WASHINGTON — The 89-year-old white supremacist charged with a deadly shooting at Washington's Holocaust museum died Wednesday in North Carolina where he'd been held at a prison hospital while awaiting trial, authorities said.
At the federal prison in Butner, N.C., spokeswoman Denise Simmons announced that James von Brunn died shortly before 1 p.m. Wednesday.
Simmons said the suspect had "a long history of poor health which included chronic congestive heart failure and sepsis."
Von Brunn had faced charges that could have earned him the death penalty.
He had been receiving medical care for months at the North Carolina prison complex, which is known for its medical facilities to house aging and sick inmates. Simmons said von Brunn was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Von Brunn's lawyer, A.J. Kramer, called the death "a sad end to a tragic situation," but declined further comment.
The elderly suspect had been awaiting trial for the killing of security guard Stephen T. Johns at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on June 10. Von Brunn had been wounded by return fire.
Officials at the prison hospital had previously said chronic medical problems had complicated a psychiatric evaluation for the suspect, who prior to the shooting had written racist and anti-Semitic screeds on the Internet.
'Glad he's gone'
One of the two guards who fired back at von Brunn said he had mixed feelings about his death.
"I'm shocked. I'm glad he's gone. I wish he had his day in court but it'll never come," said Harry Weeks of White Plains, Md.
Weeks returned to work in August and said he thinks often about his slain colleague.
Johns "was a good man. There's not a day that goes by that I don't miss him."
A seven-count indictment against von Brunn charged him with first-degree murder, killing in a federal building, and bias-motivated crime. The indictment also accused him of seeking to intimidate Jewish people at the museum.
Authorities say von Brunn walked up to the museum carrying a rifle and shot Johns, who was black, as the guard was opening the door for him.
Von Brunn had a racist Web site and wrote a book titled "Kill the Best Gentiles," alleging a Jewish conspiracy "to destroy the white gene pool." He also claimed the Holocaust was a hoax.
© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.