Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowed today after the Pittsburgh synagogue mass shooting to “bring the full force of the law against anyone who would violate the civil rights of the American people.”
Robert Bowers, 46, was taken into custody, wounded in a gun battle with SWAT officers. He is accused of killing 11 people at the Tree of Life Congregation during Shabbat services. Four police officers were wounded and two civilians were also injured.
Police said Bowers was in the synagogue for about 20 minutes during the attack. Bob Jones, FBI Pittsburgh special agent in charge, told reporters that Bowers was not previously known to law enforcement. He was licensed to carry a firearm, and a rifle and three handguns were found at the crime scene.
Bowers has a history of anti-Semitic social media posts, recently railed against a Jewish refugee advocacy organization, and allegedly made anti-Semitic comments at the scene. He posted on his Gab account five minutes before the first emergency call about the synagogue shooting that he “can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”
“Hatred and violence on the basis of religion can have no place in our society,” Sessions said in a statement today. “Every American has the right to attend their house of worship in safety. Today 11 innocent people were suddenly and viciously murdered during religious services and several law enforcement officers were shot. These alleged crimes are reprehensible and utterly repugnant to the values of this nation. Accordingly, the Department of Justice will file hate crimes and other criminal charges against the defendant, including charges that could lead to the death penalty.”
“It has been an important week for us to show gratitude for the hard work of our law officers around the country. And today was no exception,” he added. “I want to thank the FBI, ATF, Pittsburgh police, and especially the heroic officers who were so quick to respond to the shooting, including the multiple officers who were shot. These officers ran to danger to save others, which reflects the highest traditions of policing in this country. There can be no doubt that they saved lives today.”