A gunman opened fire at a synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pa., killing at 11 people and injuring six others, including four police officers
Eleven people have been killed during a mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in what Donald Trump called a “wicked” antisemitic act of mass murder.
Another six people were injured, two of them critically – including four police officers having exchanged fire with the shooter. Among the injured were a 61-year-old woman, a 70-year-old man and a 55-year old police officer. A suspect – later named as Robert Bowers, who is in his 40s – was arrested at the scene and also taken to hospital with multiple gunshot wounds.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions later announced the Justice Department will file hate crimes charges against Mr Bowers, “including charges that could lead to the death penalty”.
There were a number of services underway at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighbourhood, including a baby-naming ceremony or bris, when the active shooter call was placed to police just before 10am.
“It’s a very horrific crime scene,“ Wendell Hissrich, Pittsburgh public safety director, said at the scene. “One of the worst that I’ve seen.” Law enforcement officials said that the shooter was armed with an assault weapon, and three handguns – although it was not clear all were used. Dispatchers on police radio claimed that the shooter made a number of comments during a stand-off with police about wanting to kill Jews.
Federal officials said the shooter went into the synagogue and shot the congregation before being engaged by officers on his way out. Two were shot before the gunman returned into the building to hide from approaching Swat teams. Two Swat officers were injured in a later exchange of gunfire.
The FBI are now leading the federal hate crime investigation. Mr Bowers is said to have been acting alone, with the lead FBI investigator, Bob Jones, saying that officials believed he was unknown to law enforcement before the shooting.
Speaking at a Future Farmers of America convention in Indianapolis, Mr Trump called the shooting a “wicked act of mass murder” that is antisemitic and “pure evil, hard to believe.The president added that antisemitism ”must be confronted anywhere and everywhere it appears”.
The FBI say they will now be looking into every facet of the suspect’s life as they seek to pin down a motive. From his home, to his vehicle, to his movements in recent days. However a focus will be his social media output, with accounts under the suspect’s name appearing to show a number of antisemitic rants.
A social media post just before the time of the shooting under a profile with the name Robert Bowers said a Jewish refugee organisation, 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”.
Saturday’s mass shooting comes just 10 days before a bitterly fought national midterm election that has divided the country and set Americans on edge, and in a week in which more than a dozen pipe bombs were mailed to critics of Mr Trump.
Mr Trump said on his way to Indianapolis, before a later rally in Illinois: “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 latest on the shooting:
• 11 people are dead and six others injured, including four responding officers.
• The gunman, Robert Bowers, a 46-year-old Pittsburgh-area resident, was taken into custody and transported to a hospital with unspecified injuries.
• The Tree of Life synagogue, where the shooting took place, is located in Pittsburgh’s affluent Squirrel Hill neighborhood.
• There was a baby naming ceremony under way at the time of the killings.
• None of those killed were children.
• President Trump condemned the killings, saying the attack was a hate crime.
• “It’s a terrible, terrible thing what’s going on with hate in our country,” Trump told reporters. “And something has to be done.”
• The president also suggested an armed guard at the synagogue might have prevented the tragedy.
• Before a previously scheduled speech in Indianapolis, Trump called the shooting a “wicked act.”
• “The vile hate-filled poison of anti-Semitism must be condemned and confronted everywhere and anywhere it appears,” the president added.
Past hate communications of the suspect
PITTSBURGH: Synagogue shooter Robert Bowers is Jew-hater and Trump-hater
27-10-2018 3:59 PM
More on the developing story of the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. The shooter is apparently a man named Robert Bowers, who hates Jews and hates President Trump.