A family stops to look at flowers left outside of the Tree of Life Synagogue in memory of 11 worshippers killed in a mass shooting October 27, 2018
Pittsburgh (AFP) – The shooting rampage Saturday in a Pittsburgh synagogue that claimed 11 lives has been blamed on a man who authorities say spoke of “his desire to kill Jewish people.”
Here is what we know so far about the attack, the suspect and the victims.
– The attack –
In a 12-page criminal complaint, police say they received multiple calls at 9:54am Saturday (1354 GMT) of gunshots being fired in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh’s heavily Jewish Squirrel Hill neighborhood.
The first two officers on the scene exchanged fire with a suspect carrying an assault-style AR-15 rifle and three Glock handguns, said FBI special agent Bob Jones. One officer was shot in the hand, the other injured by shrapnel.
An arriving SWAT team found 11 victims in a bloody crime scene, then followed the retreating suspect up to the third floor. He shot two officers multiple times before being taken into custody.
Two other officers were among the six people injured in the grisly attack.
– The suspect –
The suspect, named as 46-year-old Robert Bowers, is being charged with 29 federal violations, including 22 carrying the death penalty, and multiple state offenses. His first appearance before a federal magistrate is set for Monday at 1:30 pm.
Bowers, who reportedly worked as a long-haul trucker, has been linked to a rash of virulent anti-Semitic posts on social media, including one shortly before the attack that described Jews as “invaders” and said “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered.”
The criminal complaint said Bowers told a SWAT agent that “he wanted all Jews to die.”
Bowers was taken to Allegheny General Hospital, where he is in fair condition, authorities said.
Bowers was licensed to carry firearms but was apparently unknown to authorities before Saturday. Police have searched his apartment in the Baldwin suburb.
A neighbor, Chris Hall, told TribLive.com that Bowers mostly “kept to himself.”
“The most terrifying thing is how normal he seemed.”
– The victims –
Bowers is charged with killing eight men and three women, aged 54 to 97, all from the Pittsburgh area. They include several people who would have been children during the Holocaust and rise of Nazism.
County medical examiner Karl Williams identified them as:
— Joyce Fienberg, aged 75.
— Richard Gottfried, 65.
— Rose Mallinger, 97.
— Jerry Rabinowitz, 66.
— Cecil Rosenthal, 59.
— David Rosenthal, 54.
— Bernice Simon, 84.
— Sylvan Simon, 86.
— Daniel Stein, 71.
— Melvin Wax, 88.
— Irving Younger, 69.
David and Cecil Rosenthal were brothers, and Sylvan and Bernice Simon are husband and wife, Williams said. Reports said Cecil Rosenthal liked to greet people at the door of the synagogue before services.
Stein, who recently became a grandfather, was a regular at the synagogue, TribLive reported, part of a conservative congregation that shared space there.
Fienberg was the wife of the late Stephen Fienberg, a well-known statistics professor at Carnegie Mellon University.
Rabinowitz, a physician, was described by a patient, former deputy district attorney Law Claus, as “a trusted confidant and healer who could always be counted upon to provide sage advice,” reported WPXI.com.
Five of the 11 lived in Squirrel Hill, a neighborhood with a reputation for tolerance and diversity.
– Rising anti-Semitism –
Incidences of anti-Semitic harassment and violence have spiked in the US, according to Jonathan Greenblatt, director of the Anti-Defamation League.
Such incidences rose 34 percent in 2016 over the year before and another 57 percent in 2017, “the single largest surge that we’ve ever seen,” he told ABC.
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