Synagogue Shooting Suspect Robert Bowers Could Face The Death Penalty

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Sunday morning, federal prosecutors confirmed that Robert Bowers, the man suspected of killing 11 people at a synagogue Saturday morning, is facing 29 federal crimes. The maximum punishment these charges carry is the death penalty. People reports that Bowers’ charges include 11 counts of murdering people who were exercising their religion, 11 counts of using a firearm to commit a murder, and seven charges related to the Pittsburgh-area resident’s alleged attack on officers who responded to the emergency situation. Four of them were wounded.

As part of their ongoing investigation, authorities are examining social media posts believed to have been made by Bowers on Saturday morning, which are anti-Semitic in nature. Investigators have indicated that the suspect was previously unknown to police, and that there is no current threat to the public. Bowers is currently receiving treatment at a hospital for wounds inflicted by officers who confronted him at the synagogue.

Prior to the shooting, investigators believe Bowers was on a social media site named Gab. A user account — thought to be Bowers’ — had previously declared that, “Jews are the children of Satan,” and accused the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), a Jewish group that works with refugees, of “bringing in hostile invaders to live in the U.S.” The gunman also posted the following message on Saturday morning, prior to the shooting.

“I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics. I’m going in.”

U.S. Attorney Scott Brady stated that during the attack, the shooter spoke of genocide and a desire to kill Jewish people. Brady also said that Bowers was armed with an AR-15 assault rifle and three handguns at the synagogue. Affirming the gunman’s apparent anti-Semitic beliefs, police previously stated that he had yelled “all Jews must die” at the scene. The attack is being treated as a hate crime.

Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich confirmed that police received a call at 9:54 a.m. Saturday, in regards to an active shooter at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh. The synagogue had been conducting its Shabbat service when the gunman entered. He is reported to have spent about 20 minutes in the building before being engaged by a police officer as he left the premises. That officer was wounded, and the shooter went back inside the synagogue to hide from the SWAT team. Besides those killed and the four wounded officers, two people were injured. One of the wounded officers was released from the hospital Saturday, and another may be released Sunday.