Pittsburgh shooting: Alleged gunman posted stream of anti-Semitic hate online in months – and moments – before attack

Robert Bowers had no criminal record but social media account shows a man filled with hate

Colin Drury
Sunday 28 October 2018 11:45
Comments
Emergency services at the scene of an active shooter in Pittsburgh

Moments before Robert Bowers is alleged to have entered a Pittsburgh synagogue and shot dead 11 people, he took to social media to post one last chilling message.

“I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered,” the 46-year-old wrote apparently referring to his belief that Jewish charities were helping violent immigrants enter the US. “Screw your optics, I’m going in.”

Five minutes later he had joined the increasingly long list of American mass killers.

Along with the dead at the Tree of Life synagogue, six others were left seriously wounded before police managed to halt the terror and arrest Bowers – who they say was armed with an assault rifle and three handguns.

Now, investigators have turned their attention to Bower’s social media use – and the fact that, for months, he had been spewing a vitriolic stream of anti-Semitic and anti-immigration slurs.

Among his more sinister posts on the website gab.com – a social network favoured by many on the alt-right – were those calling Jews an “infestation” and others which shared Holocaust-denying messages. He appeared especially obsessed with one charity, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, blaming it for bringing “invaders in that kill our people”.

A neo-Nazi symbol accompanied his profile. “Jews are the children of Satan,” his biography read.

Gab itself has since removed the account and released a statement saying it “unequivocally disavows and condemns all acts of terrorism and violence”.

Little else appears to be known about Bowers at present.

He lived about a 25-minute drive south of the synagogue in a brick apartment complex where one neighbour described him as an “average dude”.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

“The most terrifying thing is just how normal he seemed," Chris Hall told Sky News. "He kept to himself. He would a smoke a cigarette in his car, go for a drive and then be back at odd hours, TV would be on, but I couldn't really hear."

It is thought he worked as a truck driver. He is not believed to had a family or partner.

Apart from a single traffic offence dating back to 2015, he was not known to law enforcement – but he is understood to have owned, legally, some 21 different guns. In September, he posted a picture of the collection on his Gab account along with multiple clips and sights.

He now faces 29 charges in all, including 11 counts of using a firearm to commit murder and multiple counts of two hate crimes.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in