11 people killed in U.S. synagogue shooting
WASHINGTON, Oct. 28 — At least 11 people were killed and six others injured after a gunman opened fire Saturday morning inside a synagogue in Pittsburgh, U.S. state of Pennsylvania, a city official said.
No children were among the fatalities and the six injured include four police officers but does not include the suspect, Wendell Hissrich, Pittsburgh’s public safety director, told a press conference.
The initial call to the police was made around 9:54 a.m. local time (1354 GMT) and officers were dispatched to the scene within a minute, Hissrich said.
The shooting occurred at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood during a baby-naming ceremony Saturday morning, according to reports.
Police said the gunman, a heavy-set white male with a beard, surrendered and is in custody.
Attorney for Pennsylvania’s Western District Scott Brady confirmed the suspect is Robert Bowers, reportedly a 46-year-old man from Pittsburgh.
Bowers’ social media posts were reportedly rife with anti-Semitic content.
Brady said Bowers’ actions “represent the worst of humanity” and criminal charges against him could be filed as early as Saturday.
Police sources told local CBS affiliate KDKA that the gunman yelled “all Jews must die” before opening fire.
The suspect was armed with what appeared to be an assault rifle and at least three handguns.
Investigators believe the gunman was acting alone but his full motive is still unknown, said Bob Jones, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s office in Pittsburgh.
Jones said the scene of Saturday’s shooting at the Synagogue was “the most horrific crime scene” he has seen” in 22 years with the FBI.
The shooting will be prosecuted as a hate crime and the FBI will be leading the investigation, Hissrich said earlier in the day.
The synagogue is located at the intersection of Wilkins and Shady avenues. The neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, about 10 minutes of drive from downtown Pittsburgh, is the hub of the city’s Jewish community.
The synagogue offers members a “traditional Conservative service with a modern sense of family” and shabbat service on 9:45 a.m. Saturdays, according to the Tree of Life’s website.
Between 50 and 60 worshippers would be there on an average Saturday morning, according to a spokesman of the Jewish community in Pittsburgh.
U.S. President Donald Trump told a rally in Indianapolis, state of Indiana, that “there must be no tolerance for anti-Semitism.”
“This was an anti-Semitic act,” Trump said. “This wicked act of mass murder is pure evil, hard to believe, and, frankly, something that is unimaginable.”
Earlier in the day, the president suggested that the outcome might have been different if the synagogue “had some kind of protection” from an armed guard.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said on Twitter that the shooting is “an absolute tragedy,” adding that “dangerous weapons are putting our citizens in harm’s way.”
“We cannot accept this violence as normal,” Wolf tweeted.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video message on Twitter that he was heartbroken, describing the attack at the Pittsburgh synagogue as “horrendous anti-Semitic brutality.”
The Pittsburgh attack came as the United States sees a sharp increase in anti-Semitic incidents, which have surged to 1,986 from 1,267 during the period from 2016 to 2017, a 57 percent increase, according to the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish non-governmental organization based in the United States.
It is the latest shooting incident in the country, where gunmen regularly cause mass casualties and firearms are linked to more than 30,000 deaths annually.
The attack also follows a series of pipe bombs found mailed last week to prominent political figures of the country, mostly Democrats including former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.