Local media reported that Bowers yelled "All Jews must die" as he opened fire with an AR-15.
Editor's Note: This statement has been updated to reflect most recent reporting.
The shooter, identified by KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh as 46-year-old Robert D. Bowers, went into Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh while Sabbath services were taking place. City officials say Bowers surrendered Saturday and was taken to Mercy Hospital.
Bowers’ social media accounts, including Facebook and a now-deleted account on Gab, an alternate version of Twitter that serves as a haven for racism, are filled with antisemitic comments.
In one, dated two days ago, Bowers posted as "onedingo" that President Donald Trump is a "globalist, not a nationalist."
"There is no #MAGA as long as there is a k--- infestation," Bowers wrote.
Bowers’ account on Gab was verified, something you can pay for — via the Stripe payment processor — on that site. A statement from the company said the account was archived and provided to the FBI before being deleted after the shooting. Bowers’ last post seemed to reference his impending attack.
“HIAS likes to bring in invaders that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”
HIAS, founded as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, is a humanitarian organization that assists refugees fleeing persecution. Bowers’ characterization of refugees as dangerous invaders reflects recent hysteria on the far right and up to the Trump administration surrounding the migrant caravan.
The mention of “optics” references a disagreement that has raged within the white nationalist movement since the "Unite the Right" rally in 2017 about how best to get their message across to the general public. Some extremists called for continued direct action, while others favored a retreat back into online spaces. This suggests the suspect was steeped in the debates of the white nationalist “alt-right.”
Gab, where the suspect was most active online, serves as home base for some of the most hardcore members of the alt-right.
The suspect also made numerous antisemitic remarks elsewhere on the platform calling Jews “the children of satan” and fretting about the omnipotence of the fictitious “Zionist Occupied Government” (ZOG). His posts indicate he subscribed to the conspiracy theory that Jewish forces are scheming to dilute the “white race” by importing refugees and immigrants – what torch-bearing “Unite the Right” marchers meant when they chanted “Jews will not replace us.”
The Pittsburgh Department of Public Safety announced midday Saturday that the active shooter was in custody. Police Commander Jason Lando told media outlets there were multiple people killed and told neighbors to shelter in place. Public Safety Commissioner Wendell Hissrich said it was a “horrific crime scene,” and confirmed it will be investigated as a federal hate crime.
The synagogue is in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, a historically Jewish area of Pittsburgh.
Photo Pam Panchak / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP