‘Hor­rific’ Pa. syn­a­gogue shoot­ing kills at least 11

Of­fi­cial: Sus­pect yelled anti-Semitic ep­i­thets dur­ing at­tack

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - FRONT PAGE - Rick Jervis, Sean Ross­man and Candy Woodall

Robert Bow­ers, 46, has been iden­ti­fied as the sus­pect in Sat­ur­day’s “hor­rific” mass shoot­ing at a Pitts­burgh syn­a­gogue, ac­cord­ing to a law en­force­ment of­fi­cial.

Po­lice took Bow­ers into cus­tody af­ter the ram­page that re­sulted in at least 11 fa­tal­i­ties and six in­juries, ac­cord­ing to the As­so­ci­ated Press. Four of the six in­jured were po­lice of­fi­cers, three of whom were shot, ac­cord­ing to the Pitts­burgh Pub­lic Safety De­part­ment.

Bow­ers al­legedly burst into the Tree of Life Con­gre­ga­tion Syn­a­gogue in the Squir­rel Hill neigh­bor­hood of Pitts­burgh and screamed, “All Jews must die!” – among other anti-Semitic ep­i­thets – as he opened fire

on the con­gre­gants, ac­cord­ing to the law en­force­ment of­fi­cial.

The of­fi­cial, who was not au­tho­rized to com­ment pub­licly, said the sus­pect was armed with at least one ri­fle.

The of­fi­cial said the sus­pect left a trail of anti-Semitic rants on so­cial me­dia ac­counts, prompt­ing au­thor­i­ties to des­ig­nate the FBI as the lead agency to in­ves­ti­gate the at­tack as an al­leged hate crime.

“It’s a very hor­rific crime scene,” Pitts­burgh Pub­lic Safety Di­rec­tor Wen­dell His­s­rich said at a news con­fer­ence. “It’s one of the worst I’ve seen.”

Teams of armed po­lice swarmed the neigh­bor­hood near down­town Pitts­burgh just be­fore 10 a.m. Sat­ur­day. Res­i­dents were urged to shel­ter in place as armed law en­force­ment agents can­vassed the neigh­bor­hood.

Speak­ing to re­porters at An­drews Air Force Base, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump praised law en­force­ment’s re­sponse in the shoot­ing and called the sus­pect in cus­tody a “mad­man” and a “wacko.”

He said he would like to see more armed guards at syn­a­gogues and other places of wor­ship and im­pose more death penalty sen­tences on con­victed mur­der­ers.

“It’s a ter­ri­ble, ter­ri­ble thing what’s go­ing on with hate in our coun­try and, frankly, all over the world,” Trump said. “Some­thing has to be done.”

“It’s a very hor­rific crime scene. It’s one of the worst I’ve seen.” Wen­dell His­s­rich Pitts­burgh pub­lic safety di­rec­tor

Posts be­lieved to be from Bow­ers’ so­cial me­dia ac­counts show pic­tures of sev­eral Glock pis­tols in their cases and deroga­tory re­marks about refugees, Jew­ish peo­ple and Trump. The last such post on the so­cial net­work Gab, is­sued Sat­ur­day morn­ing, crit­i­cized a refugee ad­vo­cacy group that “likes to bring in­vaders in that kill our peo­ple.”

“I can’t sit by and watch my peo­ple get slaugh­tered,” the au­thor wrote. “Screw your op­tics, I’m go­ing in.”

At the scene, Pitts­burgh Po­lice Com­man­der Ja­son Lando told re­porters that the shoot­ing took place near the Tree of Life Syn­a­gogue in the Squir­rel Hill neigh­bor­hood.

Squir­rel Hill is a Jew­ish en­clave near Carnegie Mel­lon Univer­sity. A lit­tle more than 50 per­cent of Greater Pitts­burgh’s Jew­ish com­mu­nity lives in or around the neigh­bor­hood, said Jeff Finkel­stein, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Jew­ish Fed­er­a­tion of Greater Pitts­burgh.

Tree of Life’s im­me­di­ate past pres­i­dent, Michael Eisen­berg, told KDKA-TV that there were three con­gre­ga­tions meet­ing si­mul­ta­ne­ously, prob­a­bly to­tal­ing about 100 peo­ple, at the time of the shoot­ing. They were gath­ered in the main part of the build­ing, as well in the base­ment and in the rabbi study room, he said.

The shoot­ing oc­curred dur­ing a baby nam­ing ser­vice. Eisen­berg said he spoke with a main­te­nance man who hid in a bath­room dur­ing the shoot­ing and wit­nessed a con­gre­gant be­ing shot be­fore flee­ing through an exit.

Eisen­berg said he was on his way to a ser­vice there when he no­ticed po­lice swarm­ing the streets.

“There were po­lice cars ev­ery­where, guns drawn, ri­fles,” he told KDKA-TV. “It was sur­real.”

In the in­ter­view, Eisen­berg said syn­a­gogue of­fi­cials re­cently ad­justed the exit doors to make them eas­ier to open, which prob­a­bly saved lives Sat­ur­day. Dur­ing Sat­ur­day ser­vices, the front door is kept un­locked, al­low­ing vis­i­tors to come and go freely, he told KDKA-TV.

PAM PANCHAK/AP

Po­lice re­spond to an ac­tiveshooter sit­u­a­tion Sat­ur­day at Tree of Life syn­a­gogue in Pitts­burgh’s Squir­rel Hill neigh­bor­hood.

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