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Robert Bowers, Pittsburgh Shooting Suspect, Appears in Court


Robert Bowers/COURTESY


The man accused of shooting dead 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue was brought into court in a wheelchair on Monday to hear he faced 29 charges, including 11 counts of murder.

Robert Bowers, 46, opened fire with an AR-15 rifle and three Glock handguns, killing eight men and three women on Saturday before a police tactical police team shot him, according to court documents.

Prosecutors are treating the attack as a hate crime and say they are poring through social media posts that allegedly show a history of anti-Semitic remarks.

Pittsburgh has been in mourning ever since, with moments of silence before the weekend’s sporting events and flags at half mast. It is bracing for a wave of funerals in the coming days.

Bowers was released from hospital on Monday morning after undergoing surgery for gunshot wounds and appeared for a brief hearing at Pittsburgh’s federal courthouse.

He appeared pale but composed as the charges were read, speaking four times to confirm his name, that he had been given a copy of the charges and requested a court-appointed defence team.

“Yes,” he answered in a clear, firm voice each time.
He waived his right to a detention hearing which means he will remain in the custody of the marshals service.

He is due to appear in court again on Thursday.

The victims included Cecil Rosenthal (l) and Melvin Wax.

Scott Brady, US attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, said afterwards: “At that time we will have an opportunity to present evidence demonstrating Robert Bowers murdered 11 people who were exercising their religious beliefs and that he shot or injured six others, including four of whom were police officers responding to the shooting.”

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“Our investigation into the hate crimes continues.”

The suspect is a long-haul trucker who worked for himself, according to Mr Brady, although even neighbours living around his ground-floor apartment in the Pittsburgh suburb of Baldwin said they knew nothing more about him.

Mr Brady also said he planned to seek the death penalty.

The criminal complaint alleges that a wounded Bowers delivered anti-Semitic slurs even as he was arrested, according to the police report, saying: “They’re committing genocide to my people. I just want to kill Jews.”

Meanwhile, more accounts are emerging of how the shooting unfolded. Survivors described dodging through the Tree of Life synagogue’s warren of nooks and crannies to find bolt holes.

Barry Werber arrived just before the gunshots began, saying hello to Melvin Wax, David Rosenthal, Daniel Stein and Richard Gottfried.

Minutes later all four were dead and Mr Werber was hiding in a storage cupboard.

“I don’t know why he thinks the Jews are responsible for all the ills in the world, but he’s not the first and he won’t be the last,” said Mr Werber. “Unfortunately, that’s our burden to bear. It breaks my heart.”

More than 2500 people crammed into the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial and Museum on Sunday evening for a memorial service and demonstration of unity. Thousands more stood in the rain outside.

“I think people are in various stages of trauma, mourning, disbelief, shock all rolled into one,” Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of the Tree of Life Synagogue told ABC’s Good Morning America show on Monday.

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