On Saturday October 27th, the Tree of Life Synagogue was thrust into a nightmare when Robert Gregory Bowers entered the building and opened fire. He carried an AR-15, as well as three handguns. The shooting resulted in the deaths of 11 people and six others were wounded. The Anti-Defamation League described the incident as the worst attack against Jews in the history of the United States.
Police tracked Bowers down after and were forced into a shootout. Bowers received multiple gunshot wounds, but none were fatal. During the shootout, four officers were wounded. Bowers was heard saying, while receiving treatment for his wounds, that “Jews were committing genocide to his people and he wanted them all dead.”
As a result of the shooting, Bowers is being charged with 11 criminal homicide counts and multiple counts of ethnic intimidation and aggravated assault. Federal charges are being brought as well for hate crimes, weapon offenses and more. While the crime scene may take a full week to investigate and process, according to FBI Special Agent Robert Jones, Bowers is expected to appear in federal court on Monday the 29th.
Jones also said that it appears Bowers had no accomplices and that his home had been searched. No information about that search has been released at this time. At a news conference, Jones said, “This was a large, complex crime scene and much work remains to be done. We don’t know why he picked this synagogue.”
The Tree of Life Synagogue is located in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, just outside of Pittsburgh. It is the center of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community.
After the shooting, President Trump put out a Presidential Order for all federal locations to fly flags at half-staff out of respect for the victims. The President’s declaration was explicit:
“I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, October 31, 2018. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.”
At another news conference, Scott Brady, U.S. Attorney, said the shooting was “an unspeakable and hateful crime.” He also reiterated that Bowers had made statements about his dislike for Jewish people and the depth of his hatred for all of them.