Pittsburgh Synagogue Gunman Said He Wanted All Jews to Die.
Over the weekend, hate showed it’s hideous face once again in America after a gunman killed 11 American Jewish worshippers Saturday morning in a Pittsburgh synagogue, in what some are calling the deadliest attack even on Jews in the United States.
According to law enforcement, the suspect, Robert Bowers targeted Jews online and made anti-Semitic comments during the shooting. While Bowers was receiving medical care, he reportedly told a SWAT officer that he wanted all Jews to die, according to a criminal complaint.
Bowers, who law enforcement believe acted alone, is facing 29 federal charges, some of which are punishable by death. According to a Justice Department spokesman, Scott Brady, the US attorney in Pittsburgh, is seeking the approval needed from Attorney General Jeff Sessions to seek the death penalty against Bowers.
Bowers is scheduled to make his first courtroom appearance this afternoon.
Pittsburgh’s historically Jewish Squirrel Hill neighborhood was the scene as we in the US closed out a week of traumatic events that all were rooted in hate. POTUS Trump ordered that flags be flown at half-staff in honor of the victims.
On Sunday, visiting dignitaries and residents of the metropolitan Pittsburgh area at the University of Pittsburgh for an interfaith service. The leaders all pledged to support the community and fight hate speech.
“We will drive anti-Semitism and the hate of any people back to the basement, on their computer, and away from the open discussions and dialogues around this city, around this state and around this country,” Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said.
A much clearer picture of the suspect started to emerge along with the Sunday’s vigil. The 46-year-old resident of suburban Baldwin was taken into custody following a shootout with police. He is being treated in a hospital for the gunshot wounds he received during his confrontation with law enforcement.
“They’re committing genocide to my people,” Bowers told police during the shootout, according to an FBI affidavit. “I just want to kill Jews.”
The FBI reported that on Saturday, law enforcement investigators were able to search Bowers home and then searched his vehicle on Sunday. They were looking for surveillance footage from the area that may provide clues.
For weeks prior to the shooting, Bowers was active on Gab, a social media platform that bills itself as “the free speech network.” Bowers used anti-Semitic slurs as he complained that POTUS Donald Trump was surrounded by too many Jewish people and even blamed Jews for helping migrant caravans in Central America. Bowers also posted pictures of his handgun collection that numbered 21 guns that were registered to his name.
Just minutes before entering the synagogue Bowers took to Gab and wrote to his followers:
“I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered,” he wrote. “Screw your optics, I’m going in.”
Gab has come forward and stated that they in no way support violence and added that its mission is “to defend free expression and individual liberty online for all people.” Gab said that it has backed up the suspect’s profile data, suspended the account, and contacted the FBI.
Authorities on Sunday released the names of the 11 victims, all of whom were from Pennsylvania. They included a married couple, a pair of brothers and a beloved physician.
Joyce Fienberg, 75, Rose Mallinger, 97, Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, Cecil Rosenthal, 59, David Rosenthal, 54, Daniel Stein, 71, Melvin Wax, 88, and Irving Younger, 69, were from Pittsburgh. Richard Gottfried, 65, was from Ross Township and Bernice Simon, 84, and Sylvan Simon, 86, were from Wilkinsburg, Allegheny County Chief Medical Examiner Karl Williams said.
The Allegheny County medical examiner’s office said late Sunday that autopsies had been completed on the victims and all 11 died from rifle wounds with several suffering head wounds.
Six more people were injured: two police officers, two SWAT officers, and two others, Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said. Bowers shot three of them, authorities said.
Five people were hospitalized, including the four officers. Two were in critical condition: a 55-year-old man with multiple injuries to his extremities, and a 70-year-old man with gunshot wounds to the torso.
One officer was released Saturday and three remain in the hospital. All four were “in good spirits” when visited by a union representative on Saturday, said Robert Swartzwelder, president of the Pittsburgh Fraternal Order of Police.
“My holy place has been defiled,” he said at Sunday’s service. He vowed to rebuild his congregation and called on those in the audience to do their part.“Words of hate are unwelcome in Pittsburgh. It starts with everyone in this room, and I want to address for a moment some of our political leaders who are here. Ladies and gentlemen, it has to start with you as our leaders,” he said to a standing ovation. “My words are not intended as political fodder, I address all equally. Stop the words of hate.”
As the horrifying sounds of people screaming along with gunshots echoed from the synagogue, Squirrel Hill residents watched and listened as police officers, dressed head-to-toe in tactical gear, urged them to stay indoors. According to law enforcement, 911 operators received calls about an active shooter around 10:00 a.m., five minutes after Bowers made his last post to social media. Upon entering the building, law enforcement discovered the victims’ bodies along with the survivors hiding. Law enforcement rescued at least two people from the basement and scrambled to evacuate people as the continued to search for the gunman.
According to the criminal complaint, two officers encountered Bowers as he attempted to leave the premises. Bowers fired at the officers, hitting one of the officers in the hand before darting back into the synagogue. The other officer received several lacerations to his face stemming from the shrapnel and broken glass. SWAT officers finally discovered Bowers on the third floor of the building and gunfire was exchanged until Bowers surrendered. Bowers along with two SWAT officers were injured in the gunfight.
According to CNN, Bowers was armed with a Colt AR-15 rifle and three Glock .357 handguns, police said. The three Glock .357s were purchased legally and at this point, the legality of the AR-15 is unclear. In addition to the four guns found at the scene, law enforcement also recovered a shotgun that was in Bowers car and was not used in the shooting.
The Death Penalty
Bowers is facing 29 federal charges, including 11 counts of obstruction of the exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death, plus 11 counts of using a firearm to commit murder. A conviction on any of these charges could result in the death penalty. Bowers is also facing four counts of obstruction of the exercise of religious beliefs resulting in bodily injury to a public safety officer, and three counts of use and discharge of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.
Bowers was also charged with 11 state offenses, including attempted homicide and aggravated assault.
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