Accessibility links

Breaking News

11 Killed in Gunman's Attack on Pittsburgh Synagogue

A man yelling "all Jews must die" burst into a Pittsburgh synagogue during Sabbath services Saturday, shooting indiscriminately and killing congregants in the latest mass shooting in the United States. Eleven people were killed and six were injured, city officials said.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation took the lead in the investigation, "as this falls under a hate crime,” Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich told reporters. He described the shootings inside the Tree of Life Synagogue as "one of the worst crimes I've ever seen."

Media reports identified the suspect in custody as Robert Bowers, 46, from just south of Pittsburgh. He was taken to a hospital for treatment of undisclosed injuries, authorities said.

Social media posts apparently made by Bowers indicated hatred of Jews. One message stated: "I can't wait while my people are getting slaughtered ... I'm going in."

President Donald Trump said anti-Semitism must be confronted and condemned.

"Our minds cannot comprehend the cruel hate and the twisted malice that could cause a person to unleash such terrible violence during a baby-naming ceremony — this was a baby-naming ceremony — at a sacred house of worship on the holy day of Sabbath," Trump told the National FFA Organization, formerly the Future Farmers of America, at its national convention in Indiana.

Earlier, before boarding Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Md., he called for quicker executions of those facing capital punishment for such killings.

"When people do this, they should get the penalty," he said. "They should very much bring the death penalty into vogue."

If the synagogue "had an armed guard inside, they might have been able to stop him immediately," Trump added. "They had a maniac walk in and they didn't have any protection."

Asked whether all houses of worship in America now need armed guards, Trump responded "it's certainly an option" in a "world with a lot of problems."

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf issued a statement calling the shooting "an absolute tragedy." He said he had spoken with local leaders and would provide resources to help law enforcement and first responders with the crisis.

"These senseless acts of violence are not who we are as Americans," he said.

"I was heartbroken and appalled by the murderous attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue today," said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who graduated from high school in Pennsylvania.

Several Sabbath services and a circumcision ceremony for an infant, attended by dozens of worshipers on three levels of the building, were underway in the predominately Jewish neighborhood of Squirrel Hill at 9:30 a.m. local time when the first shots were fired, congregants said.

Tree of Life traces its roots to the beginning of organized Judaism in Pittsburgh in the mid-1860s and has occupied its current building since 1946.

VOA’s Marissa Melton contributed to this report.

Facebook Forum