Three days after a shooter opened fire at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11, President Donald Trump visited the site of the shooting and a hospital where some of the injured are recovering.
When asked the day before what his goal in traveling to the city was, Trump told Fox News that he was going there to pay his respects.
“I would have done it sooner, but I didn’t want to disrupt any more than they had disruption,” he said.
Traveling with him were son-in-law Jared Kushner, who was raised Jewish; daughter Ivanka Trump, who converted to Judaism when she married Kushner; and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who also is Jewish. First Lady Melania Trump, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, and Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Bill Shine also accompanied the president.
On Oct. 27, a lone gunman, identified as 46-year-old Robert Bowers, allegedly walked into Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, the heart of the city’s tight-knit Jewish community, and reportedly yelled anti-Semitic slurs. With an assault rifle and three handguns, he opened fire on the congregation attending a service there, one of three in the building, shortly before 10 a.m. After the attack, Bower told an officer, “I just want to kill Jews,” according to a federal affidavit.
Men and women were among the dead, of whom the youngest was 54 and the oldest, 97. Four of the six who were injured are police officers.
Bowers appeared in a federal courtroom Oct. 29, where he was ordered held without bond. He was charged with 29 federal counts that include obstructing the free exercise of religious belief resulting in death and using a firearm to commit murder, which could lead to his execution if found guilty.
Federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Trump has said he believes that Bowers, as well as others who commit such crimes, should receive the death penalty.
“This is the worst form of terror,” he told reporters on Oct. 27. “They have to pay the ultimate sacrifice.”
Vice President Mike Pence on Oct. 30 called the shooting “evil” and said federal prosecutors have promised that justice will be “swift and severe.”
“We will not let anti-Semitism take hold in the United States of America,” he told Politico.
The presidential entourage first stopped at the Tree of Life synagogue, although they couldn’t go past the vestibule because it’s still an active crime scene. They were greeted at the door by Rabbi Jeffrey Meyers, who told CNN the day before “the president of the United States is always welcome.”
Walking with Meyers to a memorial outside the synagogue, the president placed stones and the first lady set white flowers atop markers dedicated to the 11 who died. They next went to the UPMC Presbyterian hospital, where Trump was scheduled to greet hospital staffers who treated the wounded, and the four wounded officers, along with their family and friends.
Immediately following the attack, Trump called the officers “very brave” and “unsung heroes.”
“These are incredible people of law enforcement,” he said during a convention in Indiana. “And law enforcement does so much for us. … These are incredible patriots, incredible people.”
He pledged to give the investigation into the shooting the “complete resources of my administration,” and said he had already been in contact with the governor of Pennsylvania and the mayor of Pittsburgh.
“We must all rise above the hate, move past our divisions, and embrace our common destiny as Americans,” he said. “And it doesn’t mean that we can’t fight hard and be strong, and say what’s on our mind. But we have to always remember those elements; we have to remember the elements of love and dignity and respect.”