PITTSBURGH — As Robert Bowers, the person accused of killing 11 congregants in a hate-filled assault on a Pittsburgh synagogue, ready to make his first courtroom look on Monday, survivors and family members of the victims had been nonetheless struggling to come back to phrases with the enormity of the loss.
The assault ended when the gunman, wounded and crawling on his knees, surrendered to law enforcement officials. He “wanted all Jews to die,” he instructed a SWAT officer then, the authorities mentioned, as a result of Jews “were committing genocide against his people.”
The victims of the assault, beloved members of one of many nation’s very important Jewish communities, had been principally of their 70s and 80s.
Mr. Bowers was scheduled to look earlier than a federal choose on Monday at 1:30 p.m. Federal officers have charged him with 29 legal counts, included obstructing the free train of non secular beliefs — a hate crime, which may carry the loss of life penalty, a sentence that federal authorities mentioned Sunday they meant to pursue. He additionally faces state expenses.
[Learn extra about the capturing suspect, who ceaselessly reposted anti-Semitic content material on social media.]
Mr. Bowers, a 46-year-old with no legal file whose social media feed was riddled with anti-Semitic rants, is accused of finishing up a bloodbath within the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, the guts of Jewish life in Pittsburgh that’s residence to a couple of quarter of town’s Jewish households. It was one of many worst assaults towards the Jewish group in the US in many years.
On Monday, survivors had been nonetheless coming to phrases with what occurred. Till two months in the past, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of the Tree of Life synagogue not often carried his cellphone with him on the sabbath, the holiest day of the week on which some Jewish people keep away from know-how and electronics. However in August, a safety skilled instructed him that “it was a different world” and that he wanted to have his cellphone close by.
Due to that coaching, the rabbi was the primary particular person to name the police on Saturday. He stayed on the cellphone for 20 minutes, till SWAT evacuated him.
“I learned a number of important things from him,” Rabbi Myers mentioned in regards to the safety coaching in August in an interview on Monday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “He said, ‘Rabbi, it’s a different world and you need to carry it.’ I’m so grateful for his presence and teaching me.”
Rabbi Myers mentioned that about 5 minutes after the Saturday service began at 9:45 a.m., he heard a loud sound within the foyer on the ground beneath. It gave the impression of a coat rack had fallen, he recalled. However then one other loud bang rang out.
“It was apparent to me,” he mentioned, “that it was not the sound of a piece of metal falling down.” He added, “it was rapid fire.”
Rabbi Myers mentioned a couple of dozen people had been within the sanctuary when the firing began, and he yelled for everybody to drop to the bottom and keep quiet. He started evacuating the congregants, beginning with a handful of people on the entrance of the sanctuary. He moved them to security. There have been nonetheless eight people nonetheless within the room, all within the rear, nevertheless it was too late to assist them, he mentioned.
The gunfire was getting louder. The gunman was transferring nearer to the sanctuary.
“There was no way for me to get back,” he mentioned.
Seven of the eight people had been killed, he mentioned. The one who survived, a lady, was wounded however anticipated to reside.
“I live with that, the sounds that are seared in my brain for the rest of my life,” Rabbi Myers mentioned on CNN. “I have a congregation to take care of. I have families that need me. I have funerals to plan.”
On Sunday night time the Justice Department mentioned that the US lawyer for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Scott Brady, had initiated the approval course of for searching for the loss of life penalty towards Mr. Bowers. The last word choice rested with Legal professional Common Jeff Classes.
All capital punishment circumstances undergo the Justice Department’s capital case part, which was created in 1998 to assist the lawyer basic determine when to make use of capital punishment.
The part’s half a dozen or so prosecutors have labored with United States lawyer’s workplaces on prosecutions like that of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of many Boston Marathon bombers, and Dylann S. Roof, who murdered 9 people at an African-American church in South Carolina.