Pittsburgh synagogue gunman, 46, who screamed ‘all Jews must die!’ as he shot dead at least eight and left six injured – including four cops – after opening fire with an AR-15 before surrendering
- Robert Bowers, 46, opened fire on the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue at around 10 am on Saturday
- He slaughtered three people on the main floor then went to a smaller congregation in the basement
- There, he murdered another three people before fleeing to the third floor where he exchanged fire with police
- The gunman injured four police officers before being shot himself and surrendering to SWAT officers
- As he sprayed the worshipers with bullets, the antisemitic gunman yelled: ‘All Jews must die!’
- A man with he same name wrote antisemitic comments on Twitter an hour earlier and said ‘I’m going in’
- The synagogue was packed for a Sabbath service and a bris ceremony at the time and had no security
- President Trump described the mass shooting as a ‘shame’ and said it would not have happened if the synagogue had had an armed guard
- He focused his comments on making the ‘death penalty in vogue’ for mass shooters instead
Bowers opened fire at the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill area of Pittsburgh shortly before 10 am.
He burst through the synagogue’s doors and opened fire on a Shabbat service congregation on the main floor where around 40 to 50 people had gathered, shouting ‘all Jews must die!’.
After killing three people on the main floor, he went downstairs, where the New Light congregation was gathering in the basement and opened fire there.
After being injured himself in the crossfire, Bowers surrendered to police. He is now in custody.
His motive remains unconfirmed. A man with the same name posted on the social media site Gab an hour before the shooting that he was enraged by the influx of Jewish migrants to the US and that he was ‘going in’.
Among the six people injured were four police officers and two congregants who are clinging to life in the hospital.
None of the eight people killed have been named. Local officials described the scene as ‘horrific’ and cried as they gave an update on the shooting on Saturday afternoon.
After tweeting that the situation was ‘devastating’, President Trump said on Saturday that it would not have happened if the synagogue had had its own security.
He called for the shooter to be sentenced to death and spoke about making capital punishment ‘in vogue’.
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Paramedics race to get a victim from Saturday’s shooting to the hospital outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh
Jewish residents who live near the synagogue are pictured outside after the shooting. At least eight are dead and six are injured
Members of the community gathered outside the Tree of Life Congregation synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, on Saturday morning after an antisemitic gunman opened fire, murdering at least eight and injuring several others
Rabbi Hazzan Jeffrey Myers, who was likely leading the Sabbath service, is pictured after escaping from the gunman on Saturday morning
EMTS work at the scene of a mass shooting on Saturday morning at the Tree of Life Congregation synagogue. At least eight people are dead and more are injured
The horror began unfolding on Saturday shortly after the 9.45am services began. In addition to the Sabbath service, a bris was scheduled for the morning and had attracted additional worshipers.
Bowers started his killing in the main chapel where the Tree of Life congregants were gathered. He shot indiscriminately, according to survivors, then made his way down to the basement where one of the other two groups was.
After killing seven people between those two floors, he made his way to the third floor.
By then, SWAT teams had arrived at the scene. They engaged in a gunfight with him and four cops were shot in the process. None are thought to have suffered life-threatening injuries.
Bowers was injured in the battle and surrendered to police by crawling to them. He was taken to the hospital.
Speaking afterward, Wendell Hissnich, Pittsburgh Director of Public Safety, fought back tears as he described the scene inside.
‘It’s a very horrific crime scene. It’s one of the worst that I have seen and I have been on plane crashes. It is very bad,’ he said.
One woman, whose daughter was inside at the time, told CNN: ‘They heard the shots and they all, her friend’s mom and dad and son, they just all ran downstairs I guess and barricaded themselves in the basement.
‘They kept hearing gunfire and everything else.’
Another man rushed to the scene to try to get his elderly father-in-law to safety. He told reporters: ‘My father-in-law was inside, I got married in this place, this is crazy.
‘This is unbelievable. People have to stop the hate. They have to stop.’
President Trump spoke about the atrocity as he boarded Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews. He asked why the synagogue did not have its own security and suggested that fewer would have died had an armed guard been stationed there.
People hug outside the synagogue on Saturday morning after the shooting
Police and EMTs are pictured outside the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, on Saturday after an antisemitic gunman opened fire, murdering at least eight people and injuring many others
Armed police are pictured entering the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, on Saturday after a shooting which claimed at least eight lives
SWAT teams are pictured at the Tree of Life Congregation synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, on Saturday after a shooter opened fire
The scene at the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, on Saturday
‘We can look at it two ways. But if they had somebody to protect people… isn’t it a shame that we even have to speak that way?
‘That we even have to think that way inside a temple… but certainly the results should have been better,’ he said.
Asked if he thinks every place of worship should have armed security, Trump replied: ‘I hate to think of it that way.
‘It’s certainly an option. This world, this is a world with a lot of problems and it has been for many years, many many years, and you could say for many centuries but certainly, you want protection and they didn’t have protection.
‘They had a maniac walk in and the didn’t have any protection and it’s so sad to see. So sad to see.
‘It’s a very difficult thing for me to stand as president and watch.
‘Before I ran for office, I watched instances like this and I’d say, “what a shame, what a shame.” It’s tougher when you’re the president of the United States and you have to watch this kind of thing happen. It’s so sad to see.’
Police rapid response team members at the scene of the shooting on Saturday. Some were engaged in a gunfight with the shooter before he was taken into custody
Squirrel Hill residents return to their home arm in arm after going to the synagogue to see what had happened after the shooting on Saturday morning
An armed police officer at the scene of the shooting on Saturday after the suspect had been taken into custody
He praised the ‘outstanding’ law enforcement and said the gunman was able to get access when he shouldn’t have been because of the lack of security.
President Trump spoke at Joint Air Base Andrews (above) to describe the shooting as a ‘shame’ which he said would not have happened had the synagogue had its own security team
‘You look at the violence all over the world. It comes back in the form of a madman, a wacko. We should stiffen up our laws in terms of the death penalty, they shouldn’t have to wait years and years.
Vice President Mike Pence later said: ‘What happened in Pittsburgh today was not just criminal, it was evil.
‘An attack on innocent Americans and an assault on our freedom of religion.
‘There is no place in America for violence or antisemitism and this evil must end.’
There was no security at the Tree of Life on Saturday, with former synagogue leaders describing how it operates an open-door policy for worshipers and only puts security on for significant holidays despite fears among community leaders that such a shooting was on the horizon.
‘On a day today the door is open you can walk in an out. Like most religious institutions, we have an open door,’ the synagogue’s former president, Michael Eisenberg, told CBS Pittsburgh.
He added that security had been a ‘major’ concern for him in the past and that he was working with the government to improve escape routes and emergency procedures.
‘It was a major concern for me, for us.
‘We were working with the DHS to evaluate exit routes, I just spoke to our maintenance person who was able to get out.
The scene remained taped off on Saturday as the investigation into the shooting continued
Former rabbi Chuck Diamond said on Saturday that he always feared there would be a shooting at the synagogue when he worked there
‘We were working with the other synagogues on what to do if this happened,’ he said.
He said of the building’s maintenance man, who witnessed Saturday’s shooting and escaped through one of the exit doors,: ‘He was shaken, he saw one of our congregants down, he knew, he was in the bathroom and he was able to get out of the building.’
A former rabbi said he was grateful that many of the congregants often arrived late for morning services and that he was grateful on this occasion.
‘I thought about it all the time I have to tell you when I was there I always had the thought in the back of my had unfortunately in the world we live in,’ the former rabbi said.
The area was put on lockdown, with many residents living nearby told to lock their doors and not go outside. Witnesses are still being interviewed by police at the scene.
He was ‘crawling’ and injured before he was arrested.
President Trump tweeted first that he was aware of the unfolding scenario, writing: ‘Watching the events unfolding in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
‘Law enforcement on the scene.
‘People in Squirrel Hill area should remain sheltered. Looks like multiple fatalities. Beware of an active shooter. God Bless All!’