Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting Suspect Likely Acted Alone, Official Says
The suspected gunman who killed 11 worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue in the most deadly attack ever on the Jewish community in the United States likely acted alone, officials said on Sunday.
The shooter stormed the building during a Saturday morning service, fatally shooting 11 mostly elderly people and wounding six others including four police officers, before he was arrested.
There was no indication that the suspect, 46-year-old Robert Bowers of Pittsburgh, was working with anyone else, US Attorney Scott Brady said at a news conference.
Bowers, who made statements about genocide and his desire to kill Jewish people during the rampage, will make an initial appearance before a judge on Monday afternoon, Brady said.
“This was an attack upon our neighbors and our friends and one that we felt very deeply,” Brady said.
The Tree of Life synagogue in the city’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, a heavily Jewish area, was holding a Shabbat religious service when the gunman burst in.
The mass shooting prompted security alerts at houses of worship around the country and condemnation from politicians and religious leaders.
It followed a spate of pipe bombs found mailed in recent days to prominent political figures, mostly Democrats including former US President Barack Obama, ahead of Nov. 6 congressional elections.
“We’ll get through this darkest day of Pittsburgh history by working together,” the city’s mayor, Bill Peduto, told reporters.
‘I’M GOING IN’
Bowers had made many antisemitic posts online, including one early on Saturday. In another, he slammed US President Donald Trump for doing nothing to stop an “infestation” of the United States by Jews.
A social media post by Bowers on Saturday morning said a Jewish refugee organization, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, “likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”
On Saturday, Trump called the shooting an act of pure evil and called on Americans to rise above hatred.
Bowers surrendered after a shootout with a SWAT team. Federal prosecutors charged him late on Saturday with 29 criminal counts including violence and firearms offenses, and violating US civil rights laws.
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions had said federal prosecutors could seek the death penalty.
The Anti-Defamation League and Jewish Council for Public Affairs described it as the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States.
KDKA television cited police sources as saying Bowers walked into the building and yelled “All Jews must die.”
FBI Special Agent Robert Jones said Bowers was armed with an assault rifle and three handguns.
He said authorities believed the suspect entered the synagogue, murdered the worshippers and was leaving when he encountered a uniformed police officer. The pair exchanged gunfire, Jones said, and Bowers reentered the building before a SWAT team arrived.
Bowers was taken to a hospital where he was listed in fair condition with multiple gunshot wounds.
At one point on Saturday. Trump told reporters that the killings might have been prevented if there had been an armed guard. Synagogue officials said police would only normally have been present there for security on high holidays.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said at Sunday’s news conference that armed guards would not have prevented the violence.
“We’re dealing with irrational behavior. There is no way that you can rationalize a person walking into a synagogue during services and taking the lives of 11 people.”