Pittsburgh Synagogue Victims Include 97-Year-Old Woman, Pair of Brothers

By Reuters
October 28, 2018 Updated: October 28, 2018

PITTSBURGH–A 97-year-old woman, two brothers, and a couple in their 80s were among the 11 worshippers slain at a Pittsburgh synagogue, in the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history, officials said Oct. 28.

The suspected gunman, 46-year-old Robert Bowers of Pittsburgh, stormed the building during a morning service on Oct. 27. He also wounded six others, including four police officers, before being arrested.

Bowers, who had made anti-Semitic posts online and shouted about killing Jewish people during the attack, has been charged with federal hate crimes and could face the death penalty. He will appear before a judge on Oct. 29, U.S. Attorney Scott Brady said at a news conference.

“The fact that this attack took place during a worship service makes it even more heinous,” Brady said.

The Tree of Life synagogue in the city’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, a heavily Jewish area, was holding a Shabbat religious service when the gunman burst in.

Five of the victims lived in Squirrel Hill, and the rest were from other Pittsburgh neighborhoods and communities surrounding the city.

The mass shooting prompted security alerts at houses of worship around the country, and condemnation from politicians and religious leaders.

“We’ll get through this darkest day of Pittsburgh history by working together,” Mayor Bill Peduto told reporters.

The 11 people killed were identified as Rose Mallinger, 97; David and Cecil Rosenthal, 54 and 59-year-old brothers; Sylvan Simon, 86, and his wife, Bernice Simon, 84; Joyce Fienberg, 75; Richard Gottfried, 65; Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, Daniel Stein, 71, Melvin Wax, 88, and Irving Younger, 69, according to officials.

President Donald Trump told reporters in Illinois on Oct. 27 that “the country feels terribly” about the anti-Semitic attack and encouraged Americans to not let the attack change their lives.

“You can’t let these evil people change your life, change your schedules, change anything. It’s too important. What you do has to stay that way and you cannot let them become important. You just can’t do it,” Trump said.

“This is just a horrible, horrible event,” he added. “It’s a level of terribleness and horror that you can’t even believe. It’s hard to believe.”

The president said that Bowers, and killers in similar cases, should get the death penalty.

“They should pay the ultimate price,” he said. “It’s a terrible thing what’s going on with hate in our country.”

Trump ordered that the U.S. flags at the White House and public buildings be flown at half-staff. He also said he would visit Pittsburgh.

Officers responded to a call about an active shooter within minutes and encountered Bowers as he exited the building. Synagogue officials said police would only normally have been on premises for security on high holidays.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told Fox News Sunday that DHS officials visited the Pittsburgh synagogue in March to provide training on active-shooter responses.

FBI Special Agent Robert Jones said Bowers was armed with an assault rifle and three handguns. Jones added that he didn’t know why Bowers picked the particular synagogue for his attack.

Authorities believed the suspect entered the synagogue, opened fire on the worshippers and was leaving when he encountered a uniformed police officer, Jones said. The pair exchanged gunfire, Jones said, and Bowers re-entered the building before a SWAT team arrived.

Bowers surrendered and was taken to a hospital, where he was listed in fair condition with multiple gunshot wounds.

Federal prosecutors charged Bowers late on Oct 27 with 29 criminal counts, including violating U.S. civil-rights laws.

Several of the charges could lead to the death penalty.

‘I’m Going In’

Bowers had made many anti-Semitic posts online, including one early on Oct. 27. In another, he slammed Trump for doing nothing to stop what he called an “infestation” of the United States by Jews.

A social media post by Bowers on the morning of Oct. 27 said a Jewish refugee organization, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, “likes to bring invaders in that kill our people.”

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

On Oct. 27, Trump called the shooting an act of pure evil and called on Americans to rise above hatred.

KDKA television in Pittsburgh cited police sources as saying Bowers walked into the building and yelled, “All Jews must die.”

The Anti-Defamation League and Jewish Council for Public Affairs described the attack as deadliest on Jews in the history of the United States.

On April 13, 2014, a pair of shootings occurred at a Jewish Community Center and a Jewish retirement community, both located in Overland Park, Kansas. A total of three people were killed in the shootings. In 2015, a white supremacist murdered nine African-Americans during a prayer service in Charleston, South Carolina.

In 2012, a neo-Nazi gunman with white supremacist ties walked into a Sikh gurdwara—or house of worship—in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and murdered six Sikh-Americans.

In Israel, cabinet ministers stood for a moment of silence on Oct. 28 to honor the victims of the shooting.

By Jessica Resnick-Ault and Chriss Swaney. Epoch Times reporters Jack Phillips, Tom Ozimek, and Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.