Gunman, security guards exchange fire at D.C. Holocaust Museum
By Nafeesa Syeed
WASHINGTON — An elderly gunman opened fire inside the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on Wednesday, wounding a security guard before two other guards returned fire. The assailant and his victim were both hospitalized.
The extent of the injuries was not immediately known, U.S. Park Police Sgt. David Schlosser said.
Nor did authorities immediately provide the name or any other biographical information about the assailant, who they said used a "long gun" in the shooting.
The episode unfolded inside the museum, which maintains a heavy security presence, with guards positioned inside and out. All visitors are required to pass through metal detectors at the entrance, and bags are screened.
It was not immediately known whether the gunman made it through the detectors before opening fire.
The museum, across the street from the National Mall, and within sight of the Washington Monument, was closed for the day after the shooting. Nearby streets were cordoned off by police.
In a statement, museum spokesman Andrew Hollinger said an assailant shot a museum security officer and "two museum security officers returned fire, hitting the assailant."
At the White House, press secretary Robert Gibbs said he informed President Barack Obama of the events and said the chief executive was "obviously saddened by what has happened."
The museum houses exhibits and records relating to the Holocaust more than a half century ago in which more than six million Jews were killed by the Nazis.
Mark Lippert of LaSalle, Ill., who was in the museum, said he heard several loud pops and saw several schoolchildren running toward him, three with horrified looks on their faces.
Linda Elston, who was visiting the museum from Nevada City, Calif., said she was on the lower level watching a film when she and others were told to evacuate.
"It was totally full of people," Elston said. "It took us a while to get out."
She said she didn't hear any shots and didn't immediately know why there was an evacuation. The experience left her feeling "a little anxious," she said.
Copyright 2009 Associated Press