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Documents detail the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre and name the dead

Authorities have named the 11 people killed Saturday when a man armed with three pistols and a semiautomatic assault-style rifle attacked a synagogue in Pittsburgh – the deadliest attack on Jews in the history of the United States.

Mourners participate in a vigil on Saturday evening in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, where 11 people were killed in a mass shooting earlier in the day at the Tree of Life Synagogue.
Mourners participate in a vigil on Saturday evening in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, where 11 people were killed in a mass shooting earlier in the day at the Tree of Life Synagogue.Read moreJustin Merriman / For The Washington Post

Authorities have named the 11 people killed Saturday when a man armed with three pistols and a semiautomatic assault-style rifle attacked a synagogue in Pittsburgh – the deadliest attack on Jews in the history of the United States.

The dead include a 97-year-old woman, a husband and wife, and two brothers – all of whom were at services inside the Tree of Life synagogue when Robert Bowers allegedly burst in through an open door, screaming anti-Semitic slurs and shooting. The 46-year-old Pittsburgh resident is also accused of wounding six other people, including three police officers shot during a firefight, and faces a raft of assault, homicide and hate crime charges.

"They're committing genocide to my people," the suspect told a SWAT officer after being shot and captured, according to a federal criminal complaint released Sunday. "I just want to kill Jews."

After the victims were named at a news conference Sunday morning, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto called the attack the "darkest day of Pittsburgh's history" after the victims' names were read out Sunday morning. He also disputed President Donald Trump's suggestion that the synagogue should have had armed guards.

"The approach we need to be looking at is how we take the guns – the common denominator of every mass shooting in America – out of the hands of those looking to express hatred through murder," Peduto told reporters.

The shooter targeted a congregation that is an anchor of Pittsburgh's large and close-knit Jewish community, a massacre that authorities immediately labeled a hate crime as they investigated the suspect's history of anti-Semitic online screeds.

A man with Bowers' name had posted anti-Semitic statements on social media before the shooting, expressing anger that a nonprofit Jewish organization in the neighborhood has helped refugees settle in the United States. In what appeared to be his final social media post hours before the attack, the man wrote: "I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I'm going in."

The FBI said Bowers was not previously known to law enforcement before he drove to the synagogue on Saturday morning, as three different congregations celebrated the Jewish Sabbath inside.

He allegedly walked through an unlocked door at about 9:45 a.m., armed with a Colt AR-15 rifle and three Glock .357 pistols – all four of which fired, police said, as he moved around the large building, screaming about Jews.

E. Joseph Charny, 90, recalled praying on the second-floor of the building with about half a dozen other congregants. He heard a loud noise downstairs and soon saw a man appear in the doorway. Then gunshots.

"I looked up, and there were all these dead bodies," Charny said.

Bowers roamed the maze-like building, authorities said, gunning down groups of worshipers as he came across them.

Robert Jones, the FBI special agent in charge of the case, called it "the most horrific crime scene I've seen in 22 years with the Federal Bureau of Investigation."

Among the eight men and three women killed were Rose Mallinger, a 97-year-old resident of the predominantly Jewish neighborhood; Cecil and David Rosenthal, two brothers in their 50s and the youngest of the victims; and Bernice Simon and her husband, Sylvan, both in their 80s. Also killed were Joyce Fienberg, 75; Richard Gottfried, 65; Jerry Rabinowitz, 66; Daniel Stein, 71; Melvin Wax, 88; and Irving Younger, 69.

Two other worshipers were wounded in the initial shooting rampage, which lasted about 10 minutes before someone called 911, police said. Two police officers arrived at the synagogue within a minute of the call and encountered the gunman at the synagogue's entrance.

"He had finished, and he was exiting the building," Jones told reporters. "Had Bowers made it out of that facility, there is a strong possibility that additional violence would have occurred."

Instead, authorities say, Bowers exchanged gunfire with the two officers, shooting one in the hand; the other was injured by shrapnel.

He fled back inside the synagogue, and a small SWAT team assembled to pursue him and try to rescue the wounded inside.

Bowers shot two more officers – multiple times each – during a brief standoff on the building's third floor, according to criminal complaints. He was allegedly yelling about Jews throughout.

The final casualty count was 11 people killed and six wounded, including the four officers.

The suspect was also shot several times before he surrendered inside the building. He remained in fair condition and in federal custody on Sunday.

Authorities have closed off the synagogue and much of the surrounding area, although they do not believe the suspect had accomplices.

As news of the shooting spread, police locked down other, nearby synagogues. Police also raced to synagogues in Washington, New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles to provide additional security.

Investigators worked through the night at Tree of Life processing what Jones called "a large and complex crime scene." They also consulted with rabbis to identify the bodies, which remained in the building until the next morning.

Bowers' house in the Baldwin neighborhood was searched, and investigators have begun to scour his social media feeds. These may include a since-deleted Gab account in which a user with Bowers's name compared Jews to Satan and complained that Trump's "Make America Great Again" movement cannot succeed so long as Jews "infest" the country.

Bowers is expected to have his first court hearing on Monday. He faces at least 23 state charges, including homicide, attempted homicide and aggravated assault against police officers. He faces an additional 29 federal charges accusing him of civil rights and hate crimes.

"This was the single most lethal and violent attack on the Jewish community in the history of the country," said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League. "We've never had an attack of such depravity where so many people were killed."

The Pittsburgh massacre comes less than two weeks before midterm elections, hours after a man was arrested and accused of mailing pipe bombs to prominent Democrats, and is the latest in a seemingly endless series of mass shootings and hate-fueled attacks – including a possible hate crime in which a man killed two black shoppers at a grocery store in Louisville. It is almost certain to intensify a national debate over bigotry and hatred in American politics – not to mention gun control.

The ADL said anti-Semitic incidents had jumped more than 50 percent to nearly 2,000 documented events in 2017 – a year in which white nationalism seemed to surge in visibility, overlapping with support for Trump's anti-immigration policies and demagogic political rhetoric.

Like the prime minister of Israel, the pope and political leaders across the world, Trump has condemned the synagogue attack. He ordered flags flown at half-staff through Wednesday. At a political rally on Saturday evening, Trump called the massacre "an assault on humanity" that "will require all of us working together to extract the hateful poison of anti-Semitism from our world."

But Trump has shown no signs of listening to critics – including the ADL – who have for years warned that his rhetoric incites anti-Semites. Later in Saturday's speech, for example, the president again attacked "globalists" – a word that reportedly appeared in one of Bowers's anti-Semitic posts and is interpreted on the far right to mean powerful Jews. Trump has used it throughout his presidency, and he once released a political ad that paired images of prominent Jews with warnings about "global special interests" and "global power structure."

In his defense, Trump's supporters cite his daughter's conversion to Judaism and his support for the Israeli government. On Sunday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders called the suspect "a coward who hated President Trump because (he) is such an unapologetic defender of the Jewish community and state of Israel."

Nor does the shooting seem likely to change Trump's opposition to gun control. Just as he has after mass shootings in schools, he suggested Saturday's massacre could have been prevented if the synagogue had armed security guards.

At the news conference Sunday morning, Peduto was asked about the president's response and partially repudiated it.

"We will not try to rationalize irrational behavior," the Pittsburgh mayor told reporters. "We will work to eradicate it. We will work to eradicate it from our city, and our nation, and our world. Hatred will not have a place anywhere."

The mayor echoed Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who has not commented since the massacre but who wrote the following after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting in February:

"Unless there is a dramatic turnaround in the midterm elections, I fear that the status quo will remain unchanged, and school shootings will resume. I shouldn't have to include in my daily morning prayers that God should watch over my wife and daughter, both teachers, and keep them safe. Where are our leaders?"

The Washington Post's Kellie B. Gormly reported from Pittsburgh. Kyle Swenson, Amy B Wang, Deanna Paul, Devlin Barrett, Wesley Lowery, Abby Ohlheiser, Kristine Phillips, Mike Rosenwald and Katie Zezima contributed to this developing story.