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Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh: what we know

A gunman opened fire at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Saturday.

First responders surround the Tree of Life Synagogue where a shooter opened fire on Saturday, October 27, 2018.
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Eleven people have been killed during a shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday morning, in an incident that federal authorities have charged as a hate crime.

As President Donald Trump said during a prescheduled speech in Indiana, the attack on the congregation was “anti-Semitic” and a “wicked act of mass murder.” The Tree of Life synagogue is in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, a prominent Jewish area in the city. Trying the suspect for a hate crime makes it a federal offense; the FBI now leads the investigation.

According to local CBS affiliate KDKA, Pittsburgh police responded around 10 am to an active shooting while a baby naming service was underway. Police and the gunman — who was armed with an assault rifle and at least three handguns — engaged in two confrontations.

Four police officers sustained injuries and the suspect was shot, but none of them are in critical condition. Two others who were injured in the attack are in critical condition, bringing the total to 17 people either dead or injured.

Pittsburgh’s top FBI official said “this is the most horrific crime scene I’ve seen in 22 years with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

US Attorney Scott Brady filed 29 separate federal charges against suspect Robert Bowers on Saturday night, including hate crimes charges. Brady at a press conference on Sunday said that Bowers made statements about “genocide and his desire to kill Jewish people.”

What we know

  • A gunman, armed with an AR-15 assault rifle and three Glock 357 handguns, opened fire at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Saturday morning. Authorities said 11 people were killed and six others were injured, with two in critical condition. No children were among the dead, authorities said.
  • Police said that the suspect was in custody, and authorities later identified him as Robert Bowers, 46.
  • Wendell Hissrich, Pittsburgh Public Safety director, said at a press briefing that the scene inside was “very bad.” Bob Jones, the director of the FBI’s Pittsburgh office, said in an afternoon press conference that the attack led to “the most horrific crime scene” he had seen in two decades with the bureau.
  • Police responded to the incident, and the gunman fired at them as they approached. The four police officers’ injuries are not life-threatening.
  • Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf tweeted on Saturday morning that the situation was “serious” and encouraged citizens to stay away from the area. He later tweeted that he was headed to Pittsburgh and that the suspect was in custody.
  • During a Saturday afternoon speech in Indiana, President Donald Trump called the attack “anti-Semitic” and a “wicked act of mass murder.” Earlier, he tweeted that the events were “far more devastating than originally thought.”
  • The New York Police Department announced in a tweet that it was deploying extra “heavy weapons teams” and officers to protect houses of worship throughout the city in response to the incident. Los Angeles police said they would also increase patrols Saturday.
  • City officials set up a hotline for families and victims.
  • Federal hate crime charges were filed against the gunman on Saturday evening, including 11 counts of obstruction of exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death and four counts of obstruction of exercise of religious beliefs resulting in bodily injury to a public safety officer. Bowers was charged with 29 crimes in total, many of which are punishable by death.
  • In addition to the 29 federal charges, Bowers also faces 36 charges from the local district attorney, including 11 counts of criminal homicide, and 13 counts of ethnic intimidation.
  • Bowers is in the hospital, where he underwent surgery, and will appear before a federal magistrate judge on Monday at 1:30 pm Eastern.
  • Allegheny County medical examiner Dr. Karl Williams released the names of the 11 people killed on Sunday. Among the victims were two brothers, a husband and wife, and a 97-year-old woman.
  • Vice President Mike Pence, speaking at an event in Las Vegas on Saturday, said the shooting was “evil” as well as criminal. “An attack on innocent Americans and an assault on our freedom of religion,” he said. “There is no place in America for violence or anti-Semitism and this evil must end.”

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