Pittsburgh synagogue massacre: Gunman said Jews were committing genocide

First responders stand outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh where a shooter opened fire Saturday Oct. 27 2018 injuring multiple people including police officers

First responders stand outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh where a shooter opened fire Saturday Oct. 27 2018 injuring multiple people including police officers

The suspect has been named as Robert Bowers.

Federal prosecutors have charged Bowers with 29 criminal offenses and state authorities have also leveled charges.

As horrific as the situation was at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill on Saturday morning, it could have been worse if not for the fearless actions of police officers who responded to the scene.

"The crimes of violence are based upon the federal civil rights laws prohibiting hate crimes", U.S. Attorney Scott Brady and Bob Jones, Federal Bureau of Investigation's special agent in charge of Pittsburgh office said in a statement.

"Accordingly, the Department of Justice will file hate crimes and other criminal charges against the defendant, including charges that could lead to the death penalty". "The FBI in Pittsburgh is leading the investigation", the statement, attributed to Scott W. Brady, the United States attorney for the western district of Pennsylvania, and Robert Jones, the special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, read. He said he believed Bowers was acting alone, adding: "We have no knowledge that he was known to law enforcement before today".

Bowers is now hospitalized and in police custody.

US President Trump ordered flags to be flown at half-staff in "solemn respect" for the shooting victims.

Bowers shot his victims with an AR-15 - the weapon used in numerous nation's mass shootings - and three handguns, all of which he owned legally and had a license to carry, according to a law enforcement official who wasn't authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation, and who spoke Sunday on condition of anonymity. After a shootout, he surrendered.

Bowers was taken to a hospital where he was listed in fair condition with multiple gunshot wounds. Two men are in critical condition, including a 70-year-old and a 55-year-old police officer.

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Authorities say gunman Robert Bowers made statements about genocide and killing Jewish people. Of the six, four were police officers.

Bowers posted on Gab just hours before the shooting: "HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people". I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered.

He wrote: "Screw your optics, I'm going in".

A quote atop the Bowers page said "jews are the children of satan", according to screenshots of the now-suspended account released by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist movements.

A gunman who expressed hatred of Jews exploited a vulnerability common in so many houses of worship across the country - doors that are unlocked for worship - to target a Pittsburgh synagogue. It follows a spate of pipe bombs found mailed in recent days to prominent political figures, mostly Democrats including former President Barack Obama.

The Tree of Life Synagogue, whose congregation was founded more than 150 years ago, is located in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood that is historically the heart of Jewish life in greater Pittsburgh.

Michael Eisenberg, the immediate past president of the Tree of Life, said synagogue officials had not gotten any threats that he knew of before the shooting.

"There were three shots, and he falls back into the room where we were", he said. He said that he does not believe Trump is anti-Semitic, and that he does not understand that bigot use his rhetoric to rationalize their beliefs.

"If they had some kind of a protection inside the temple maybe it could have been a very much different situation", Trump told reporters Saturday afternoon.

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