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Kansas official, family waiting to enter museum heard shots, hit floor

Dave Unruh, a county commissioner from Sedgwick County, Kan., and his family were on vacation in a place he thought was safe and considered "a place of reverence" Wednesday afternoon — the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in downtown Washington.

It was 12:52 p.m.. He, his wife, Karen, and two teenage grandsons, were standing in line.

They were on the museum's main floor inside the museum, less than 30 feet from the museum's entrance and gift shop when an elderly gunman opened fire on the security guards and they returned fire.

Unruh said neither he or any of his family members saw the shootings — but they heard them.

"We heard one gunshot. We weren't sure what it was. But it was followed by four or five other shots," Unruh said. "Right away, somebody said 'Hit the floor. Hit the floor.' We did. We kind of instinctively knew what was going on. We were all pretty frightened."

Unruh said he and his family stayed on the floor for a few minutes, but "it seemed longer than that."

Then, Unruh said, he heard people running down the hall yelling 'Get up and run.' "

And so, the Unruh family did and fled, along with others, through the museum back door.

“They started evacuating the whole building, which is four stories tall,” Unruh said. “You know, you go through security, metal detectors and have bags checked. This is the Holocaust Museum. It’s a place of history and respect and you do not expect something like that. You think, why do they need the security. And then, somebody does something like this. It is so out of context.”

Unruh said when the shootings happened he immediately was concerned about his own family’s safety.

Afterwards, he said, he was bombarded by newspaper and television reporters wanting to know what happened.

Two hours after the shooting, Unruh and his family were touring the Smithsonian.

The return to Wichita on Thursday.“While we are here, we are going to enjoy the Smithsonian. They closed down the Holocaust Museum, so we failed to see that. We’ll chill out this evening, have a nice supper and come home.”

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