Robert Bowers arrest: Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect charged with 44 counts including hate crimes

A grand jury indicted Bowers on 44 counts. 

Kristin Hugo
New York
Wednesday 31 October 2018 18:32
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The suspect in a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh that killed 11 worshipers has been charged on a total of 44 counts, up from 29 counts previously, according to a new federal indictment.

The charges against Robert Bowers, the suspect in what is believed to be the deadliest attack on Jews in the United States, include religious hate crimes, firearms charges and causing injury to police officers.

Bowers is due to appear in a second hearing in federal court in Pittsburgh on Thursday. Donald Trump has called for capital punishment to be brought "back into vogue," asking for Mr Bowers to receive the death penalty. Several of the counts carry the possibility of a death sentence, which prosecutors said that they will seek, Reuters reports.

An account in Mr Bowers' name on the website "Gab" had included antisemetic sentiments. According to an FBI affidavit, Mr Bowers told a SWAT officer that he wanted "all Jews to die." Authorities believe the alleged shooter acted alone.

A grand jury has now indicted Bowers on all counts.

The counts include 11 charges of obstruction of exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death, as well as 11 counts of using a firearm to commit murder. There are also two counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous weapon and resulting in bodily injury; 11 counts of use and discharge of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, eight counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous weapon, and resulting in bodily injury to a public safety officer; and one count of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving use of a dangerous weapon and resulting in bodily injury to a public safety officer.

If found guilty of all counts, the suspect faces a chance of the death penalty, or a life sentence without parole followed by 535 years in prison.

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After the shooting, Mr Trump visited the Tree of Life synagogue where the massacre took place. Protests from the Jewish community erupted, and the mayor of Pittsburgh asked the president not to come. Critics argue that Trump is partially responsible for a divisive culture that inspires hate crimes from the American right. For example, he recently referred to himself as a "nationalist," a term that some say is tied to discrimination. However, he has also denounced the shootings and said that the does not support violence in America. Thousands of supporters came to funerals for the victims on Wednesday and Thursday.

The last post on the Gab account with Mr Bowers' name read: “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.” When police arrived on the scene, officers shot Bowers, who later surrendered. Emergency Medical Services treated victims and Bowers. Bowers appeared in court in a wheel chair.

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