Synagogue Massacre Suspect Charged With 29 Counts

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A gunman armed with an AR-15-style assault rifle and at least three handguns, opened fire in a Pittsburgh synagogue on Oct. 27. Left at least 11 dead and wounding six others.

29 charges was filed by Federal prosecutors on Saturday evening against the man suspected of fatally shooting at least 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The 46 year old suspect,  Robert Bowers, allegedly opened fire Saturday morning at the Tree of Life Or L’Simcha Congregation.

Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich told reporters late Saturday afternoon that no children died in the shooting. Six people were reportedly injured, four of them police officers.

In a rampage described as among the deadliest against the Jewish community in the United States, the attacker stormed into the Tree of Life Congregation, where worshipers had gathered in separate rooms to celebrate their faith, and shot indiscriminately into the crowd, shattering what had otherwise been a peaceful morning.

The assailant Robert D. Bowers, fired for several minutes and was leaving the synagogue when officers, dressed in tactical gear and armed with rifles, met him at the door. According to the police, Mr. Bowers exchanged gunfire with officers before retreating back inside and barricading himself inside a third-floor room. He eventually surrendered.

Bowers, was injured by gunfire, although the authorities said it was unclear whether those wounds were self-inflicted or whether the police had shot him. He was in stable condition Saturday at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement that the Department of Justice plans to charge the suspect Mr. Bowers with 29 criminal counts. They include obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs — a hate crime — and using a firearm to commit murder. The authorities said that he had no previous criminal history.

The assail Saturday morning struck the heart of the city’s vibrant Jewish community, in the leafy Squirrel Hill neighborhood that is home to several synagogues, kosher restaurants and bakeries. Hours later, hundreds gathered at three separate interfaith vigils on a cold, rainy evening to mourn the dead and pray for the wounded.

Multiple victims were being treated by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, spokeswoman Amy Charley said in a statement on Saturday afternoon.

“At this time, UPMC Presbyterian is treating four patients from the Tree of Life synagogue shooting,” she said. “Three victims are in surgery and one other is stable, awaiting surgery. Another patient at UPMC Presbyterian was treated and released. UPMC Mercy is treating a patient who is currently in surgery.”

Jeff Finkelstein of the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh told WHNT that he estimated between 60 and 100 people were inside the building when the shooting occurred. The synagogue had a Torah study and Shabbat services scheduled for Saturday, and a bris ― a Jewish ceremony in which an infant boy is circumcised ― was reportedly also taking place.

Tom Wolf (Pennsylvania Gov.) issued a statement calling for action to prevent future mass shootings.

We must all pray and hope for no more loss of life. But we have been saying ‘this one is too many’ for far too long. Dangerous weapons are putting our citizens in harm’s way, Wolf said.

“And in the aftermath of this tragedy, we must come together and take action to prevent these tragedies in the future. We cannot accept this violence as normal.”

The Tree of Life Congregation, founded over 150 years ago, merged with Or L’Simcha in 2010 to form Tree of Life Or L’Simcha, according to its website. The synagogue describes itself as a Conservative Jewish congregation ― “Conservative” referring to a denomination of Judaism unrelated to political leanings. The site states that the synagogue is “true to traditional teachings while being “progressive and relevant to the way we live today.”

Critics of President Trump have argued that Trump is partly to blame for recent acts of violence because he has been stirring the pot of nationalism, on Twitter and at his rallies.

About the attack on Saturday, President Trump, addressing reporters at Joint Base Andrews, said: “It’s a terrible, terrible thing what’s going on with hate in our country and frankly all over the world, and something has to be done.”

“The results are very devastating,” Trump said, adding that if the temple “had some kind of protection” then “it could have been a much different situation.”

United States Leaders and across the world condemned the attack. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said he was “heartbroken and appalled” and that the “the entire people of Israel grieve with the families of the dead.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that criminal charges by the Justice Department “could lead to the death penalty.

Hatred and violence on the basis of religion can have no place in our society,” Jeff Sessions said. “Every American has the right to attend their house of worship in safety.

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