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What We Know About the Pittsburgh Synagogue Attack So Far
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What We Know About the Pittsburgh Synagogue Attack So Far

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PITTSBURGH – October 29, 2018

A gunman who’s believed to have spewed anti-Semitic slurs and rhetoric on social media barged into a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday and opened fire, killing eleven worshippers and wounding six others, including four police officers, in one of the deadliest attacks on Jews in U.S. history.

The suspect, Robert Bowers, traded gunfire with police and was shot several times.  U.S. attorney for western Pennsylvania Scott Brady announced at a news conference late Oct. 27 that 29 charges, including hate crimes and weapons offenses, have been filed against 46-year-old Robert Bowers from Pittsburgh.

What We Know About the Pittsburgh Synagogue Attack So Far

Authorities say that just before 10 a.m., Bower entered the large synagogue with an assault-style rifle and three handguns. A brit milah — a ritual circumcision ceremony at which a baby boy also receives his Hebrew name — was taking place, though law enforcement officials later said no children were among the dead or wounded.

Bowers was taken to a hospital where he was listed in fair condition with multiple gunshot wounds. Victims taken to area hospitals included a 61-year-old woman, a 70-year-old man, and a 55-year-old officer.

Three police officers were shot and one was injured by shrapnel, authorities said. Two of the six people injured were in critical condition.

Bowers, who had no apparent criminal record, expressed virulently anti-Semitic views on a social media site called Gab, popular amongst those who have been banned or censored from other sites like Twitter. The cover photo for his account featured a neo-Nazi symbol and his recent posts included a photo of a fiery oven like those used in Nazi concentration camps to cremate Jews during World War II.

Other posts referenced false conspiracy theories suggesting the Holocaust — in which an estimated 6 million Jews perished — was a hoax. He wrote of a Jewish “infestation,” using a slur for Jews.

Before the shooting, the poster believed to be Bowers also wrote 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 made or shared multiple anti-President Donald Trump posts. In one, he called Trump a “globalist” and said that Trump was not “winning.” In a comment on another, he said: “For the record, I did not vote for him.”

Bowers also slammed on Gab the online community of Qanon, which attracts many Trump supporters.

In a statement, Gab.com confirmed the profile belonged to Bowers and also said it had suspended the account and contacted the FBI about it.

The mass shooting came amid a rash of high-profile attacks in an increasingly divided country, one day after a Florida man was arrested and charged with mailing a series of pipe bombs to prominent Democrats and little more than a week before the midterm elections.

President Donald Trump condemned the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting saying, “there must be no tolerance for anti-Semitism in America.”

Trump called the persecution of Jews "one of the ugliest and darkest features of human history" and said there should not be any room for antisemitism or "any form of religious or racial hatred or prejudice" in the US.

Trump addressed the shooting at a Future Farmers of America convention in Indianapolis.

The president called the attack a “wicked act of mass murder” that “is pure evil, hard to believe, and frankly something that is unimaginable.”

He says the nation and the world are “shocked and stunned” by grief and is calling on the country to come together and that anti-Semitism “must be confronted anywhere and everywhere it appears”

Yet that hasn't stopped the Democrats from trying to pin the massacre on Trump, as they do with all calamities. Never mind Trump's kind words. Never mind his strong support from Israel. Never mind that his favorite daughter is an Orthodox Jew and his three grandchildren are Jewish as well. The desperate logic of Blaming Trump can be read herehere, and here.

However, such hostile rhetoric is not as harmless as it seems and goes beyond the usual electoral struggle.

He said: “The Jews have endured terrible persecution, and you know that we've all read it: We've studied it. They've gone through a lot and those seeking their destruction we will seek their destruction.

This is going far beyond any ritual condemnation to make what struck me as a declaration that the United States is the guarantor of the survival of the Jewish people. This is a message to not only neo-Nazis, it applies to the Middle East. It is a promise to destroy those who seek to destroy Judaism, and by implication, Israel. Destruction is not mere condemnation, and goes far beyond punishment. It is Biblical in scope. 

Trump has just promised to add America's might to the continuation of this pattern, almost as God's willing instrument in protecting His Chosen People.

The mass shooting raised immediate alarms in Jewish communities around the country. Authorities in New York City, Chicago, and elsewhere increased security at Jewish centers. A New York City rabbi has renewed his call to arm shul-goers.

“You must have it,” Rabbi Gary Moskowitz said of armed congregants. “A guy comes in with a gun, and what can they do? Throw chairs at them? We’re sitting ducks here.”

With a premise permit, Moskowitz says members of a synagogue would be allowed to carry a weapon while at services and travel to and from the building with it.

The rabbi believes that arming the congregants is ultimately a better solution than using private security or police protection because a member of a synagogue would be able to spot more things out of the ordinary. A cop or guard would not be as familiar with the temple, Moskowitz said.

These discussions 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.”

Author: USA Really