pull the plug on the main man sowing seeds of hate in America.

    June 11, 2009 at 10:23 pm |
  16. wendybama

    ~ i think this all started during the elections when palin &Mc cain talked about who is the real obama, and palling around with terrorists then the socialist comments,the republicans have dug up a monster that cannot be controled now,Listen to the commentary by Palin, limbaugh, gingrich ,bachmann and other elected officials, they are spewing hate, everyday attacking government but with secret under tones of subtle racism. If not stopped ,sadly more attacks will happen. i pray for President obama.

    June 11, 2009 at 10:21 pm |
  17. Steve

    My daughter and I visited the same museum on the same day, exactly one year ago. It was a somber but respectful museum. It sends chills down our backs to know that exactly one year later such a terrible event should take place.

    The shooting of officer Johns is as senseless as the idiocy that allowed the Holocaust to take place.

    June 11, 2009 at 9:56 pm |
  18. Karen

    You know what i find funny?

    I am a conservative (NOT REPUBLICAN), i support Israel, I am the biggest supporter for Israel to defend itself against nearby countries including Iran.

    Funny how the democrats want Iran to have Nuclear technology, hate Israel and in fact always support Hezbollah from Lebanon. Most democrats always are against the Jewish people.

    some how the media is twisting the story to make you beleive that people who disagree with Obama are racist, hateful people who are nazi's.

    Wow. Good Job CNN on twisting the story.

    June 11, 2009 at 9:27 pm |
  19. Unknow

    I hope that that is anti-simi,supremists,and non-Holocaust believer. should get what's coming for him.He is what makes this country of the U.S. that much harder for people that are integrated. If Martin Luther King,Jr. was alive he would be digging his own graved. 18 or 88 it doesn't matter.To take another human being out should be enought to get a person executed epecially if he had a history of all such of these things. He makes me sick.

    June 11, 2009 at 9:09 pm |
  20. Annie Kate

    I'm sure that the officers went back to work today with heavy hearts because of the loss of one of their own and with the realization that each one of them could have been the one shot and killed instead – or even in addition to the officer they are mourning today.

    This museum depicts the results of years of hate built up in many people to where they would support Hitler's regime. And now the museum evidently serves as a nexus for hate people feel against the Jews. I hope the museum's visitors will have a deeper appreciation for the documented history it represents and becomes a lightning rod for peace and acceptance.

    June 11, 2009 at 8:38 pm |