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Suspect in museum shooting denied release

An artist’s rendering of James von Brunn (left) with lawyer A.J. Kramer in court. An artist’s rendering of James von Brunn (left) with lawyer A.J. Kramer in court.
By Associated Press
September 3, 2009

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WASHINGTON - An octogenarian white supremacist charged with killing a security guard at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum was ordered to remain in jail yesterday after prosecutors said the frail man was still dangerous because he had “nothing to lose.’’

A judge also ordered James von Brunn, 89, to undergo a competency evaluation despite objections from the suspect, who uses a wheelchair. He was otherwise nonchalant and even smiled when a prosecutor said he wanted to kill as many people as possible in the June 10 attack.

The 30-minute hearing was von Brunn’s first public appearance since the shooting. The Washington federal court hearing had been delayed several times as von Brunn recovered in a hospital after being shot by other museum guards.

Although he had no visible wounds or bandages, the injuries make it difficult for him to hear and speak, his attorney said.

Von Brunn first shook his head and then called out “your honor’’ when the judge suggested he was going to order an evaluation. His attorney and the judge tried to advise him not to speak.

“Your constitution guarantees me a speedy and fair trial,’’ von Brunn said in a halting voice.

“I’m a United States citizen, and as a US naval officer, I swore to protect my country. I take my vows very seriously,’’ said von Brunn, a World War II veteran who served on a patrol boat.

In asking that von Brunn not be released, prosecutor Nicole Waid said his actions were clear on videotape.

Waid said that von Brunn arranged his finances and funeral plans before his “suicide mission’’ at the museum and that he wanted to kill as many people as possible.

Von Brunn was indicted in July on charges including first-degree murder for the death of museum guard Stephen T. Johns, who was black. Four of the charges carry a possible death penalty if he’s convicted.