PITTSBURGH (Reuters): A gunman yelling, “All Jews must die,” stormed a Pittsburgh synagogue during Saturday services, killing 11 worshippers and wounding six other people including four police officers, before he was arrested.
Robert Bowers, 46, of Pittsburgh, was taken into custody after a shootout with a SWAT team. Federal prosecutors charged him with 29 criminal counts including violence and firearms offenses, and violating U.S. civil rights laws.
“The actions of Robert Bowers represent the worst of humanity. We are dedicating the entire resources of my office to this federal hate crime investigation and prosecution,” US attorney for western Pennsylvania Scott Brady told reporters.
Earlier, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said federal prosecutors could seek the death penalty.
FBI special agent Bob Jones said the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is leading the probe, said the crime scene was the worst he had seen in 22 years with the FBI. He said he believed Bowers was acting alone, adding: “We have no knowledge that he was known to law enforcement before today.”
KDKA television cited police sources as saying Bowers walked into the building and yelled “All Jews must die.”
Bowers had made many anti-Semitic posts online, including one early on Saturday. In another, he slammed US President Donald Trump for doing nothing to stop an “infestation” of the United States by Jews.
Jones said Bowers was armed with an assault rifle and three handguns. He said authorities believed the suspect entered the synagogue, murdered the worshippers and was leaving when he encountered a uniformed police officer. The pair exchanged gunfire, Jones said, and Bowers reentered the building before a SWAT team arrived. After a shootout, he surrendered.
Bowers was taken to a hospital where he was listed in fair condition with multiple gunshot wounds. Victims taken to area hospitals included a 61-year-old woman, a 70-year-old man, and a 55-year-old officer. No children were killed, authorities said.
Three police officers were shot and one was injured by shrapnel, authorities said. Two of the six people injured were in critical condition.