Pittsburgh synagogue shooting: Suspect charged with murder
A man suspected of killing 11 men and women in a synagogue in Pittsburgh has been charged with murder – in what is believed to be the worst anti-Semitic attack in current US history.
Robert Bowers, 46, is accused of opening fire at the Tree of Life synagogue in the course of its Sabbath service.
He faces 29 criminal counts, such as use of a firearm to commit murder.
Federal prosecutors say they will also file hate crime charges, and the suspect could face the death penalty.
President Donald Trump described the attack as a “wicked act of mass murder”.
Six individuals – which includes 4 police officers – had been injured in Saturday’s attack.
The suspect was also wounded in a shootout with police.
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Hundreds of men and women – from the neighbourhood and also all across Pittsburgh – later gathered for an interfaith vigil for the victims of the attack in the synagogue in Squirrel Hill.
Sophia Levin, a nearby resident and a single of the organisers, told the BBC men and women wanted to be “together, not alone”, and the vigil would assist heal the city.
President Trump said he would check out Pittsburgh soon. He also ordered US flags at government buildings to be flown at half-mast until 31 October.
What are the charges?
The 29 charges have been announced in a statement issued by the US Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Pennsylvania:
- Eleven counts of obstruction of physical exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death
- Eleven counts of 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 security officer
- 3 counts of use and discharge of a firearm throughout and in relation to a crime of violence
How did the shooting unfold?
On Saturday morning, worshippers had gathered at the synagogue for a child naming ceremony for the duration of the Sabbath.
Squirrel Hill has a single of the biggest Jewish populations in Pennsylvania and this would have been the synagogue’s busiest day of the week.
Police mentioned they received first calls about an active shooter at 09:54 nearby time (13:54 GMT), and sent officers to the scene a minute later.
According to reports, Mr Bowers, a white male, entered the creating in the course of the morning service armed with an assault rifle and three handguns.
The gunman had already shot dead 11 people and was leaving the synagogue after about 20 minutes when he encountered Swat officers and exchanged fire with them, FBI agent Robert Jones said.
The attacker then moved back into the creating to try to hide from the police.
He surrendered right after a shootout, and is now being treated in hospital for what has been described as several gunshot wounds.
The crime scene was “horrific”, Pittsburgh’s Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich told reporters. “A single of the worst I’ve seen, and I’ve [worked] on some plane crashes. It is really bad.”
Mr Hissrich stated no children had been amongst the casualties.
What do we know about the gunman?
US media said he had shouted “All Jews should die” as he carried out the attack.
Social media posts by someone with the name Robert Bowers were also reported to be complete of anti-Semitic comments.
FBI specific agent Bob Jones told a press conference that Mr Bowers did not appear to be recognized to authorities prior to the attack.
He said that any motive remains unknown but that authorities believe he was acting alone.
‘Grief and hurt’
Gary O’Donoghue, BBC News, Pittsburgh
In the dwindling light, and with the cold autumn rain falling, hundreds gathered in front of the 6th Presbyterian church just a couple of streets away from the Tree of Life Synagogue.
Holding their candles, they sang the Jewish prayer of healing.
The elders in the community had wanted to wait a day prior to holding the vigil, but the young people mentioned no – they wanted an quick opportunity to share their grief and voice their hurt.
Fifteen-year-old Sophia Levin declared that she was a distinct Jew these days to the one she was yesterday. Anti-Semitism, she stated, had been some thing she believed happened elsewhere and in earlier occasions but now she knew it was right right here, appropriate now.
Some of these young individuals have been involved in the student gun handle movement that sprang up after the Parkland shooting earlier this year.
One of them, Rebecca Glickman, told the crowd that gun manage was needed now more than ever.
She told me that an anti-Semite with a gun is far more harmful than an anti-Semite without a gun, so that’s a great location to begin.
What has been President Trump’s reaction?
He known as the shooting a “terrible, terrible issue”.
“To see this occur once more and once again, for so several years, it really is just a shame,” he told reporters.
He described the gunman as a “maniac” and suggested the US ought to “stiffen up our laws of the death penalty”.
“These men and women need to spend the ultimate price. This has to stop,” he stated.
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Mr Trump added that the incident had “tiny to do” with US gun laws. “If they had protection inside, perhaps it could have been a different scenario.”
Former US President Barack Obama voiced a distinct position on the ongoing gun law debate, tweeting: “We have to quit creating it so effortless for these who want to harm the innocent to get their hands on a gun.”
What about other reaction?
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf stated in a statement that the incident was an “absolute tragedy” and that such acts of violence could not be accepted as “normal”.
The president of the Jewish Federation of Higher Pittsburgh, Jeff Finkelstein, mentioned his “heart goes out to all these families”.
“Now I’m just sad. This ought to not be taking place. Period. It should not be happening in a synagogue. It need to not be happening in our neighbourhood here in Squirrel Hill,” he mentioned.
Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a Jewish non-governmental organisation that fights anti-Semitism, mentioned he was “devastated”.
“We believe this is the deadliest attack on the Jewish neighborhood in the history of the United States,” he mentioned in a statement.
Globe leaders also condemned the attack, which includes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who said he was “heartbroken and appalled”, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel who said: “We all have to stand up against anti-Semitism, everywhere.”
Extra police officers have been deployed at synagogues and Jewish centres across the US after the attack.
The BBC’s Dan Johnson in Washington says the shootings come at a tense time in the US, right after a week in which mail bombs had been sent to critics of Mr Trump, ahead of essential mid-term elections next month.
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Published at Sun, 28 Oct 2018 05:22:06 +0000