Holocaust Museum Shooting Suspect Had Been Growing More Hateful and Desperate

The accused Holocaust museum gunman who allegedly shot and killed a black security guard had been growing more angry, hateful and desperate in recent weeks, according to those who know him.

James W. Von Brunn, 88, told friends his Social Security benefits had been stopped, and he warned in a mass e-mail message to white supremacist associates that they might not hear from him again, The Washington Post reported.

Von Brunn, who was shot and critically wounded after he burst into the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and opened fire, was sending increasingly violent messages. In one e-mail, he wrote, "It's time to kill all the Jews," according to the Post.

He also told friends he was in financial trouble and was going to give away his computer.

"He said his Social Security had been cut and that he was barely making it," acquaintance John de Nugent, a self-described white separatist, told the Post. "He felt it was the direct result of someone in Washington looking at his Web site."

On Thursday, authorities said Von Brunn would be charged with capital murder.

Von Brunn, a World War II veteran, had long been known in white supremacist circles for his racist rants and extreme hatred of Jews and blacks. He lives in Annapolis, Md., and has a history of anger, abusive behavior, anti-Semitism and anti-government aggression.

The Web site attributed to Von Brunn says he wrote a book called "Kill the Best Gentiles," about how to "protect your white family."

Online writings said to be Von Brunn's claim the Holocaust was a hoax and lambaste a Jewish conspiracy to "destroy the white gene pool."

Neighbors of Von Brunn said they had recently invited him over for a drink, and out of the blue, he said the Holocaust did not occur, the Post reported.

Todd Blodgett, a former White House aide to President Ronald Reagan who later became affiliated with extremist groups, said he spent a lot of time with Von Brunn in the 1990s and early 2000s.

"Von Brunn is obsessed with Jewish people," Blodgett told the Post. "He had equal contempt for both Jews and blacks, but if he had to pick one group to wipe out, he'd always say it would be Jews."

Von Brunn went so far as to say he fought on the wrong side of World War II, according to Blodgett.

"You'd get the impression that he was intelligent and a bit off," said Blodgett, who worked as a paid FBI informant on white supremacist groups.

In 1981, Von Brunn tried to kidnap members of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, a body he accused of treason, because he was upset over high interest rates and economic turmoil. He was arrested outside the room where the board was meeting carrying a sawed-off shotgun and other weapons, and went to prison for 6 1/2 years.

Navy records show Von Brunn enlisted in 1942 as an apprentice seaman before accepting an appointment as a naval midshipman in the volunteer reserves in March 1943. On his application, the 21-year-old listed his reason for signing up as "patriotic." He was discharged from the Navy in 1956.

A cousin, Virginia Gerker of St. Louis, said in an interview she hadn't seen him in 50 years. She said her family had "disowned" him and believed him to be mentally ill.

Public records show that in 2004 and 2005 he lived briefly in Hayden, Idaho, which for years was home to the Aryan Nations, a racist group run by neo-Nazi Richard Butler.

"We've been tracking this guy for decades," said Heidi Beirich, director of research for the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project, which tracks hate crimes. "He thinks the Jews control the Federal Reserve, the banking system, that basically all Jews are evil."

A woman identifying herself as Von Brunn's ex-wife said he is an abusive, racist alcoholic, and she divorced him because his hatred of Jews and blacks "ate him alive like a cancer," according to the New York Daily News.

The woman, who is 69 and lives in Florida, said she married Von Brunn in the mid-1960s and divorced him 10 years later. She said he drank red wine all day, frequently engaged in verbal attacks and was consumed by his prejudices.

"It's all he would talk about," she told the News.

She said she divorced him when she could no longer take his racist beliefs.

"When he talked about [race], he would get verbally abusive because I didn't really want to talk about it," the ex-wife told the Post. "It was always against the Jews and the blacks."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.