SYNAGOGUE SHOOTING in Pittsburgh
Authorities could bring criminal charges against the suspected gunman in the fatal shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue as soon as today, Scott W. Brady, the United States attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, said in a news conference.
The full weight of the US Attorney’s office will be utilized in this hate crime prosecution, he said.
[Breaking news update at 4:19 p.m. ET]
Eleven people were killed in Saturday’s shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, according to Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich.
A city official had previously told CNN 10 people were killed.
“Today, the nightmare has hit home in the city of Pittsburgh,” Hissrich said at a news conference Saturday afternoon.
[Previous story, published at 4:12 p.m. ET]
Ten people were killed in a shooting Saturday morning at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, according to Curt Conrad, chief of staff for Pittsburgh City Councilman Corey O’Connor.
The suspect has been identified as Robert Bowers, 46, law enforcement officials told CNN.
The gunman made anti-Semitic statements during the shooting, a law enforcement official said.
Social media postings targeting Jews that are believed to have come from Bowers are a focus of the investigation, a federal law enforcement official told CNN.
Shortly before the shooting, in an account on the Gab social media platform that authorities are investigating, the suspect is believed to have posted he “can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”
The Gab account has frequent anti-Semitic postings.
Four police officers were among six people wounded in the shooting, Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell D. Hissrich said.
“It’s a very horrific crime scene,” Hissrich said at a brief news conference. “It’s one of the worst I’ve seen.”
• The officers’ injuries aren’t considered life-threatening, but the other two people wounded are critical, Hissrich said. Both of those victims have been taken to trauma centers. A law enforcement official earlier told CNN at least 12 people have been shot.
•The shooter was also taken to a hospital, Hissrich told reporters.Conrad, the chief of staff for a councilman, previously told CNN the shooter surrendered and was taken to Mercy Hospital.
• “There appears to be no active threat to the community,” Hissrich said.
In one post, Bowers wrote, “HIAS likes to bring in invaders that kill our people,” referring to a Jewish refugee advocacy group that held a National Refugee Shabbat last weekend.
Bowers also posted photos on his Gab account showing his handgun collection, including multiple clips and sights.
On September 20, Bowers posted images of shooting targets he said were from July 2017. He said he was firing at the targets with a Walther PPQ handgun.
Sources told CNN investigators found weapons at the scene of the shooting and in the gunman’s car.
Shooting ‘more devastating than originally thought,’ Trump says
The FBI will be the lead investigating agency, Hissrich said. He added the shooting would be prosecuted as a hate crime, “being that it is a Jewish synagogue.”
Saturday, the bureau issued bulletins to federal, state and local law enforcement partners across the country to provide situational awareness of the Pittsburgh shooting, a law enforcement official told CNN.
The FBI is confirming to its partners that the matter is being investigated as a hate crime and the shooter is believed to have shouted anti-Semitic remarks.
According to the official, the FBI indicates there are no known specific or credible threats to other US Jewish places of worship.
President Donald Trump told reporters at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland that the shooting was a “terrible, terrible thing.”
“If there was an armed guard inside the temple, they would have been able to stop him,” Trump said before boarding a flight to Indianapolis.
Special agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are responding to the shooting, according to the ATF’s Philadelphia field office.
Anti-Semitic incidents in US surged in 2017
The Tree of Life synagogue is a Conservative Jewish congregation, according to its website. It’s in Squirrel Hill, a historic Jewish neighborhood. The synagogue has a Shabbat service at 9:45 a.m. Saturdays, the website said.
Conservative Judaism is one of the major denominations of the religion. The word “conservative” is not a political designation.
In 2017, anti-Semitic incidents in the United States surged nearly 60%, according to the Anti-Defamation League. It found 1,986 cases of harassment, vandalism or physical assault against Jews and Jewish institutions last year.
When he was the congregation’s president, security was a “major concern,” Eisenberg said.
The congregation had worked with the Department of Homeland Security to evaluate its exit routes, he said, and consulted a securities expert at the Jewish Federation about what to do in an active shooter situation.
“We were working with the other synagogues on what to do if something horrific like this happened,” he said.
Tree of Life’s former rabbi, Chuck Diamond, told KDKA, “Jews come late to services, so for a lot of people that’s probably a good thing today.”
“This is what you dread hearing,” he said, adding he was concerned for those who might have arrived at the service on time, most of whom would have been older.