WASHINGTON — A gunman entered the crowded U.S. Holocaust Museum on Wednesday afternoon and wounded a security guard before being shot himself in an exchange of fire with at least two guards, the U.S. Park Police said.
There was no immediate information as to what motivated the unidentified assailant, but NBC reported that he had links to the white supremacist movement.
Sgt. David Schlosser, a Park Police spokesman, said that both wounded men had been rushed to George Washington University Hospital's emergency room, and that the museum was evacuated immediately and secured. Schlosser said he didn't know whether the assailant had wielded a handgun or a rifle, but that the guard who was wounded and at least one other had returned fire.
The attack came during peak tourist season at one of Washington's more popular sites, the memorial to the 6 million Jews whom Nazi Germany rounded up and exterminated during World War II.
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One museum visitor, identified only as "Maria," told CNN that she and her grandparents had been visiting the museum's second-floor "Remember the Children" exhibit when they heard the gunfire. She said she looked over a railing to the first-floor entry and saw a chaotic scene, with the wounded gunman lying on the floor.
"There was blood everywhere," she said. "He was flat on his back. . . . I saw a lot of blood on the floor. I spoke to that security guard before. He was very friendly. It just hurts to see him fall.
"There was just chaos everywhere. People were running towards me, trying to get into the children's exhibit."
Witnesses told CNN that they'd heard five gunshots. Schlosser said the gunman walked into the museum's main entrance around 1 p.m. and fired at a security guard. It was unclear whether the gunman had made it past metal detectors at the door or opened fire during a security check.
Attorney General Eric Holder and members of Congress were due to attend an event at the museum Wednesday night, but there was no indication that the attack was linked to that event.