- At least 11 people have been confirmed dead and six more are injured after a gunman opened fire at a Pittsburgh synagogue Saturday morning.
- Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said Saturday afternoon no children were killed or injured in the attack, which occurred during a baby-naming ceremony.
- Officials confirmed a suspect was in custody, and federal prosecutors charged 46-year-old Robert Bowers Saturday night with 29 counts, including using a firearm to commit murder.
- Police sources told the Pittsburgh CBS affiliate that the suspect shouted that “all Jews must die” as he opened fire.
- Bowers also has a history of posting anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant slurs on social media.
A gunman opened fire on Saturday morning at a Pittsburgh synagogue during prayer services, killing 11 people and injuring at least 6 others, according to city officials.
Law enforcement identified the suspect as 46-year-old Robert Bowers. Local CBS affiliate KDKA reported that he shouted “all Jews must die” while opening fire.
In a 29-count criminal complaint filed Saturday night, federal prosecutors charged Bowers with obstructing the exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death, using a firearm to commit murder, and seriously injuring police officers, the Associated Press reported.
Bob Jones, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s field office in Pittsburgh, said at a Saturday afternoon press conference that four police officers were injured in a confrontation with the suspect, who is in the hospital with wounds he sustained after opening fire at the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue.
Two others injured are in critical condition, CNN reported.
‘One of the worst that I’ve seen’
Police responded to a call that reported an active shooter in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighbourhood just before 10 a.m. ET on Saturday, Jones said, and confronted the suspect at the entrance to the synagogue after he allegedly shot 11 adults, who are now confirmed dead.
The suspect had one assault rifle and three handguns, Jones said, but it was unclear which weapons were used in the attack.
Jones also confirmed there were no children among the injured and that agents believe there is no existing threat in the area.
“It’s a very horrific crime scene,” Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich told reporters in an emotional press conference Saturday afternoon. “It’s one of the worst that I’ve seen, and I’ve been on some plane crashes. It’s very bad.”
Congregants inside the synagogue were attending a baby-naming ceremony, Pennsylvania attorney general Josh Shapiro told the Associated Press.
After the suspect was apprehended and taken to a hospital, Hissrich said, there was no longer an active threat to the community.
Hissrich added that the incident is being treated by investigators as a hate crime and will be handled by the FBI in coordination with the assistance of local, county, and state police.
Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms also responded to the scene.
Pittsburgh Public Safety officials confirmed the situation in a 9:34 a.m. tweet and urged residents to avoid the area.
ALERT: There is an active shooter in the area of WILKINS and Shady. Avoid the area. More info will be released when it is available.
— Pgh Public Safety (@PghPublicSafety) October 27, 2018
The synagogue holds a 9:45 a.m. Shabbat service on Saturdays, according to its website.
‘We just don’t seem to learn from the past’
President Donald Trump tweeted that he was watching the events unfold and spoke to reporters before boarding Air Force One Saturday afternoon, where he said gun control laws had “little to do with” the attack, and if the synagogue had “protection inside, the results would have been far better.”
He later flatly condemned the “evil” attack in remarks at the National Future Farmers of America Convention and Expo in Indiana on Saturday.
“You wouldn’t think this would be possible in this day and age but we just don’t seem to learn from the past,” he said. “Our minds cannot comprehend the cruel hate and the twisted malice that could cause a person to unleash such terrible violence during a baby naming ceremony.”
Pittsburgh Magazine described Squirrel Hill as “the unequivocal center of Pittsburgh’s Jewish population” that has been home to Jewish families and communities for nearly a century.
Police departments in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington, DC announced that they dispatched additional security forces to synagogues across the cities.
Thousands gathered at a vigil in Pittsburgh Saturday night, and a GoFundMe page for the victims of the shooting has raised over $US160,000.
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