Eleven people have been killed, and four police officers wounded, after a gunman opened fire in a synagogue in Pennsylvania on Saturday in an attack described by officials as a hate crime. Suspect Robert Bowers is now in custody after the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue, authorities said. The gunman was armed with an assault rifle and at least three hand guns, officials said. Trump called the shooting an “anti-semitic act,” but appeared to place at least some blame on synagogue officials, telling reporters the shooting could have been prevented by an armed security guard.
“All Jews must die!” the gunman shouted before opening fire on dozens of congregants inside the Tree of Life synagogue, according to KDKA-TV.
Police confirmed multiple casualties at the house of worship in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, and ordered local residents to stay inside. KDKA-TV reported the eight fatalities, with authorities confirming at least a dozen people were shot — including three police officers.
The suspect, wounded and crawling, gave himself up after a gunfight with cops who were forced to crouch behind their police cars for protection during a wild shootout, the television station reported.
“My stomach is churning,” said lawyer Jeffrey Pollock, 56, who lives four doors down from the synagogue. “I went to get my mail … and saw about a dozen police cars with their lights on.”
He said there was a weekly Shabbat service on the synagogue’s main floor and a bris scheduled for the basement. The mother of one girl attending the services told CNN that worshippers fled to the basement for sanctuary as the gunshots continued on the floor upstairs.
“I’m just sad,” said Jeff Finklestein , president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. “I really don’t know what to tell you. My heart goes out to all these families. This should not be happening, period. This should not be happening in a synagogue.”
He estimated the service held as many as 60 worshippers on a typical Saturday.
Sabbath services at the “traditional, progressive and egalitarian” synagogue were scheduled to begin at 9:45 a.m. Cops quickly flooded the chaotic area around the house of worship, with ambulances seen lining up on the surrounding streets.
President Trump weighed in on the latest mass shooting via Twitter, making a political point in addition to sending his condolences.
“Watching the details from the shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue,” said Trump. “Many will tweet today that we need gun control but as always this not the day to do so. We must offer thoughts and prayers and talk about that another day. Believe me.”
The NYPD quickly began deploying heavy weapons teams, including the officers from the Critical Response Command and the Strategic Response Team, to houses of worship across the city. Sector cars will also make additional visits to the religious outlets.
The killings came after a year where the Anti-Defamation League reported a record 57% uptick in anti-Semitic incidents nationwide.
It has been a wild week. Don’t let the madness deter you from getting out to vote in these midterm elections.
— Lori Houy (@WPXI_Lori) October 27, 2018