On Saturday morning, as worshipers were gathering at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh for Shabbat services, a gunman opened fire and killed 11 people. The shooter surrendered at the scene to police after a short standoff and was arrested. On Sunday, the victims were identified. They range in age from 54 to 97. Among them were a married couple and a two brothers.
“I will emphasize at this time that there appears to be no active threat to the community. We believe the subject that is responsible for this has been taken into custody,” Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said during a news conference.
“It’s a very horrific crime scene,” Hissrich added. “It’s one of the worst that I’ve seen, and I’ve been on some plane crashes. It’s very bad.”
The suspect has been identified as Robert Bowers. Law enforcement stated that Bowers shouted “All Jews must die!” while he was shooting, CBS News reported. Bowers’s posts on the social media website Gab, a site popular with neo-Nazis and white supremacists, show numerous anti-Semitic comments, including conspiracy theories and Holocaust denials. One quote read: “jews are the children of satan.”
WATCH: @PeteWilliamsNBC reports that the Pittsburgh synagogue attack suspect’s social media posts are full of anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant posts, as well as criticism of President Trump. https://t.co/pAdT73gnwR pic.twitter.com/9YSeHc9Dzj
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) October 27, 2018
Bowers was also critical of President Donald Trump, writing on Gab days before the shooting that, “Trump is a globalist, not a nationalist. There is no #MAGA as long as there is a kike infestation.” Bowers also denied voting for Trump, saying, “For the record, I did not vote for him nor have I owned, worn or even touched a maga hat.”
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His account has since been deactivated, Gab announced while disavowing and condemning Bowers’s actions.
Posts from the suspected Pittsburgh shooter Robert Bowers. He hated Trump and thought Trump was controlled by Jews. This monster is an unhinged anti-Semitic terrorist. pic.twitter.com/sjb2k6ucwb
— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) October 27, 2018
Bowers also ranted about HIAS, a Jewish organization that assists refugees, mere hours before his deadly rampage, writing on Gab, “HIAS 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.”
HIAS issued a statement, saying in part, “There are no words to express how devastated we are by the events in Pittsburgh this morning… As we try to process this horrifying tragedy, we pray that the American Jewish community and the country can find healing.”
UPDATE: Our experts collected background on the shooter in today's vicious #antiSemitic #hate crime, who regularly espoused vile #antiSemitism & white supremacist rhetoric online. This is now likely the deadliest attack against Jews in the US. More: https://t.co/WVSrhOao9v
— ADL (@ADL_National) October 27, 2018
Trump responded to the shooting, which he called “anti-Semitic” by saying, “If there was an armed guard inside of the temple, they would have been able to stop him. Maybe there would have been nobody killed except for him, frankly.”
“We’re learning a lot about it. It looks definitely like it’s an anti-Semitic crime,” the president added, “And that is something you wouldn’t believe could still be going on,” Trump said. “It would seem to be an anti-Semitic crime.” CNN White House reporter Sarah Westwood tweeted that Trump told reporters he is considering cancelling a rally in Illinois scheduled for Saturday night, but the president instead opted to remain on his campaign schedule.
Trump says if the Pittsburgh synagogue had an armed guard inside, "they might have been able to stop him." pic.twitter.com/0E25ictKRX
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) October 27, 2018
Vice President Mike Pence also responded to the shooting by saying, “There is no place in America for violence or anti-Semitism.” He characterized the incident as “not just criminal, it was evil” and called it “an attack on innocent Americans and an assault on our freedom of religion.”
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum also issued a statement condemning the attack and expressing sympathy to the victims and their families. “The Museum reminds all Americans of the dangers of unchecked hatred and antisemitism which must be confronted wherever they appear and calls on all Americans to actively work to promote social solidarity and respect the dignity of all individuals,” the statement said.
Because the act has been declared a hate crime in accordance with federal law, the FBI is now leading the investigation into the incident. Bowers was charged with 29 federal crimes on Saturday evening. Among the charges were 11 counts of criminal homicide and obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs (a hate crime), six counts of aggravated assault, as well as 13 counts of ethnic intimidation. Authorities believe he acted alone.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated.