A man armed with a semiautomatic assault-style rifle stormed the Tree of Life synagogue here Saturday and shot worshipers during Shabbat services, killing 11 and wounding six in the deadliest attack on Jews in the history of the United States.
The mass shooting targeted members of a synagogue that is an anchor of Pittsburgh’s large and close-knit Jewish community, a massacre that authorities immediately labeled a hate crime as they investigated the suspect’s history of anti-Semitic online screeds.
Law enforcement officials identified the alleged shooter as Robert D. Bowers, 46, a Pittsburgh resident who the FBI said was not previously known to law enforcement. He was charged with 29 counts of federal crimes of violence and firearms offenses, federal prosecutors said late Saturday.
A man with that name had posted anti-Semitic statements on social media before the shooting, expressing anger that a nonprofit Jewish organization in the neighborhood has helped refugees settle in the United States. In what appeared to be his final social media post hours before the attack, the man wrote: “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”
Bowers allegedly burst into the synagogue’s regular Saturday 9:45 a.m. service with an AR-15-style assault rifle and three handguns, authorities said. Witnesses told police he shouted anti-Semitic statements and began firing. The synagogue, in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, did not have armed security guards.
Police received calls about an active shooter at 9:54 a.m. and dispatched officers a minute later. Police said Bowers left the building and encountered the responding officers, shooting one before retreating into the synagogue to hide. More officers responded and, after an exchange of gunfire, Bowers suffered multiple gunshot wounds, was arrested and was taken to a hospital, authorities said.