A 76-year-old survivor of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting hid in a supply closet and only avoided getting shot because it was so dark inside

Jeff Swensen/GettyPolice rapid response team members respond to the Tree of Life synagogue shooting on Saturday.
  • Barry Werber was in the Tree of Life synagogue basement on Saturday when the shooting took place.
  • He hid in a supply closet with fellow worshippers and called 911, but was too afraid to make any noise.
  • One of his fellow congregants stepped out when the gunshots subsided, and got shot.
  • The gunman – identified as Robert Bowers – then stepped over the victim’s body and walked into the closet.
  • But it was dark inside, the gunman didn’t see Werber, and left him unhurt.
  • Here’s what we know about the victims of the shooting.

A 76-year-old survivor of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting described hiding in a supply closet, and only making it out alive because it was too dark for the killer to see him.

Barry Werber was in the Tree of Life synagogue basement with fellow worshippers of the New Light Congregation when the shooting took place on Saturday morning. Melvin Wax, one of the victims of the shooting, was part of Werber’s group.

The New Light Congregation rents space from the Tree of Life synagogue. The synagogue was hosting multiple ceremonies at the time of the shooting, including a bris, a ceremony to celebrate a child’s birth. (No children were hurt from the shooting, The New York Times reported, citing law-enforcement officials.)

Werber and other members had been preparing to pray when they heard crashing sounds from upstairs, he told the Associated Press on Sunday.

They looked out the door and saw a body lying on the staircase, he said. He and Rabbi Jonathan Perlman closed the door and went into a supply closet. Werber then called 911 but was too afraid to say anything in case he made any noise.

“I can’t say anything, and I’m barely breathing,” he told the Associated Press.

When they stopped hearing gunshots, 88-year-old Wax – who was in the basement with other congregants – opened the door and immediately got shot.

“There were three shots, and he falls back into the room where we were,” he said. “The gunman walks in.”

Werber also told The New York Times: “He walks in. He steps over Mel’s body.”

But the gunman – 46-year-old Robert Bowers, according to federal prosecutors – was apparently unable to see Werber and his fellow worshippers in the dark. He seemed to look around for a brief moment, then walked back out, Werber told The New York Times.

The New Light lost a total of three congregants in the shooting, Rabbi Perlman told a vigil on Sunday night. One was 65-year-old Richard Gottfried, a dentist who had just celebrated his 38th wedding anniversary with his wife. Another was Daniel Stein, 71, who according to his nephew was at the synagogue “every Saturday for services.”

“These three men, they cannot be replaced,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “But we will not be broken. We will not be ruined.”

The gunman opened fire with an AR-15 rifle during services on Saturday and killed 11 people. The victims – eight men and three women – ranged from the ages of 54 and 97.

Six other people, including four police officers, were injured, the Associated Press.

Bowers had written anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant remarks on social media in the past. He reportedly entered the synagogue shouting: “All Jews must die.”

Pittsburgh authorities said that the shooting “will be prosecuted as a hate crime” and that the FBI would lead the investigation.

Bowers remains in hospital and is scheduled to appear in court on Monday.

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