WASHINGTON – A white supremacist charged with gunning down a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum was ordered Wednesday to stay in jail until his trial after prosecutors said he is still dangerous because he has nothing to lose by killing again.
A judge also ordered James von Brunn, 89, to undergo a competency evaluation despite objections from the wheelchair-bound suspect. He was otherwise nonchalant during the 30-minute hearing in U.S. District Court and even smiled when a prosecutor said he wanted to kill as many people as possible in the June 10 attack.
It's the first time he's been seen publicly since the shooting.
Von Brunn was shot in the face by other guards after allegedly opening fire at the museum, killing Stephen T. Johns.
Although he had no visible wounds or bandages, the injuries make it difficult for him to hear and speak, his attorney said. He wore navy a D.C. jail uniform and looked mostly at his lap, leaning over at times to speak with his lawyer.
The Washington federal court hearing had been delayed several times as von Brunn recovered in a hospital. He had been struck once near the right ear, but the wound has since healed, according to his attorney.
In asking that von Brunn not be released, prosecutor Nicole Waid said von Brunn's actions were clear on videotape.
"This was a premeditated and planned plot," said Waid. "He chose the Holocaust museum because he believes the Holocaust is a lie, and he wanted to send a message. ... This was a suicide mission ... and he wanted to take out as many with him as he could."
Waid said von Brunn is still a danger and he has "nothing to lose" because his family refuses to talk to him, he has no true friends and he is 89 years old.
"He believes he is a martyr for his cause," she contended. "If given the chance, there is no doubt he will try to kill again."
In July, von Brunn was indicted in July on seven counts, including first-degree murder for the death of Johns, who was black. Four of the charges make von Brunn eligible for the death penalty if he's convicted.
During the hearing, von Brunn's attorney asked that his client be evaluated to determine whether he's competent to stand trial. Von Brunn objected, at first shaking his head and then calling out "your honor." His attorney and the judge tried to stop him.
"Your constitution guarantees me a speedy and fair trial," von Brunn finally said in a halting voice.
"I'm a United States citizen and as a U.S. 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 PT boat.
The judge still granted the request for a competency evaluation.
Von Brunn once tried to kidnap members of the Federal Reserve board, a "caper" thwarted when a guard captured him outside a board meeting carrying a bag stuffed with weapons. He describes his attempt with apparent pride on his hate-filled Web site.
Von Brunn was sentenced in 1983 to more than four years in prison for attempted armed kidnapping and other charges in his Fed assault. He was released in 1989.
Public records show that in 2004 and 2005 he lived briefly in Hayden Lake, Idaho, which for years was home to the Aryan Nations, a racist group run by neo-Nazi Richard Butler.
Von Brunn had a racist, anti-Semitic Web site and wrote a book titled "Kill the Best Gentiles," alleging a Jewish conspiracy "to destroy the white gene pool." He also claimed the Holocaust was a hoax.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.