Thursday 14 November 2019

I just want to kill Jews, gunman in synagogue attack told police

Sadness: A boy brings a flower to the memorial at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Photo: REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton
Sadness: A boy brings a flower to the memorial at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Photo: REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

Rob Crilly in Pittsburgh

The killing took little more than 20 minutes. Eleven people lay dead or dying inside the synagogue as the gunman switched between assault rifle and his three handguns, descending into the basement and back to the first floor.

But as he made his way out of the door to leave he was confronted by two armed police officers.

The gunman ran back inside and climbed two flights of stairs as the officers gave chase, according to new details of Saturday's deadly attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh released by prosecutors.

Scott Brady, US attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, said the death toll could have been much worse if the suspect had left before police arrived.

"Without hesitation, without concern for their safety they ran toward gunfire to protect innocent victims," he said.

Robert Bowers (46) is accused of storming the building during a Sabbath morning service. He is due to appear in court today to face 29 charges - including 11 of counts of murder, which police are treating as a hate crime.

Mourners hold a vigil for the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, Pennsylvania, U.S. Photo: REUTERS/John Altdorfer


Mourners hold a vigil for the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, Pennsylvania, U.S. Photo: REUTERS/John Altdorfer



Authorities said he wore tactical gear and carried an AR-15 rifle and three Glock 357 handguns into the building at about 9.50am - and used all three, leaving shell casings scattered on the floor.

Officials said Bowers had a licence to carry firearms.

He was cornered by a Swat team on the third floor after a firefight that wounded four officers and the gunman.

Police chatter picked up by a local scanner revealed details of a tense stand-off as officers feared he was wearing an explosive vest. But within minutes the wounded suspect crawled towards police officers to give himself up.

"They're committing genocide to my people. I just want to kill Jews," he repeatedly told arresting officers.

Bob Jones, the special agent leading the FBI investigation, said he left behind "the most horrific crime scene" he had seen in 22 years of service.

The result is a community in mourning and a city in shock.

"We will get through this darkest day of [the city's] history by working together," said Bill Peduto, the mayor of Pittsburgh.

Suspect Robert Bowers. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Suspect Robert Bowers. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

The neighbourhood of Squirrel Hill had an air of quiet mourning yesterday. Its streets stayed empty apart from dog- walkers and the handful of people leaving flowers at a makeshift shrine outside the synagogue.

The victims included a 97-year-old woman who attended with her daughter, a married couple in their 80s and two brothers in their 50s. David and Cecil Rosenthal were the youngest victims, aged 54 and 59. The eldest was Rose Mallinger (97).

The dead also included Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Jerry Rabinowitz, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax, Irving Younger and husband and wife Bernice and Sylvan Simon. The Rosenthal brothers lived at a home for people with learning disabilities.

"What's my country coming to?" asked one local, who asked to remain anonymous. "There's something about the climate now. Maybe there were always people like this but there's something allowing them to act out."

Investigators said they would be poring through Bowers' online life as they build a case against him.

He used an account on Gab, a social medial platform popular with white supremacists, to share anti-Semitic comments. "Jews are the children of Satan," read his biography.

He also spread content about "migrant caravans" moving through Central America, sharing unfounded conspiracy theories that suggested Jews were helping immigrants reach the US.

Similar theories are widely shared among right-wing websites.

"I have noticed a change in people saying 'illegals' that now say 'invaders'," read one post, less than a week before the shooting. "I like this." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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