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Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting Suspect, RobertBowers
Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting Suspect, RobertBowers

A gunman who frequently posted anti-Semitic threats online burst inside a busy Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday and opened fire, killing 11 people and injuring six others. After exchanging gunfire with police, 46-year-old Robert Bowers surrendered and was taken into custody.

The Department of Justice charged Bowers with 29 federal counts, including 11 counts of obstructing the exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the charges could lead to the death penalty.

Bowers, who was injured during the shootout with police, underwent surgery and remains hospitalized. He is expected to make his first court appearance Monday.

Bowers burst into the Tree of Life Congregation Saturday morning and fired inside while expressing his hatred toward Jewish people, according to a charging document made public Sunday. It said the statements continued during his gunfight with police, with Bowers telling one officer: “They’re committing genocide to my people. I just want to kill Jews.”

Bowers was armed with an AR-15 and three handguns during the 20-minute assault.

Wendell Hissrich, the city’s public safety director, said there was no further threat to the public. “It’s a very horrific crime scene,” he told reporters Sunday. “It’s one of the worst that I’ve seen, and I’ve been on some plane crashes. It’s very bad.”

  • Tree of Life is located in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, which is known as the heart of the local Jewish community.

    Robert Jones, head of the FBI’s Pittsburgh office, said worshipers at the synagogue were “brutally murdered by a gunman targeting them simply because of their faith.” Jones said Bowers’ full motive is unknown, but said investigators believe he acted alone.

    Gov. Tom Wolf arrived at the scene Saturday and called the attack an “absolute tragedy.”

    “These senseless acts of violence are not who we are as Americans,” Wolf said in a statement. “My thoughts right now are focused on the victims, their families and making sure law enforcement has every resource they need.”

    President Trump called the shooting was “far more devastating” than anyone previously thought. Mr. Trump said there would have been a different outcome if the synagogue had an armed guard at the building.

    “If there was an armed guard inside the temple, they would have been able to stop him, maybe there would have been nobody killed, except for him, frankly,” Mr. Trump told reporters at Joint Base Andrews on Saturday, adding that the U.S. should “stiffen up” its laws on the death penalty.

    “When people do this, they should get the death penalty,” he added. “And they shouldn’t have to wait years and years. I think they should very much bring the death penalty into vogue.”

  • GoFundMe nears half million mark for victims

    An official GoFundMe page has raised more than $470,000 for victims of the Tree of Life shooting in Pittsburgh, as of 9 p.m. ET. The stated goal for the campaign is $1 million.

    A GoFundMe spokesperson tells CBS News the campaign is certified, meaning “all money raised will be transferred directly to the Tree of Life Congregation.”

    “This fundraiser is meant to help the congregations with the physical damages on the building and the survivors and the victims’ families,” the fundraiser reads.

  • Muslim groups raise money for shooting victims

    Just one day after the mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, two Muslim groups have raised tens of thousands of dollars for the victims and their families.

    The nonprofits Celebrate Mercy and MPower Change created a crowdfunding campaign for the Tree of Life synagogue victims on LaunchGood, a Muslim crowdsourcing site. The campaign passed its original fundraising goal of $25,000 within six hours, and then its new goal of $50,000 within 24 hours, according to the page.

    As of Sunday afternoon, it has raised nearly $80,000 from more than 1,800 donors. Once a final goal is hit, Celebrate Mercy said it will immediately transfer funds to the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, which will work with Tree of Life to send the funds to victims to help with medical and funeral expenses.

  • Residents narrowly avoid mass shooting

    Three residents said they narrowly avoided becoming victims of the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh. Rabbi Doris Dyen was walking to the synagogue on Saturday when she noticed shards of glass all over the sidewalk.

    Deane Root realized there was active gunfire coming from inside the building. “We ran to the car and dialed 911,” Root said. The couple waved down Seymour Drescher, who had just arrived at the synagogue.

    Drescher said he saw someone run out of the building, saying, “There are guns going off inside.”

    “If we had been there 3 minutes earlier, maybe 2 minute earlier, we wouldn’t be here. We wouldn’t be talking to you,” Dyen said.

    When asked how the shooting impacted her faith, Dyen said, “I usually say morning blessings, and I started saying the ones you usually say, and I realized I couldn’t say them. I just talked to God directly and I said, God I am really having trouble here. I cannot pray because I’m broken, and I can’t pray.”

  • Shooting highlights rise in hate crimes across U.S.

    • The deadly shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue isn’t the only hate crime in the U.S. last week. Two African-Americans were targeted and murdered at a grocery store in Kentucky. According to a recent report, hate crimes are up in most major cities, with Jews suffering the highest percentage of any group.

      America is grappling with the virulent rise of anti-Semitism. Saturday’s attack in Pittsburgh comes after a year that has seen a sharp uptick in bomb threats, anti-Semitic rallies, social media threats and spray painted swastikas on synagogues targeted at Jewish-Americans.

      “Make no mistake that man went into that synagogue deliberately intentionally not just to harm the individuals who were there but to terrorize the entire community,” said Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League.

      Greenblatt noted a 57 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents nationwide last year compared to 2016. That marks the biggest spike since 1979. Those incidents occurred in every state in 2017 for the first time in seven years.

    • ER doctor recalls treating shooting victims

      • The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Presbyterian is located about 10 minutes away from the scene of the mass shooting. Dr. Alexander Castro, an emergency room physician at the hospital, helped treat several victims wounded in the attack.

        “We got four patients as trauma patients, and then we got another individual who came in as a regular patient that was also at the scene,” Castro told CBS News’ David Begnaud on Sunday, adding that none of the patients died at the hospital.

        Castro said doctors from all over the hospital came down with the willingness to help.

        “We had nine trauma surgeons that ended up coming in, trauma surgery, there were specialty surgeons like vascular surgery, orthopedic surgery, et cetera, that came in as well. Residents from all over the hospital: all the surgical residents and medicine residents came down with willing hands to help.”

        She added: “The most meaningful event, or what I will take out of this, is the teamwork that we had here at this hospital. The number of physicians that we were able to gather in such a short amount of notice and time.”

      • 11 victims identified

        Authorities have identified the 11 people killed in Saturday’s mass shooting. The ages of the victims ranged from 54 to 97.

        • David Rosenthal, 54, of Squirrel Hill
        • Cecil Rosenthal, 59, of Squirrel Hill (David’s brother)
        • Richard Gottfried, 65, of Ross Township
        • Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, of Edgewood Borough
        • Irving Younger, 69, of Mt. Washington, City of Pittsburgh
        • Daniel Stein, 71, of Squirrel Hill
        • Joyce Fienberg, 75, of Oakland, City of Pittsburgh
        • Bernice Simon, 84, of Wilkinsburg
        • Sylvan Simon, 86, of Wilkinsburg (Bernice’s husband)
        • Melvin Wax, 88, of Squirrel Hill
        • Rose Mallinger, 97, of Squirrel Hill
      • Criminal complaint against Bowers released

        Robert Bowers was charged with 11 counts of criminal homicide and 13 counts of ethnic intimidation, which are hate crimes, according to the Allegheny County Criminal Complaint. The criminal complaint said Bowers was charged with ethnic intimidation due to his own words.

        According to the criminal complaint against Bowers, he told a SWAT operator while receiving medical treatment that he wanted “all Jews to die” and that he believed Jews were “committing genocide to his people.”

        The criminal complaint also revealed there were three women and eight men shot and killed.

      • Hundreds gather at Squirrel Hill vigil to mourn victims

        pittsburgh-shooting-vigil-2018-10-27.jpg
        BRYCE LUTZ/CBS PITTSBURGH

        Hundreds gathered Saturday night in Squirrel Hill for a candlelight vigil near the synagogue, CBS Pittsburgh reports. The vigil was organized by Taylor Allderdice High School students, and included singing, speeches and a general sense of community togetherness.

        “We all have so much more in common than we have to differentiate us, and I think nights like tonight remind us of that,” said Jeremy Blanche-Schwartz, who attended the service.

        Squirrel Hill resident Allison attended both the interfaith service and the vigil.

        “It’s horrible. It’s so surreal just to see us on the news, this is such a gentle place. I mean Fred Rogers, of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, went to our church. This was the neighborhood of that TV show, and to think that in a place where you would love your neighbor, this would happen, is just, it’s horrible.”

        U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, who attended the vigil, said he found inspiration from the young people who took the time to organize the get together.

        “This was a very emotional, beautiful vigil, so proud of our community, our hearts are broken from this senseless, senseless hate crime against the Jewish community,” Doyle said. “To see these young students say what they had to say and to show that strength and the sense of community that exists here, that this is not something that we’re going to let break us, was really inspiring.”

      • 29 federal charges filed against suspect

        The Department of Justice announced late Saturday that 29 federal charges had been filed against suspect Robert Bowers, including 11 counts of obstruction of exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death; 11 counts of use of a firearm to commit murder during 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 a crime of violence.

        The criminal complaint will be available Sunday morning at 9 a.m.

      • Trump calls shooting an “assault on humanity”

        President Trump continued with a rally in Illinois on Saturday night, comparing it the re-opening of the New York Stock Exchange after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Mr. Trump incorrectly said that NYSE opened “the day after 9/11,” although it was actually closed for six days after the terrorist attack.

        Mr. Trump said we can’t let “sick” and “demented” people run our lives.

        “We have our lives,” Mr. Trump said. “We have our schedules. And nobody’s going to change it. So we’re here. And let’s have a good time. And if you don’t mind, I’m going to tone it down just a little bit.”

      • ADL says shooting is deadliest attack against Jewish community in U.S. history

        Sunday’s shooting in Pittsburgh is likely the deadliest attack against the Jewish community in U.S. history, said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The shooting left 11 people killed and six others wounded, including four police officers.

        “Our hearts break for the families of those killed and injured at the Tree of Life Synagogue, and for the entire Jewish community of Pittsburgh,” Greenblatt said in a statement. He said the attack comes at a time when his group has reported a historic increase in anti-Semitic incidents and harassment.

        He added, “As we mourn those lost and search for answers, ADL will remain steadfast in its mission to fight anti-Semitism wherever and whenever it may occur.”

      • Trump says he will travel to Pittsburgh

        President Trump says he will travel to Pittsburgh following Saturday’s mass shooting. He offered no details as to when he will make the trip to the city.

      • Pittsburgh teams express support

        Professional sports teams in Pittsburgh, including the Steelers and Pirates, issued statements of condolences and support following Saturday’s shooting.

        • Several Steelers players also tweeted their support. “Prayers Up for Pittsburgh,” Antonio Brown wrote.

          “My prayers goes out to families of the victims, everyone in the city of Pittsburgh, and the Jewish-American community, I can’t believe the news. Stay strong,” JuJu Smith-Schuster tweeted.

        • DOJ charges could lead to death penalty

          The Justice Department said it would file hate crime charges against suspect Robert Bowers and said the charges could lead to the death penalty.

          “Today 11 innocent people were suddenly and viciously murdered during religious services,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a statement Saturday. “These alleged crimes are reprehensible and utterly repugnant to the values of this nation.”

          Sessions also thanked officers who confronted the gunman, including the four officers who were wounded. “These officers ran to danger to save others, which reflects the highest traditions of policing in this country,” he added. “There can be no doubt that they saved lives today.”

        • GoFundMe created for Tree of Life Congregation

          A GoFundMe has been created for the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh. The proceeds will help the family of victims and survivors. A GoFundMe spokesperson tells CBS News the campaign is certified, meaning “all money raised will be transferred directly to the Tree of Life Congregation.”

          “This fundraiser is meant to help the congregations with the physical damages on the building and the survivors and the victims’ families,” the fundraiser reads.

        • Police give first timeline of attack

          Police received calls regarding an active shooter at 9:54 a.m. on Saturday. Officers were sent to the shooting scene one minute later. The suspected gunman, Robert Bowers, spent 20 minutes inside the synagogue before police arrived, FBI Special Agent Robert Jones said.

          When Bowers attempted to exit the building, he encountered two police officers and exchanged gunfire with them. Both of the officers were wounded, Jones said. Bowers retreated back into the building to hide from two additional officers who were arriving at the scene.

          The two officers engaged the suspect inside the building and one was injured. He eventually surrendered to police and was taken into custody.

          “Multiple agencies responded to this incident this morning and without their courage, this tragedy would have been far worse,” Wendell Hissrich, Pittsburgh’s public safety director, said Saturday.

        • Suspect had 1 assault rifle, 3 handguns

          The shooting suspect, Robert Bowers, was armed with an assault rifle and at least three handguns, Robert Jones of the FBI’s Pittsburgh Field Office said Saturday. Jones said it is unclear how Bowers obtained the guns and if he used all three handguns during the attack.

          Wendell Hissrich, the city’s public safety director, would not say if Bowers was cooperating with investigators. He was transferred to a local hospital with multiple gunshot wounds, Hissrich said. He is listed in fair condition.

        • 11 dead, 6 injured in shooting

          Eleven people were killed and six others were injured in Saturday’s shooting, Wendell Hissrich, Pittsburgh’s public safety director, said in a news conference.

          Hissrich said no children were killed in the shooting and four of the injured were police officers.

          Authorities have not released names of the victims.

        • Former synagogue president: “We’ve never had any threats”

          Michael Eisenberg, a former president of the Tree of Life Congregation, said the synagogue never received any threats in the past.

          “No, we’ve never had any threats. I will tell you, I’ve always had a very watchful eye because of what’s going on in the current climate,” he told CBS Pittsburgh. “You see these bombs being mailed across the country and our security was really just no one has ever tried.”

          He added, “It was just a fact that nobody ever tried to do anything because, like most religious institutions we have an open door.”

        • Trump will not cancel Illinois rally

          Speaking at the Future Farmers of America Convention, President Trump said he would not cancel his rally in Murphysboro, Illinois, on Saturday afternoon.

          “At first I was thinking I will cancel. Then I said, ‘we can’t let evil change our life and change our schedule. We can’t do that.’ We have to go and do wherever we were going to do or otherwise we give them too much credit. We make them too important. And you go with a heavy heart but you go.

        • Trump: “We should stiffen up” death penalty laws

          • President Trump called the shooting was “far more devastating” than anyone previously thought. Mr. Trump said there would have been a different outcome if the synagogue had an armed guard at the building.

            “If there was an armed guard inside the temple, they would have been able to stop him, maybe there would have been nobody killed, except for him, frankly,” Mr. Trump told reporters at Joint Base Andrews on Saturday, adding that the U.S. should “stiffen up” its laws on the death penalty.

            “When people do this, they should get the death penalty,” he added. “And they shouldn’t have to wait years and years. I think they should very much bring the death penalty into vogue.”

          • What we know about suspect Robert Bowers

            Robert Bowers, 46, was identified as the gunman in the deadly attack, law enforcement sources tell CBS News and CBS Pittsburgh.

            His online activity shows he posted anti-Semitic threats and conspiracy theories in the weeks before Saturday’s shooting. Bowers was a regular user on Gab, a social network often associated with white supremacists and extremists.

            Shortly after the attack, Gab was alerted to a user profile of the alleged Tree of Life Congregation shooter. The account was verified and matched the name of the alleged shooter’s name, which was mentioned on police scanners.

             

      CBS

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