UPDATE: 11 dead in Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

Police near a Pittsburgh synagogue where multiple people were shot (WPXI-TV)

A shooter opened fire during a baby naming ceremony at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday, killing 11 people.

Posted: Oct 27, 2018 10:29 AM
Updated: Oct 27, 2018 4:07 PM

4:00 p.m.

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A shooter opened fire during a baby naming ceremony at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday, killing 11 people.
At least six other people were wounded, including four police officers who dashed to the scene, authorities said.
Police said a suspect was in custody after the attack at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood. A law enforcement official identified the suspect as Robert Bowers and said he is in his 40s. The official wasn't authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Bob Jones, the special agent in charge of the FBI's office in Pittsburgh, said investigators Bowers was not known to law enforcement and that they believe he was acting alone. He said Bowers' full motive still isn't known.
The social media site Gab.com said the alleged shooter had a profile on its website, which is popular with far-right extremists. The company said the account was verified after the shooting and matched the name of the gunman.
A man with the same name posted on Gab before the shooting that "HIAS 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."
HIAS is a nonprofit group that helps refugees around the world find safety and freedom. The organization says it is guided by Jewish values and history.
Bowers also recently posted a photo of a collection of three semi-automatic handguns he titled "my glock family," a reference to the firearms manufacturer. He also posted photos of bullet holes in person-sized targets at a firing range, touting the "amazing trigger" on a handgun he was offering for sale.
City officials said the shooting was being investigated as a federal hate crime. It comes amid a rash of high-profile attacks in an increasingly divided country, including the series of pipe bombs mailed over the past week to prominent Democrats and former officials.
The shooting also immediately reignited the longstanding national debate about guns: President Donald Trump said the outcome might have been different if the synagogue "had some kind of protection" from an armed guard, while Pennsylvania's Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf noted that once again "dangerous weapons are putting our citizens in harm's way."
The people who provided the death toll spoke to The Associated Press anonymously because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the shooting.
The attack took place during a baby naming ceremony, according to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. It was unknown whether the baby was harmed.
"It is a very horrific crime scene. It's one of the worst that I've seen and I've been on some plane crashes," said a visibly moved Wendell Hissrich, the Pittsburgh public safety director.
The synagogue is located in the tree-lined residential neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, about 10 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh and the hub of Pittsburgh's Jewish community.
Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive officer of the Anti-Defamation League, said the group believes it is the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history.
"Our hearts break for the families of those killed and injured at the Tree of Life Synagogue, and for the entire Jewish community of Pittsburgh," Greenblatt said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was "heartbroken and appalled" by the attack.
"The entire people of Israel grieve with the families of the dead," Netanyahu said. "We stand together with the Jewish community of Pittsburgh. We stand together with the American people in the face of this horrendous anti-Semitic brutality. And we all pray for the speedy recovery of the wounded."
World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder called the shooting "an attack not just on the Jewish community, but on America as a whole."
Trump called the shooting a "wicked act of mass murder" that "is pure evil, hard to believe and frankly something that is unimaginable."
Trump has at times been accused by critics of failing to adequately condemn hate, such as when he blamed "both sides" for the violence at a Charlottesville white supremacist rally.
On Saturday, he said that anti-Semitism "must be confronted anywhere and everywhere it appears."
In 2010, Tree of Life Congregation — founded more than 150 years ago — merged with Or L'Simcha to form Tree of Life (asterisk) Or L'Simcha.
The synagogue is a fortress-like concrete building, its facade punctuated by rows of swirling, modernistic stained-glass windows illustrating the story of creation, the acceptance of God's law, the "life cycle" and "how human-beings should care for the earth and one another," according to its website. Among its treasures is a "Holocaust Torah," rescued from Czechoslovakia.
Its sanctuary can hold up to 1,250 guests.
Michael Eisenberg, the immediate past president of the Tree of Life Synagogue, lives about a block from the building.
He was getting ready for services when he received a phone call from a member who works with Pittsburgh's Emergency Services, saying he had been notified through scanner and other communications that there was an active shooter at their synagogue.
"I ran out of the house without changing and I saw the street blocked with police cars. It was a surreal scene. And someone yelled, 'Get out of here.' I realized it was a police officer along the side of the house. ... I am sure I know all of the people, all of the fatalities. I am just waiting to see," Eisenberg said.
He said officials at the synagogue had not gotten any threats that he knew of prior to the shooting. The synagogue maintenance employees had recently checked all of the emergency exits and doors to make sure they were cleared and working.
"I spoke to a maintenance person who was in the building and heard the shots. He was able to escape through one of the side exit doors we had made sure was functioning," Eisenberg said.
Jeff Finkelstein of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh said local synagogues have done "lots of training on things like active shooters, and we've looked at hardening facilities as much as possible."
"This should not be happening, period," he told reporters at the scene. "This should not be happening in a synagogue."
Just three days before the shooting, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers posted a column on the congregation's website, noting that people make time to attend funerals, but not for life's happy occasions.
"There is a story told in the Talmud of a wedding procession and a funeral procession heading along parallel roads, with the roads intersecting," Myers wrote on Wednesday. "The question asked is: when they meet at the fork, which procession goes first, funeral or wedding? The correct answer is wedding, as the joy of the couple takes precedence. In fact, the funeral procession is to move out of sight so that their joy is not lessened."
Myers ended his column with words that now seem all too prescient.
"We value joy so much in Judaism that upon taking our leave from a funeral or a shiva house, the customary statement one makes (in Yiddish) is 'nor oyf simches' - only for s'machot," Myers wrote. "While death is inevitable and a part of life, we still take our leave with the best possible blessing, to meet at joyous events. And so I say to you: nor oyf simches!"


Pittsburgh synagogue where multiple people were shot (WPXI-TV)

Scene near a Pittsburgh synagogue shooting (WPXI-TV)

2:30 p.m.
President Donald Trump says "a lot of people" were killed in the shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue Saturday and it "looks definitely like it's an anti-Semitic crime."
Trump tells reporters at the airport in Indianapolis that what "happened today is a horrible, horrible thing."
He says the FBI is now involved and there were "a lot of people killed" and "a lot of people very badly wounded." He also says the crime scene is one of the worst many professionals have seen.
Police have a suspect in custody after Saturday's attack at the Tree of Life Congregation.
A shooter opened fire during a baby-naming ceremony, killing an unknown number of people and wounding six others, including four police officers who dashed to the scene.
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2:15 p.m.
Shocked reactions are pouring in in response to the deadly shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, is deploring "another horrific act of hate at a house of worship."
He says the Saturday morning shooting is reminiscent of "the slaughter of nine African American worshippers at Charleston's Mother Emmanuel Church in 2015, the killings of six Sikh worshippers at a temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, in 2014, and, of course, the bombing of Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963 that left four young African American girls dead."
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt has tweeted: "We are devastated. Jews targeted on Shabbat morning at synagogue, a holy place of worship, is unconscionable. Our hearts break for the victims, their families, and the entire Jewish community."
___
1:50 p.m.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has condemned the attack on Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue.
"I was heartbroken and appalled by the murderous attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue today," Netanyahu said in a video message posted on Twitter shortly after the attack, which has killed at least two people and injured six.
Netanyahu says all of Israel is grieving with the families of the dead.
He adds: "We stand together with the Jewish community of Pittsburgh. We stand together with the American people in the face of this horrendous anti-Semitic brutality. And we all pray for the speedy recovery of the wounded."
Netanyahu posted the same message in Hebrew on Twitter minutes later.
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1:30 p.m.
A law enforcement official has identified the suspect in a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue as Robert Bowers.
The official said Bowers was in his 40s.
The official wasn't authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Authorities said the gunman opened fire during a baby naming ceremony Saturday morning at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood.
City officials said six people, including four police officers, were injured. They said several people were also killed.
The synagogue is located about 10 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh in a neighborhood that is the hub of Pittsburgh's Jewish community.
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1:25 p.m.
City officials say the shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh is being investigated as a federal hate crime.
A visibly moved Wendell Hissrich, Pittsburgh's Public Safety Director, says six people were injured, including four police officers.
Hissrich called it "a very horrific crime scene" and said it is one of the worst he has seen, including some plane crashes.
Hissrich says there is no active threat to this community now that the shooter has been taken into custody.
__

1:10 p.m.
Pennsylvania's Attorney General Josh Shapiro is saying that the shooter at the synagogue in Pittsburgh 'shooter claimed innocent lives — and injured first responders — at a baby naming.'
Three officers were shot in the Saturday morning attack at the Tree of Life Congregation in the city's Squirrel Hill neighborhood, and a local hospital said it was treating multiple victims.
It was not immediately known how many people had been injured or killed, though Shapiro's statement appeared to show that at least two people had died.

12:50 p.m.

President Donald Trump is responding to what he's calling the "devastating" shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, saying: "It's a 'terrible thing what's going on with hate in our country."
Trump spoke to reporters at Andrews Air Force Base before traveling to Indianapolis.
He told reporters the violence "has to stop."
Trump also said the outcome might have been different if the synagogue "had some kind of protection" from an armed guard and suggested that might be a good idea for all churches and synagogues.
He also said such shooters should receive the death penalty and "suffer the ultimate price."
Three officers were shot in the Saturday morning attack at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood. It was not immediately known how many people had been shot or killed.
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12:30 p.m.

Israel is expressing its shock and concern and offering assistance to the local community following the shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Minister Naftali Bennett, Israel's Cabinet minister for diaspora affairs, made the comments following a Saturday morning shooting that police say has left several people dead.
Bennet says he is "following the news with concern," and has instructed Israel's Ministry of Diaspora Affairs to prepare to assist the community in every possible way.
He adds: "Our hearts go out to the families of those killed and injured. May the memory of the murdered be blessed."

12:15 p.m.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center system says it's treating multiple victims from a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue.
Paul Wood, the chief communications officer for the hospital system, said the patients are receiving care at UPMC Presbyterian, but he would not say how many.
Pittsburgh police say a shooter is in custody after an attack at the Tree of Life synagogue that left multiple casualties, including several injured officers.

___
12:05 p.m.
Pittsburgh's sports teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Penguins, are expressing their condolences for the deadly shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Authorities say the Saturday morning shooting caused "multiple casualties," and a suspect is in custody.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Pittsburgh Penguins are saying in separate statements on their Twitter pages that their "thoughts and prayers" are with all those affected by the shooting.
A police spokesman says police have no more information at this time because they were still trying to clear the building and determine if any more threats exist.

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11:50 a.m.
President Donald Trump says he's been monitoring a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue that police say has left multiple people dead.
In a tweet Saturday, Trump encouraged people to shelter in place and says "looks like multiple fatalities."
Trump ended the tweet by saying "God Bless All!"
The shooting happened at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the city's Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

11:13 a.m.

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Police said a suspect was in custody after a shooting caused "multiple casualties" at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday.
Three officers were also shot in the attack at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood.
It was not immediately known how many people had been shot, whether there were any fatalities or what the shooter's motive was.
Police spokesman Chris Togneri said police have no more information at this time because they were still trying to clear the building and determine if any more threats exist.
The synagogue is located at the intersection of Wilkins and Shady avenues. The tree-lined residential neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, about 10 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh, is the hub of Pittsburgh's Jewish community.
Jeff Finkelstein of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh told WPXI that organization's security officer has notified all JCC synagogues and that they are on modified lockdown.
President Donald Trump said he was monitoring the shooting. In a tweet, Trump encouraged people to shelter in place and said "looks like multiple fatalities."
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf called the shooting an "absolute tragedy."
"We must all pray and hope for no more loss of life," Wolf said. "But we have been saying "this one is too many" for far too long. Dangerous weapons are putting our citizens in harm's way."

10:59 a.m.

KDKA-TV reports 8 dead and 3 police officers shot at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.  The news outlet also reports the shooter walked in yelling "All Jews must die."

10:46 a.m.

WPXI-TV reports at least four people are dead after a Saturday morning shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.

10:36 a.m.

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Police official: Suspect in custody after fatal Pittsburgh synagogue shooting; 3 police officers also shot.

Original story

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A police official says there are "multiple casualties" in a shooting near a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Commander Jason Lando told reporters Saturday the shooting was reported near the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

He said the public should "shelter in place" and report any unusual activity.
Pittsburgh tweeted that there is an active shooter in the area of Wilkins and Shady avenues, and the synagogue is at that intersection. The tree-lined residential neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, about 10 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh, has a heavily Jewish population.
The congregation's president declined to comment.

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