Robert Gregory Bowers

Pennsylvania Dept of Transportation

Police: Synagogue Gunman Said He Wanted All Jews To Die

October 28, 2018 - 1:06 pm
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PITTSBURGH (WCBS 880/AP) -- The suspect in the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue expressed hatred of Jews during the rampage and told officers afterward that Jews were committing genocide and that he wanted them all to die, according to charging documents made public Sunday.

Robert Gregory Bowers killed eight men and three women inside the Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday during worship services before a tactical police team tracked him down and shot him, authorities said in state and federal affidavits, which contained unreported details on the shooting and the police response.

"I just want to kill Jews," Bowers told an officer, according to one of the documents.

Officials released the names of all 11 victims during a news conference Sunday, all of them middle-aged or elderly. The victims included a pair of brothers and a husband and wife. The oldest was 97.

Calls began coming in to 911 from the synagogue just before 10 a.m. Saturday. Bowers, 46, shot one of the first two officers to respond in the hand, and the other was wounded by "shrapnel and broken glass," according to court documents.

A tactical team found Bowers on the third floor, where he shot two officers multiple times, an affidavit said.

Bowers, who authorities said used an AR-15 rifle and three handguns in the attack, told an officer while he was being treated for his injuries "that he wanted all Jews to die and also that they (Jews) were committing genocide to his people," a Pittsburgh police affidavit said.

Bowers was charged with 11 state counts of criminal homicide, six counts of aggravated assault and 13 counts of ethnic intimidation in what the leader of the Anti-Defamation League called the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.

He was also charged in a 29-count federal criminal complaint that included counts of obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death — a federal hate crime — and using a firearm to commit murder. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the charges "could lead to the death penalty."

Bowers, who underwent surgery and remained hospitalized, is scheduled for a court appearance Monday. It wasn't clear whether he had an attorney to speak on his behalf. A message left with the federal public defender's office in Pittsburgh wasn't immediately returned.

His neighbor, Chris Hall, said he never heard or saw anything to indicate that Bowers harbored anti-Semitic views or posed a threat. Bowers kept to himself, he said.

"The most terrifying thing is just how normal he seemed," Hall said. "I wish I knew what was going on inside his head. Maybe something could have been done. I don't know."

In the city, thousands gathered for a vigil Saturday night. Some blamed the slaughter on the nation's political climate.

"When you spew hate speech, people act on it. Very simple. And this is the result. A lot of people dead. Senselessly," said Stephen Cohen, co-president of New Light Congregation, which rents space at Tree of Life.

Little was known about Bowers, who had no apparent criminal record but who is believed to have expressed virulently anti-Semitic views on social media. Authorities said it appears he acted alone.

The Jewish community is "an important part of the cultural and social identity of Pittsburgh, and so this was an attack upon our neighbors and upon our friends," Scott Brady, the chief federal prosecutor in western Pennsylvania, said.

The gunman targeted a building that housed three separate congregations, all of which were conducting Sabbath services when the attack began just before 10 a.m. in the tree-lined residential neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, about 10 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh and the hub of the city's Jewish community.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report)