WASHINGTON – The son of James von Brunn said Sunday that his father, who is accused of killing a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, had long burdened his family with his white supremacist views and that he wishes his father would have died in the shooting instead.
Von Brunn, 88, has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Stephen T. Johns, who was black.
“I cannot express enough how deeply sorry I am it was Mr. Johns, and not my father who lost (his) life,” Erik von Brunn, 32, said in a statement to ABC News. “It was unjustified and unfair that he died, and while my condolences could never begin to offer appeasement, they, along with my remorse is all I have to give.”
Authorities say von Brunn shot the security guard in the chest with a vintage rifle after Johns opened the door for him. Von Brunn was shot in the face by guards and is expected to survive.
“His views consumed him, and in doing so, not only destroyed his life, but destroyed our family and ruined our lives as well,” Erik von Brunn’s statement said.
The younger von Brunn told The Washington Post in a telephone interview from his mother’s home in Homosassa, Florida, that he had a decent relationship with his father. The elder von Brunn never insisted that his son share his views, although he was disappointed when he did not.
Erik von Brunn, an aspiring teacher and fiction writer who recently graduated from the University of Maryland, declined to say whether he was estranged from his father. Court documents indicate that the elder von Brunn had been living with his son in a condominium in Annapolis, Maryland.
He said he never imagined that his father would take a life.
“I never had any inclination to think that. The man is 88 years old. I never would have thought he could do this,” he said. “It really hasn’t sunk in yet. It’s a shock.”
Von Brunn’s mother, Pat Sadowski, said Sunday that her son was not home and was unavailable for further comment.
His statement praised Johns, “who bravely sacrificed his life,” and addressed those who share his father’s views.
“For the extremists who believe my father is a hero: it is imperative that you understand what he did was an act of cowardice,” Erik von Brunn said.
FBI Supervisory Special Agent Katherine Schweit said in a written statement Saturday that government lawyers told court officials that von Brunn “was in critical, but stable, condition with an expectation of survival.” They made the statement Thursday when von Brunn’s case was called for an initial appearance hearing.