Shout­ing slurs, man kills 11 in Pitts­burgh syn­a­gogue

The Sun News (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY DEANNA PAUL, AVI SELK AND AMY BWANG

A gun­man killed 11 peo­ple at a Pitts­burgh syn­a­gogue dur­ing Satur­day morn­ing ser­vices in what the Anti-Defama­tion League called “likely the dead­li­est at­tack on the Jewish com­mu­nity in the his­tory of the United States.”

Law en­force­ment of­fi­cials said Robert Bow­ers – a 46-year-old man with a his­tory of mak­ing an­tiSemitic state­ments on­line – sur­ren­dered to po­lice af­ter a gun bat­tle and is ex­pected to face hate crime charges.

The hour­long in­ci­dent left 11 dead at Tree of Life Con­gre­ga­tion, ac­cord­ing to Lynette Le­d­er­man, ex­ec­u­tive as­sis­tant to city coun­cil mem­ber Corey O’Con­nor. Le­d­er­man, who is also a for­mer pres­i­dent of Tree of Life and a se­nior mem­ber of the Jewish com­mu­nity, said six oth­ers were shot – in­clud­ing four po­lice of­fi­cers.

“It’s a very hor­rific crime scene,” Pitts­burgh Pub­lic Safety Di­rec­tor Wen­dell His­s­rich told re­porters in the af­ter­noon, af­ter Bow­ers had been ap­pre­hended. “One of the worst that I’ve seen. And I’ve been on some plane crashes.”

The sus­pect in­ter­rupted a baby-nam­ing ser­vice at about 10 a.m, Penn­syl­va­nia’s at­tor­ney gen­eral told The As­so­ci­ated Press. Wit­nesses told po­lice he burst in shout­ing anti-Semitic slurs and be­gan fir­ing.

Stephen Weiss re­called hear­ing gun­shots and flee­ing the build­ing through the sanc­tu­ary. “We had ser­vices go­ing on in the chapel when we heard a loud noise in the lobby area,” he told the Tri­bune-Re­view.

KDKA re­ported that po­lice con­fronted the sus­pect near the syn­a­gogue en­trance. Wit­nesses said one of­fi­cer was wounded in an ini­tial fire­fight, and two more were shot when they tried to cor­ner the gun­man up­stairs.

The man ranted about need­ing to kill Jews dur­ing a brief stand­off, po­lice dis­patch­ers said on the ra­dio.

He sur­ren­dered to po­lice about 11 a.m., an hour or so af­ter the shoot­ing be­gan.

Dis­patch­ers said he had a pis­tol on his an­kle and an­other in his waist­band and had been in­jured. KDKA re­ported that he came out crawl­ing.

By Satur­day af­ter­noon, mem­bers of the syn­a­gogue were gather­ing at a grief cen­ter wait­ing to hear about friends and fam­ily mem­bers caught in the shoot­ing.

“It’s one of my big­gest fears,” said Chuck Di­a­mond, who worked as a rabbi at Tree of Life for seven years. “When I was lead­ing the con­gre­ga­tion, I al­ways had in the back of my mind that some­thing like this will hap­pen. It’s a ter­ri­ble thing to feel.”

Gab, a so­cial me­dia plat­form that has at­tracted

many far-right users, re­leased a state­ment on Satur­day, say­ing the com­pany had sus­pended an ac­count that “matched the name of the al­leged shooter’s name” and turned the mes­sages over to the FBI.

An un­ver­i­fied image of the deleted ac­count shows a stream of anti-Semitic mes­sages lead­ing up to the shoot­ing.

“Trump is a glob­al­ist, not a na­tion­al­ist,” the user “Robert Bow­ers” posted af­ter a rally last week in which Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in­voked both terms to de­clare him­self a na­tion­al­ist.

Trump has re­peat­edly slammed “glob­al­ists” in his pub­lic rhetoric, de­spite warn­ings that the term is un­der­stood to mean Jews in anti-Semitic cir­cles. That’s ev­i­dently what it means to the Gab user “Robert Bow­ers,” whose mes­sages sug­gest dis­il­lu­sion­ment with the pres­i­dent.

“It looks def­i­nitely like it’s an anti-Semitic crime,” Trump told re­porters Satur­day af­ter­noon. “That is some­thing you wouldn’t be­lieve could still be go­ing on.”

The Tree of Life syn- agogue is lo­cated in a leafy res­i­den­tial en­clave near Carnegie Mel­lon Uni­ver­sity – one of the larger pre­dom­i­nantly Jewish neigh­bor­hoods in the United States. Its “tra­di­tional, pro­gres­sive and egal­i­tar­ian” con­gre­ga­tion, formed in 1864, is Pitts­burgh’s old­est Jewish con­gre­ga­tion.

It’s the “cen­ter of Jewish life on Shab­bat morn­ing,” said Rabbi Aaron Bisno of the Rodef Shalom Con­gre­ga­tion, two blocks away.

It is un­clear how many were in the syn­a­gogue at the time of the shoot­ing. Ac­cord­ing to an on­line cal­en­dar, there would have been a Shab­bat ser­vice sched­uled for

9:45 a.m. Satur­day.

The syn­a­gogue’s main sanc­tu­ary, a cav­ernous space with soar­ing stained-glass win­dows that de­pict the story of cre­ation, can hold up to 1,250 peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to the Tree of Life’s web­site.

Po­lice in Wash­ing­ton, New York, Chicago and Los An­ge­les all said they were in­creas­ing pa­trols at syn­a­gogues and other houses of wor­ship fol­low­ing the Pitts­burgh at­tack as pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures.

Speak­ing to re­porters at Joint Base An­drews on Satur­day, Trump said the shoot­ing was “far more dev­as­tat­ing than any­body orig­i­nally thought” but did not of­fer de­tails. “It’s a ter­ri­ble, ter­ri­ble thing, what’s go­ing on with hate in our coun­try, frankly, and all over the world, and some­thing has to be done,” he said.

When asked if he should re­visit gun laws, Trump said: “This has lit­tle to do with it, if you take a look. If they had pro­tec­tion in­side, the re­sults would have been far bet­ter.”

It’s un­clear whether the syn­a­gogue had se­cu­rity mea­sures in place.

The shoot­ing comes dur­ing an sharp spike in anti-Semitic ac­tiv­i­ties in the U.S., ac­cord­ing to an Anti-Defama­tion League re­port re­leased this year. From 2016 to 2017, in­stances of anti-Semitic ha­rass­ment, van­dal­ism and as­sault in­creased 57 per­cent, the largest sin­gleyear jump since ADL be­gan track­ing the data in the 1970s.

“This is close to an all-time high,” Green­blatt told The Post then.

‘‘ IT’S ONE OF MY BIG­GEST FEARS. WHEN I WAS LEAD­ING THE CON­GRE­GA­TION, I AL­WAYS HAD IN THE BACK OF MY MIND THAT SOME­THING LIKE THIS WILL HAP­PEN. Chuck Di­a­mond, who worked as a rabbi at Tree of Life for seven years

ALEXAN­DRA WIM­LEY AP

Law en­force­ment of­fi­cers se­cure the scene where mul­ti­ple peo­ple were shot Satur­day in Pitts­burgh.

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