The gunman who opened fire on a Pittsburgh synagogue Saturday killed a 97-year-old woman and 10 others while shouting about genocide and “his desire to kill Jewish people,” authorities reported Sunday, as city officials vowed to triumph over anyone who divides their denizens based on how they pray.
Each of victims was middle-aged or older. They included a pair of brothers in their 50s and a husband and wife in their 80s who were married at the same synagogue, the Tree of Life, more than 60 years ago.
While in custody, gunman Robert G. Bowers told a SWAT team chief that he wanted “all Jews to die” and claimed that Jewish people were “committing genocide to his people,” according to an arrest affidavit.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto responded by hailing the vibrancy of the Squirrel Hill neighborhood where the attack unfolded, saying it is the most diverse part of western Pennsylvania.
“The Jewish community is the backbone. It is part of the fabric of Pittsburgh,” Mr. Peduto said.
He said the community is far too strong to be knocked down.
“We know that hatred will never win out, that those that try to divide us because of the way that we pray or where our families are from around the world will lose,” the mayor said Sunday. “We will not try to rationalize irrational behavior. We will not try to figure out ways in order to lessen the degree of crimes such as this. We will work to eradicate it.”
President Trump, who condemned the attack and the hatred behind it, suggested that armed guards at the synagogue could have thwarted the tragedy.
Mr. Peduto, a Democrat, rejected that approach, saying policymakers should focus on the weapons used instead of piecemeal measures to minimize the damage.
“I think the approach we need to be looking at is how we take the guns, which is the common denominator of every mass shooting in America, out of the hands of those who are looking to express hatred through murder,” Mr. Peduto said.
The Allegheny County medical examiner identified the victims at the Tree of Life synagogue as Joyce Fienberg, 75; Richard Gottfried, 65; Rose Mallinger, 97; Jerry Rabinowitz, 66; Cecil Rosenthal, 59, and his brother, David Rosenthal, 54; Bernice Simon, 84, and her husband, Sylvan Simon, 86; Daniel Stein, 71; Melvin Wax, 88; and Irving Younger, 69.
They were remembered as accomplished members of the community. Dr. Rabinowitz was a trusted physician with a “genuine sense of humor,” Ms. Fienberg spent much of career as a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center, and the Simons were married at the Tree of Life synagogue in December 1956, according to wire reports.
The Pittsburgh Steelers held a moment of silence before their home game at Heinz Field against the Cleveland Browns, and Mr. Trump ordered American flags to be flown at half-staff through Wednesday as the nation mourns the victims.
“This evil Anti-Semitic attack is an assault on humanity,” he tweeted. “It will take all of us working together to extract the poison of Anti-Semitism from our world. We must unite to conquer hate.”
Mr. Bowers, 46, is charged with 29 federal counts and will make his first court appearance Monday afternoon. He was treated this weekend for gunshot wounds under guard at Allegheny General Hospital.
The charges include 11 counts of obstruction of exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death and 11 counts of use of a firearm to commit murder.
“Each of these counts is punishable by death,” said Scott Brady, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania.
The remaining seven counts relate to his attack on responding officers.
Mr. Brady said Mr. Bowers entered the synagogue at 9:50 a.m. armed with three Glock .357 handguns and an AR-15 rifle. He wounded two worshippers in addition to those he killed.
Then “police officers and SWAT teams responded quickly to the scene, and Bowers shot at them,” Mr. Brady said.
Multiple officers were harmed during the encounter. Late Sunday, one had been released, one was being considered for release and two others required longer treatment.
Robert Jones, FBI special agent in charge, said authorities conducted a search of Mr. Bowers’ home in Baldwin, Pennsylvania, and his vehicle.
“Know that we will spare no effort or resource in insuring that the defendant is held fully accountable for his unspeakable and hateful crimes,” Mr. Brady said.
They also are investigating his cyberactivities.
Mr. Bowers reportedly spewed hateful messages online that targeted immigrants and Jews, singling out Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, or HIAS, for helping refugees settle in America.
“I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in,” he posted.
Authorities said there was no indication that Mr. Bowers worked with accomplices, though they were still investigating.
Mr. Jones said it appeared that Mr. Bowers had finished shooting and was exiting the synagogue when police confronted him.
“We don’t know of any plans to conduct additional shootings,” he said.
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