The Washington Post reports that the death toll from this morning’s attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue is eleven people dead with six injured.
“This is the most horrific crime scene I’ve seen in 22 years with the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” said Robert Allan Jones, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Pittsburgh field office. “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.”
All 11 people killed were adults, Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said. Six people were also wounded, four of them police officers responding to the gunfire, he said.
The shooter reportedly shouted anti-semitic slurs as he opened fire on the congregation. The police response seems to have been remarkably fast.
Jones said that Bowers entered the synagogue, gunned down 11 people and was leaving when he encountered responding officers. He fired at an officer who was wounded and then went back into the synagogue to hide, Jones said. More officers responded, and after an exchange of gunfire, Bowers was taken to a hospital with multiple gunshot wounds, authorities said.
The killer’s social media accounts were filled with anti-semitic posts and veiled threats against Jews and HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Assistance Society.
The account that appeared to belong to Bowers was rife with bigoted messaging. His biography on the site read “jews are the children of satan” and his background photo was a radar gun reading “1488,” a popular white supremacist symbol.
For weeks, “Robert Bowers” was enraged by the national Jewish group HIAS’s efforts to hold Shabbat services for refugees, according to the archives messages.
“HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people,” the user wrote hours before the shooting. “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”
Law enforcement officials indicated that the shooter could be charged with the murders as early as today.
“Justice in this case will be swift and it will be severe,” said Scott W. Brady, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Brady said Bowers could be charged sometime Saturday for what he called a “terrible and unspeakable act of hate.”