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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A federal grand jury has indicted the man accused of killing 11 people inside a synagogue in Squirrel Hill on 44 counts.
According to the Department of Justice, Robert Bowers, 46, was charged in a 44-count indictment on Wednesday.
“Today begins the process of seeking justice for the victims of these hateful acts, and healing for the victims’ families, the Jewish community, and our city. Our office will spare no resource, and will work with professionalism, integrity and diligence, in a way that honors the memories of the victims. This is what the public expects from the U.S. Department of Justice. And truly we, as Pittsburghers, can do no other,” U.S. Attorney Scott Brady said.
Brady filed federal hate crimes charges against Bowers on Saturday evening. Brady says federal prosecutors are seeking approval to pursue the death penalty against Bowers.
The charges are as follows:
- Eleven counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death
- Eleven counts of use and discharge of a firearm to commit murder during and in relation to a crime of violence
- Two counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous weapon and resulting in bodily injury
- Eleven counts of use and discharge of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence
- Eight counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous weapon, and resulting in bodily injury to a public safety officer
- One count of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving use of a dangerous weapon and resulting in bodily injury to a public safety officer
Wednesday’s indictment increases the number of counts from 29 to 44, bolsters the hate crime prosecution and increases the likelihood that Bowers will eventually be executed.
The additional counts relate to Bowers’ assault on police officers, and it also lists a number of special findings that strengthen the case for the death penalty.
Those findings include the premeditation and planning that went into the attack, the number of victims, and specifically, the defenselessness and vulnerability of those victims. Though not mentioned by name, victims like the Rosenthal brothers and 97-year-old Rose Mallinger, with special needs, were killed at hands of a gunman wielding an AR-15 and three handguns.
Former federal prosecutor Mark Rush says the government presented an extremely powerful case in front of the grand jury in just a matter of days.
“The government, obviously, got all of their evidence together, including special findings, in very short order and is proceeding in a very appropriate — given the horrendous conduct here — in an very appropriate manner,” Rush said.
The case against Bowers will be prosecuted first in federal court, instead of state courts, because the U.S. Justice Department says it believes it’s in the national interest to protect the constitutional right of freedom of religion.
“Every American has the right to attend their house of worship in safety. The defendant in this case allegedly murdered 11 innocent people during religious services and injured four law enforcement officers. These alleged crimes are incomprehensibly evil and utterly repugnant to the values of this nation. Therefore this case is not only important to the victims and their loved ones, but to the city of Pittsburgh and the entire nation,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said.
According to police, Bowers allegedly walked into the Tree of Life Synagogue yelling anti-Semitic slurs and shooting at worshipers while three separate services were taking place on Saturday.
Eleven people died and several others were injured, including four police officers.
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Bowers made his first appearance in federal court Monday afternoon. Seated in a wheelchair, he displayed no emotion as he was brought into the courtroom.
Bowers is now being held in the Butler County Jail without bond.
He faces a maximum possible penalty of death or life without parole, followed by a consecutive sentence of 535 years’ imprisonment.