PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Police say a gunman opened fire at a Pittsburgh Synagogue on Saturday morning, yelling “All Jews must die.”
KDKA-TV sources say the shooting suspect is Robert Bowers.
U.S. Attorney Scott Brady filed federal hate crimes charges against Bowers on Saturday evening. Those charges include:
Eleven counts each of Obstruction of Exercise of Religious Beliefs Resulting in Death and Use of a Firearm to Commit Murder During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence, four counts of Obstruction of Exercise of Religious Beliefs Resulting in Bodily Injury to a Public Safety Officer and three counts of Use and Discharge of a Firearm During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence.
United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions has issued a statement, saying the Department of Justice will file hate crime charges against Bowers for the shooting. Those charges could “lead to the death penalty.”
His full statement reads:
“Hatred and violence on the basis of religion can have no place in our society,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. “Every American has the right to attend their house of worship in safety. Today 11 innocent people were suddenly and viciously murdered during religious services and several law enforcement officers were shot. These alleged crimes are reprehensible and utterly repugnant to the values of this nation. Accordingly, the Department of Justice will file hate crimes and other criminal charges against the defendant, including charges that could lead to the death penalty.
“It has been an important week for us to show gratitude for the hard work of our law officers around the country. And today was no exception. I want to thank the FBI, ATF, Pittsburgh police, and especially the heroic officers who were so quick to respond to the shooting, including the multiple officers who were shot. These officers ran to danger to save others, which reflects the highest traditions of policing in this country. There can be no doubt that they saved lives today.
“The Department of Justice will continue to support our state and local partners and we will continue to bring the full force of the law against anyone who would violate the civil rights of the American people.”
Police are also investigating if Bowers announced his intentions on social media Saturday morning. His account has since been taken down.
Several things posted on his social media accounts show Bowers making several anti-Semitic statements.
Just this morning Bowers reportedly posted “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered, screw the optics, I’m going in.”
Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said this shooting is being investigated as a hate crime and as such, the FBI is leading the investigation.
“At this time this is being considered a federal violation and the primary investigative agency will be the Federal Bureau of investigation,” Hissrich said.
Bowers grew up in Whitehall and is believed to have presently lived in an apartment complex on McAnulty Road in Baldwin Borough.
Police, FBI and ATF agents and technicians were at the 11-unit McAnulty apartment complex for most of the day Saturday.
They were finally permitted inside Saturday night after getting court approval to execute a search warrant. They first checked the building with a robot bomb detector.
Chris Hall, one of Bowers’ neighbors, said there was nothing unusual about Bowers. He described him as a truck driver who would come and go regularly.
Hall said when Bowers was home, he often had the TV on late at night, but generally, Hall said that Bowers never had company and stayed pretty much to himself.
“The most terrifying thing is just how normal he seemed. No tattoos that I could see, he just looked like an average 50-year-old dude,” Hall said. “He kept to himself. He would smoke his cigarettes in his car. Go for a drive and then be back at odd hours. TV would be on, but I couldn’t really hear it. Just went about my day, he went about his day. I just, I wish there was something that like, something tattooed on him or anything that could say, ‘Hey, this is what’s going on in my head.’ I wish… I just wish we knew.”
Eleven people have been killed and a number of others injured after the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill on Saturday.
Police sources tell KDKA’s Andy Sheehan the gunman walked into the building and yelled, “All Jews must die.” He was reportedly armed with an AR-15 and two handguns.
At least six other people were injured in the shooting.
The shooting happened during weekly Shabbat services at the conservative Jewish synagogue, the building was full was full of people for a Saturday service.