Pitts­burgh syn­a­gogue gun­man kills 11 in ram­page

San Antonio Express-News (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Camp­bell Robert­son, Christo­pher Mele and Sab­rina Tav­ernise

PITTS­BURGH — Armed with an AR-15-style ri­fle and at least three hand­guns, a man shout­ing anti-Semitic slurs opened fire in­side a crowded syn­a­gogue Satur­day morn­ing, killing at least 11 con­gre­gants and wound­ing four po­lice of­fi­cers and two oth­ers, au­thor­i­ties said.

In a ram­page de­scribed as among the dead­li­est against the Jewish com­mu­nity in the United States, the as­sailant stormed into Pitts­burgh’s Tree of Life Con­gre­ga­tion, where wor­ship­pers had gath­ered in sep­a­rate rooms to cel­e­brate their faith and shot in­dis­crim­i­nately into the crowd, shat­ter­ing what oth­er­wise had been a peace­ful morn­ing.

The as­sailant — iden­ti­fied by law en­force­ment of­fi­cials as Robert Bow­ers — fired for sev­eral min­utes and was leav­ing the syn­a­gogue when of­fi­cers, dressed in tac­ti­cal gear and armed with ri­fles, met him at the door.

Po­lice said the gun­man ex­changed fire with of­fi­cers be­fore re­treat­ing back in­side and bar­ri­cad­ing him­self in­side a third-floor room. He even­tu­ally sur­ren­dered.

Bow­ers, 46, was wounded by gun­fire, al­though au­thor­i­ties said it was un­clear whether those wounds were self-in­flicted or whether po­lice had shot him.

He was in sta­ble con­di­tion at the Univer­sity of Pitts­burgh Med­i­cal Cen­ter.

The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported that Bow­ers was charged on 29 counts.

Al­though a bris, a cer­e­mony to mark a child’s birth, was among the cer­e­monies tak­ing place Satur­day, no chil­dren were

among the ca­su­al­ties, law en­force­ment of­fi­cials said.

The wounded in­cluded a 70year-old man who had been shot in the torso, and a 51-year-old woman with soft-tis­sue wounds, said Dr. Don­ald Yealy, chair­man of emer­gency medicine at the Univer­sity of Pitts­burgh School of Medicine.

The at­tack struck the heart of the city’s vi­brant Jewish com­mu­nity in the Squir­rel Hill neigh­bor­hood that’s home to sev­eral syn­a­gogues, kosher restau­rants and bak­eries. Hours later, hun­dreds gath­ered at three sep­a­rate in­ter­faith vig­ils to mourn the dead and pray for the wounded.

The as­sault came amid a bit­ter, vit­ri­olic midterm elec­tion sea­son and against the back­drop of what ap­pears to be a surge in hate-re­lated speech and crimes across Amer­ica.

It also took place in the wake of the ar­rest Fri­day morn­ing of a man who au­thor­i­ties said sent more than a dozen pipe bombs to crit­ics of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Call­ing it the “most hor­rific crime scene” he’d seen in 22 years with the FBI, Robert Jones, spe­cial agent in charge in Pitts­burgh, said the syn­a­gogue was in the midst of a “peace­ful ser­vice” when con­gre­gants were gunned down and “bru­tally mur­dered by a gun­man tar­get­ing them sim­ply be­cause of their faith.”

“We sim­ply can­not ac­cept this vi­o­lence as a nor­mal part of Amer­i­can life,” Gov. Tom Wolf said at news con­fer­ence. “These sense­less acts of vi­o­lence are not who we are as Penn­syl­va­ni­ans and are not who we are as Amer­i­cans.”

The mas­sacre height­ened a sense of na­tional un­ease over in­creas­ingly hos­tile po­lit­i­cal rhetoric.

Crit­ics of Trump have ar­gued that he’s partly to blame be­cause he has been stir­ring the pot of na­tion­al­ism, charges that Trump has de­nied.

Ad­dress­ing re­porters at Joint Base An­drews in Mary­land, Trump said: “It’s a ter­ri­ble, ter­ri­ble thing what’s go­ing on with hate in our coun­try and frankly all over the world, and some­thing has to be done.”

“The re­sults are very dev­as­tat­ing,” he said, adding that if the tem­ple “had some kind of pro­tec­tion,” then “it could have been a much dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tion.”

Lead­ers across the world con­demned the at­tack. Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu said he was “heart­bro­ken and ap- palled” and that the “the en­tire peo­ple of Is­rael grieve with the fam­i­lies of the dead.”

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions said, “Ha­tred and vi­o­lence on the ba­sis of re­li­gion can have no place in our so­ci­ety. Ev­ery Amer­i­can has the right to at­tend their house of wor­ship in safety.”

The mas­sacre was at least the third mass shoot­ing in a house of wor­ship in three years. Last Novem­ber, a gun­man killed 26 wor­ship­pers at a church in Suther­land Springs. In 2015, a white su­prem­a­cist killed nine con­gre­gants in a church in Charles­ton, S.C.

It came amid ris­ing anx­i­ety about il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion and in a decade that has seen an uptick in hate crimes. The Anti-Defama­tion League noted ear­lier this year that the num­ber of re­ported anti-Semitic in­ci­dents in the U.S. surged 57 per­cent in 2017, the largest rise in a sin­gle year since the ADL be­gan track­ing such crimes in 1979.

The at­tack also came just days af­ter Ge­orge Soros, the bil­lion­aire phi­lan­thropist and ma­jor donor to Demo­cratic can­di­dates who’s Jewish and who sur­vived Nazi oc­cu­pa­tion in Hun­gary, re­ceived a pipe bomb in the mail.

Also in the past week, a Se­nate cam­paign sign for Mis­souri At­tor­ney Gen­eral Josh Haw­ley was sprayed with a swastika.

On Satur­day, the Tree of Life Con­gre­ga­tion was hold­ing ser­vices for three sep­a­rate con­gre­ga­tions when the gun­man stormed in.

Po­lice dis­patch­ers re­ceived the first emer­gency calls at 9:54 a.m., Jones of the FBI said, and po­lice of­fi­cers, in­clud­ing a SWAT team, were dis­patched a minute later.

The gun­man had al­ready shot and killed 11 peo­ple and was on his way out of the syn­a­gogue, Jones said, when he en­coun­tered po­lice of­fi­cers and shot at them.

He went back into the syn­a­gogue. He was in there for about 20 min­utes, law en­force­ment of­fi­cials said.

“By the time I got there they were al­ready start­ing to ex­tract peo­ple,” Po­lice Chief Scott Schu­bert said.

Nearby res­i­dents were told to stay in­side their homes. Ben Opie, 55, who can see the syn­a­gogue from his back­yard, said his wife was about to leave their house to do some vol­un­teer work when SWAT of­fi­cers ap­proached their home and said there was a gun­man in the syn­a­gogue.

“They chased my wife in­side,” he said. “They just said get in the house.”

Satur­day night, au­thor­i­ties still were piec­ing to­gether a por­trait of Bow­ers, and had searched his apart­ment with a robotic bomb de­tec­tor and po­lice dogs. One of­fi­cial said he had 21 guns regis­tered in his name.

Pho­tos by Alexan­dra Wimley / Pitts­burgh Post-Gazette

Law en­force­ment of­fi­cers run with a per­son on a stretcher at the scene of the ram­page at the Tree of Life Con­gre­ga­tion in Pitts­burgh’s Spuir­rel Hill neigh­bor­hood.

A man holds his head as he’s es­corted out of the Tree of Life Con­gre­ga­tion by po­lice.

This is a De­part­ment of Mo­tor Ve­hi­cles photo of Robert Bow­ers.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.