Pittsburgh shooting: Victims of synagogue attack named

The names of the 11 people killed in Saturday’s attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh have been released, with the oldest aged 97.

Two brothers and a husband and wife were among those killed. Six people were injured, including four policemen.

The suspect, Robert Bowers, 46, is in custody and faces 29 criminal counts in what is thought to be the worst anti-Semitic attack in recent US history.

Mayor Bill Peduto said this was the

“darkest day of Pittsburgh’s history”.

President Donald Trump has called the attack a

“wicked act of mass murder”.

Who are the victims?

The ages of the 11 victims ranged from 54 to 97. They are:

  • Joyce Feinberg, 75
  • Richard Gottfried, 65
  • Rose Mallinger, 97
  • Jerry Rabinowitz, 66
  • Cecil Rosenthal, 59
  • David Rosenthal, 54, brother of Cecil
  • Bernice Simon, 84
  • Sylvan Simon, 86, husband of Bernice
  • Daniel Stein, 71
  • Melvin Wax, 88
  • Irving Younger, 69

What is the latest from Pittsburgh?

The names were read out by officials at a press briefing on Sunday morning.

Crowds sing at a vigil in Pittsburgh

Other details from the briefing:

  • The gun suspect used three Glock 57 handguns and an AR-15 assault rifle
  • He made statements regarding genocide and a desire to kill Jewish people
  • 22 of the 29 counts against the defendant are punishable by death
  • The suspect is in fair condition with multiple gunshot wounds. There is nothing to indicate any accomplices
  • The suspect’s home and car have been searched
  • The suspect will appear in court on Monday
  • The families are in shock and the media are asked to give them space
  • There are extra patrols around sensitive areas in the city
  • One injured officer was released from hospital on Saturday, another should be released on Sunday
  • Mayor Peduto said: “To the victims’ families and friends – we will be here to help you through this horrific episode – the darkest day of Pittsburgh’s history. We as a society are better than this, we know that hatred will never win out.”

What are the charges?

The 29 charges were announced in a statement issued by the US Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Pennsylvania:

  • Eleven counts of obstruction of exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death
  • Eleven counts of use of a firearm to commit murder during and in relation to a crime of violence
  • Four counts of obstruction of exercise of religious beliefs resulting in bodily injury to a public safety officer
  • Three counts of use and discharge of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence

How did the shooting unfold?

On Saturday morning, worshippers had gathered at the Tree of Life synagogue for a baby naming ceremony during the Sabbath.

Squirrel Hill has one of the largest Jewish populations in Pennsylvania and this would have been the synagogue’s busiest day of the week.

Police audio of the moment the suspect is captured

Police said they received first calls about an active shooter at 09:54 local time (13:54 GMT), and sent officers to the scene a minute later.

According to reports, Mr Bowers, a white male, entered the building during the morning service armed with an assault rifle and three handguns.

The gunman had already shot dead 11 people and was leaving the synagogue after about 20 minutes when he encountered Swat officers and exchanged fire with them, FBI agent Robert Jones said.

The attacker then moved back into the building to try to hide from the police.

He surrendered after a shootout.

The Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue, Pittsburgh
The Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Image copyright: Google.

The crime scene was “horrific”, Pittsburgh’s Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich told reporters.

“One of the worst I’ve seen, and I’ve [worked] on some plane crashes. It’s very bad.”

What do we know about the gunman?

US media said he had shouted “All Jews must die” as he carried out the attack.

Social media posts by someone with the name Robert Bowers were also reported to be full of anti-Semitic comments.

Suspected attacker Robert Bowers
Suspected attacker Robert Bowers. Image copyright: AFP/Getty Images

FBI special agent Bob Jones told a press conference that Mr Bowers did not appear to be known to authorities prior to the attack.

‘Grief and hurt’

Gary O’Donoghue, BBC News, Pittsburgh

People at a vigil in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill
People lit candles as they mourned the victims of the attack. Image copyright: Getty Images.

In the dwindling light, and with the cold autumn rain falling, hundreds gathered in front of the 6th Presbyterian church just a few streets away from the Tree of Life Synagogue.

Holding their candles, they sang the Jewish prayer of healing.

The elders in the community had wanted to wait a day before holding the vigil, but the young people said no – they wanted an immediate chance to share their grief and voice their hurt.

Fifteen-year-old Sophia Levin declared that she was a different Jew today to the one she was yesterday. Anti-Semitism, she said, had been something she thought happened elsewhere and in earlier times; but now she knew it was right here, right now.

Some of these young people have been involved in the student gun control movement that sprang up after the Parkland shooting earlier this year.

One of them, Rebecca Glickman, told the crowd that gun control was needed now more than ever.

She told me that an anti-Semite with a gun is more dangerous than an anti-Semite without a gun, so that’s a good place to start.

What has been President Trump’s reaction?

He described the gunman as a “maniac” and suggested the US should:

“stiffen up our laws of the death penalty”.

“These people should pay the ultimate price. This has to stop,” he said.

Mr Trump said he would visit Pittsburgh soon and had ordered US flags at government buildings to be flown at half-mast until 31 October.

He added that the shooting had “little to do” with US gun laws.

“If they had protection inside, maybe it could have been a different situation.”

Former US President Barack Obama voiced a different position on the ongoing gun law debate, tweeting:

“We have to stop making it so easy for those who want to harm the innocent to get their hands on a gun.”

What’s Donald Trump said about guns and gun control?

What about other reaction?

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said in a statement that the incident was an “absolute tragedy” and that such acts of violence could not be accepted as “normal”.

Map of Pittsburgh

Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a Jewish non-governmental organisation that fights anti-Semitism, said he was “devastated”.

We believe this is the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States,” he said in a statement.

World leaders also condemned the attack, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who said he was “heartbroken and appalled”, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel who said: “We all have to stand up against anti-Semitism, everywhere.”


First Published 28.10.18: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-46010087

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