WASHINGTON - The son of James von Brunn said yesterday 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 39-year-old 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. A hearing was set for today in a D.C. federal court for a magistrate judge to hear about von Brunn's health.
"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 phone interview from his mother's home in Homosassa, Fla., 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, Md.
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 yesterday that her son was not home and was unavailable for further comment.
A man who answered the phone at Johns' boyhood home in Temple Hills, Md., where his mother, Jacqueline Carter, still lives, said Erik von Brunn made a "wonderful statement." The man who said he was a relative of the slain security guard and that Carter was not available to comment.
Von Brunn's 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," he said. *