A Pennsylvania man faces federal hate-crime charges, including 11 counts of murder, after a shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
A federal grand jury on Wednesday handed up the 44-count indictment of 46-year-old Robert D. Bowers of Baldwin, Pennsylvania. The 12-page indictment includes a “notice of special findings,” which includes the allegation that Bowers carried out the killings intentionally and that several of the victims were “particularly vulnerable” due to age or infirmity.
The notice means Bowers could be eligible for a death sentence if convicted of hate crimes and using a firearm to commit murder.
Police arrested Bowers on Saturday, after what officials describe as a massacre at the synagogue in the predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Squirrel Hill. Witnesses and prosecutors said Bowers shouted a desire to “kill Jews” during the shootings.
U.S. Attorney Scott Brady said in a statement that the case will be pursued with “professionalism, integrity and diligence, in a way that honors the memories of the victims.”
“And truly we, as Pittsburghers, can do no other,” Brady said. “It is time to go to work.”
The indictment contains few new details about the shootings but notes that Bowers had three separate .357 Glock handguns, a Colt AR-15 rifle and a shotgun with him at the time of the shooting.
Bowers was a frequent user of Twitter and Gab, an alternative social media platform known for racist and antisemitic users and language.
In one, dated Oct. 25, 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, a status that users could pay to obtain. A statement from the company said the account was archived and provided to the FBI before being deleted after the shooting.
Bowers made numerous antisemitic remarks on Gab, calling Jews “the children of satan” and fretting about the omnipotence of the fictitious “Zionist Occupied Government” (ZOG). He appeared to subscribe 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.”
Gab has since gone offline after being dropped by its service provider. As of Thursday afternoon, it had not become accessible.
Bowers was assigned a federal public defender during his court appearance in Pittsburgh. He is being held without bail.
Photo credit Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images