Pennsylvania Man Charged with Federal Hate Crimes for Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting
PITTSBURGH – A federal grand jury sitting in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania charged a Pennsylvania man with federal hate crimes, including the murder of 11 people, for his actions during the Oct. 27, 2018 shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood. United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania Scott W. Brady, and FBI-Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Robert Jones made the announcement.
Robert Bowers, 46, of Baldwin, Pa., was charged in a 44-count indictment returned today.
According to the indictment, on Oct. 27, 2018, Bowers drove to the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where members of the Tree of Life, Dor Hadash, and New Light Jewish congregations gathered to engage in religious worship. Bowers entered the building armed with multiple firearms, including Glock .357 handguns and a Colt AR-15 rifle. The indictment alleges that while inside the Tree of Life Synagogue, Bowers opened fire, killing and injuring members of the three congregations, as well as injuring multiple responding public safety officers. While inside the Tree of Life Synagogue, Bowers made statements indicating his desire to “kill Jews.”
Specifically, the indictment charges:
- Eleven counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death;
- Eleven counts of use and discharge of a firearm to commit murder during and in relation to a crime of violence;
- Two counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous weapon and resulting in bodily injury;
- Eleven counts of use and discharge of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence;
- Eight counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous weapon, and resulting in bodily injury to a public safety officer; and
- One count of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving use of a dangerous weapon and resulting in bodily injury to a public safety officer.
“Hatred and violence on the basis of religion can have no place in our society,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. “Every American has the right to attend their house of worship in safety. The defendant in this case allegedly murdered 11 innocent people during religious services and injured four law enforcement officers. These alleged crimes are incomprehensibly evil and utterly repugnant to the values of this nation. Therefore this case is not only important to the victims and their loved ones, but to the city of Pittsburgh and the entire nation. I want to express my thanks and admiration for the courage and professionalism of those officers who so quickly responded to this event, and especially to those that suffered wounds in the process. Our thanks is also extended to the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, the FBI, and the ATF for their outstanding response to this violent and deadly attack. The Department of Justice, working with our state and local partners, will bring the full force of the law against anyone who would violate the civil rights of the American people and we are resolutely determined to achieve justice in this case.”
“A federal grand jury in western Pennsylvania returned a 44-count indictment against Robert Bowers for the killing of 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday, October 27, 2018,” U.S. Attorney Brady stated. “Today begins the process of seeking justice for the victims of these hateful acts, and healing for the victims’ families, the Jewish community, and our city. Our office will spare no resource, and will work with professionalism, integrity and diligence, in a way that honors the memories of the victims. This is what the public expects from the US Department of Justice. And truly we, as Pittsburghers, can do no other. It is time to go to work.”
“I want to assure everyone that the FBI has teams of professionals working toward a single goal: to piece together the facts, answer the questions and ensure justice is served,” said FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Robert Jones. “We, as a community, are all united. I also want to thank local law enforcement and first responders for their heroic work. They showed professionalism and extraordinary bravery and their quick actions no doubt saved the lives of many other people that day. We are very lucky that such good people choose lives of service in law enforcement.”
The victims include 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life Synagogue who were killed, 2 members of the congregation who were critically injured by Bowers and 9 other members of the congregation who escaped unharmed. Additionally, the victims include 4 law enforcement officers who were seriously injured in the line of duty while trying to stop Bowers’ rampage.
Assistant United States Attorneys Troy Rivetti and Soo C. Song, along with DOJ Trial Attorney Julia Gegenheimer, are prosecuting this case on behalf of the government, with the assistance of Assistant United States Attorneys Cindy Chung, Eric Olshan and Rebecca Silinski.
The FBI, with the valuable assistance of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police and the Allegheny County Police, conducted the investigation leading to the indictment in this case. The United States Attorney also recognized and thanked the dozens of federal, state and local law enforcement officers who assisted in the investigation and response to this tragedy.
The defendant faces a maximum possible penalty of death, or life without parole, followed by a consecutive sentence of 535 years’ imprisonment.
An indictment is a formal accusation of conduct, not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
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