TV news outlets scrambled Saturday morning to cover another horrific mass shooting after at least eleven people were slain at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. The suspect, identified as 46-year-old Robert Bowers, surrendered to authorities shortly after 11 a.m. ET and is listed in “fair” condition.
The shooting unfolded at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood while Shabbat services were under way as well as a bris ceremony, according to reports by CBS O&O KDKA-TV Pittsburgh. KDKA reported that police were able to rescue a number of people in the basement of the building but four were killed there.
Bowers, an avowed anti-Semite, reportedly barricaded himself on the third floor of the building and exchanged fire with police before surrendering, according to KDKA.
Four police officers were among the others wounded during the siege, according to KDKA. Police said the death toll may yet rise.
Bowers reportedly shouted anti-Semitic statements including “all Jews must die” after bursting into the synagogue shortly after 10 a.m., according to KDKA. Squirrel Hill is described as a largely Jewish neighborhood with numerous synagogues and schools in the area. Tree of Life Synagogue is of the conservative denomination.
Bowers, whose Twitter account was deleted shortly after the deadly shooting, had an active social media account on the neo-Nazi site Gab. His biography reads, “jews are the children of satan.”
President Donald Trump condemned the shooting, saying “there must be no tolerance for anti-Semitism in America.” He also added that the synagogue would have been better protected had it had an armed guard on site. “They would have been able to stop him,” the President said.
Saturday’s massacre joins the growing list of recent shooting rampages at houses of worship. In November 2017, 26 people were killed in a shooting at a church in rural Sutherland Springs, Texas. In 2015, nine African-Americans were slain while attending a Bible study class in a racially motivated attack on a church in Charleston, S.C.
“This is likely the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States,” the ADL said in a statement. “Unfortunately, this violent attack – the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in the United States since 2014 – occurs at time when ADL has reported a historic increase in both anti-Semitic incidents and anti-Semitic online harassment.”
“This should not be happening,” Jeffrey Finkelstein, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, told KDKA. “This should not be happening in a synagogue. This should not be happening in our neighborhood in Squirrel Hill.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti spoke out about the shooting on Twitter, and said there would be increased security in places of worship in L.A. on Saturday. “LAPD is stepping up patrols around places of worship today and we are reaching out to Jewish community leaders. We mourn with #TreeOfLife community today.”