A Pittsburgh synagogue suspected shooter in custody, police report multiple fatalities
At least 11 people are dead after a gunman opened fire during a baby naming ceremony at a Pittsburgh synagogue, according to the Associated Press.
At least six other people were wounded, including four police officers who dashed to the scene, authorities said.
Police sources told CBS Pittsburgh that the gunman walked into the building and yelled, “All Jews must die.”
The suspect surrendered after a tense and violent standoff with SWAT at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, CBS Pittsburgh reports. The man, who has been identified as 46-year-old Robert Bowers by law enforcement officials, “was crawling and injured” when officers captured him.
Wendell Hissrich, Pittsburgh’s public safety director said: “It is a very horrific crime scene. It was one of the worst that I’ve seen. It is very bad.”
This shooting will be prosecuted as a hate crime, and the FBI will be leading the investigation, Hissrich said on the public safety department’s Twitter page.
As news broke of the shooting and subsequent arrest, the suspect’s social media accounts revealed a history of anti-Semitic posts.
The social media site Gab.com said the alleged shooter had a profile on its website, which is popular with far-right extremists. The company said the account was verified after the shooting and matched the name of the gunman.
A man with the same name posted on Gab before the shooting that “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”
President Donald Trump reacted to the event several times Saturday, at one point tweeting that the event was “far more devastating than originally thought.”
“It’s a terrible thing what’s going on with hate in our country,” Trump told reporters at Andrews Air Force Base before traveling to Indianapolis, the Associated Press reported.
Trump told reporters the violence “has to stop” and that the outcome might have been different if the synagogue “had some kind of protection” from an armed guard and suggested that might be a good idea for all churches and synagogues. He also said such shooters should receive the death penalty and “suffer the ultimate price.”
Trump also dismissed reporters’ questions on whether gun laws ought to be examined in the wake of the shootings, USA Today reported. “This has little to do with it if you take a look,” Trump said on gun laws.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf went to the scene and called the shooting an “absolute tragedy.” A Democrat, Wolf differed with the president’s takeaway on gun law discussions. “We must all pray and hope for no more loss of life,” Wolf said. “But we have been saying “this one is too many” for far too long. Dangerous weapons are putting our citizens in harm’s way.”
NBC reporter Tom Winter said in a tweet that the suspect was armed with an AR-15 style rifle and multiple handguns.
Shabbat services at Tree of Life are usually led by Rabbi Hazzan Jeffrey Myers at 9:45 a.m. on Saturday, according to the synagogue’s website. But Zachary Weiss, a 26-year-old member of the congregation, told BuzzFeed News that his father, Stephen Weiss, was filling in for the rabbi who was out sick.
Weiss said his father escaped the shooting and is home safe.
Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, tweeted that the victims of the attack were “targeted” because of their religion. Greenblatt tweeted, “We are devastated. Jews targeted on Shabbat morning at synagogue, a holy place of worship, is unconscionable. Our hearts break for the victims, their families, and the entire Jewish community.”
World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder called the shooting “an attack not just on the Jewish community, but on America as a whole.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.