News & Politics

Update: 11 Dead in Synagogue Shooting; Suspect Had 'Assault Rifle and Three Handguns,' Authorities Say

People watch as first responders move through the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh where a shooter opened fire during services at the Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Law enforcement officials gave additional insight into Saturday’s shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue in an afternoon press conference.

Pittsburgh public safety director Wendell Hissrich told reporters, “There were 11 fatalities as a result of the shooting incident” perpetrated by Robert Bowers, 46, of Pittsburgh. Hissrich added, “There were no children” among the victims.

“At 9:55 this morning,” Hissrich said, “calls were received at the Allegheny County Emergency Operations Center that an active shooter was inside the building.”

“Apparently, an initial contact between the subject and the officers occurred, injuring two of the officers. Two additional officers were injured during the altercation — those were SWAT officers,” he continued. “Multiple agencies responded to this incident this morning and without their courage, this tragedy would have been far worse.”

In addition to the 11 fatalities, there were six people injured, including four police officers, he said. That number does not include the suspect.

Pittsburgh police chief Scott Schubert said that he arrived at the scene shortly after the shooting. “Watching those officers run into the danger to remove people to get them to safety was unbelievable,” he said, noting that the injured officers and SWAT team members are in stable condition at area hospitals.

FBI Special Agent Bob Jones described the attack as the “most horrific crime scene I’ve seen in 22 years with the FBI.” Members of the Tree of Life synagogue “conducting a peaceful service in their place of worship were brutally murdered by a gunman targeting them simply because of their faith,” he said.

Gov. Tom Wolf announced that the shooting is being investigated as a hate crime. “Shabbat is a time for reflection, a time for peace, not for violence,” he said.

Bowers reportedly shouted “All Jews must die” during the shooting, although that has not been confirmed by law enforcement. His social media feeds are filled with anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant rants.

U.S. Attorney for Western Pennsylvania Scott Brady said, “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.” He declared that “justice will be swift and it will be severe.”

Brady’s remarks were followed by those of Dr. Donald Yealy from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. He said that three specially trained physicians were immediately dispatched to the scene of the crime to administer treatment to the victims. Patients were then transported to three different Pittsburg-area hospitals. UPMC is currently treating a 61-year-old female, a 70-year old male, a 55-year-old police officer, plus another officer whose age was not known. A 27-year-old police officer was sent to UPMC Mercy, Yealy said.

According to law enforcement officials, the attack lasted approximately 20 minutes. The suspect was found with an “assault rifle” and “at least three handguns” at the scene,” according to Special Agent Jones. Bowers is currently in fair condition at Allegheny General Hospital with “multiple body wounds.”

After murdering the 11 Jewish worshippers, Bowers was in the process of leaving the synagogue when a Pittsburg police officer engaged him. Bowers wounded the officer and went back into the synagogue to hide from SWAT officers who were moving toward the scene. He was taken into custody at the synagogue and then transported to the hospital for treatment of his injuries.

Authorities expect to charge Bowers as early as this afternoon.

Watch the press conference: 

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An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that the suspect had two handguns. The article was also updated to include additional comments from law enforcement officials.