Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect Robert Bowers is being charged with 29 federal counts, including 11 counts of use of a firearm to commit murder and 11 counts of obstruction of the exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death, announced U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania Scott W. Brady, NBC News reports.
The fatal shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday morning that killed 11 people and injured several others, including two officers and two SWAT team members, is being investigated as a hate crime, law enforcement officials said during a joint press conference Saturday afternoon.
“This is the most horrific crime scene I’ve seen in my 22 years of law enforcement,” said Bob Jones, special agent in charge of the FBI in Pittsburgh. The victims were “brutally murdered” simply “because of their faith,” he added.
Pittsburgh public safety director Wendell Hissrich said Bowers was hospitalized and in “fair condition with multiple gunshot wounds.”
The suspect was armed with an AR-15 style rifle and “at least three handguns,” according to NBC News.
The gunman started shooting inside a third-floor classroom, where the congregation usually holds a morning class, although it had been cancelled on Saturday, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The attack, taking place on the Jewish sabbath, happened as three concurrent services were being held at the synagogue, according to the PPG.
A verified account in Bowers’ name on the social media site Gab included several anti-Semitic posts. The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society “likes to bring invaders in that kill our people,” the account posted on Saturday morning. “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”
According to CBS 2 in Pittsburgh, Bowers shouted “all Jews must die” as he entered the building and started firing.
“It sounded like a loud crash in the hallway,” Stephen Weiss, one of the synagogue attendees, told the PP-G. He heard loud gunfire and ran to the basement for cover.
“Anti-semitism has no place in our commonwealth,” Governor Tom Wolf said. “I want the Jewish community across the commonwealth, and across the country, to know we stand with you.”
Approximately 100 people, spread across the three services, would’ve been inside the synagogue at the time of the shooting, Michael Eisenberg, the congregation’s past president, told CNN.
“This was an anti-Semitic act,” President Trump said in a speech on Saturday afternoon. “You wouldn’t think this would be possible.”
Trump, earlier in the day, said the country should “stiffen up the death penalty,” where criminals don’t wait “years and years” to be executed, according to MSNBC. The attack could’ve been undermined if there was “some kind of a protection inside the temple,” Trump added. “They didn’t, and he was able to do things that unfortunately he shouldn’t have been able to do.”