|“||All Jews must die!||„|
|~ Bowers during the shooting.|
Robert Gregory Bowers (September 4th, 1972 - ) is an American white supremacist and mass murderer who committed a mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on October 27th, 2018. Eleven people were killed and seven were injured. The shooting was the deadliest attack on the United States' Jewish community in modern American history.
The full extent of the criminal charges against Bowers are still pending. He currently faces a total of 65 criminal charges combined, on both the federal and state level. The charges carry a maximum penalty of death or 535 years in federal prison. As of May 2020, Bowers has yet to go to trial, and a trial date has yet to be scheduled.
Childhood and high school years
Bowers reportedly had a very turbulent childhood. His parents divorced when he only a year old and his father committed suicide when he was six. His mother got remarried to a Florida man when he was a toddler, and he lived with them in Florida until they separated a year after their marriage. Upon returning to Pennsylvania, Robert and his mother lived with his mother's parents in Whitehall. His grandparents took responsibility for raising him, because his mother suffered from health problems. Bowers attended Baldwin High School in the Baldwin-Whitehall School District from August 1986 to November 1989. He then dropped out of high school and worked as a trucker.
Little is known of his life between the time he dropped out of high school and the period before and during the time he committed the shooting, so it can be assumed that he kept a low profile. Neighbors described Bowers as "a ghost" and said he rarely interacted with others.
Political and religious beliefs
Bowers' political and religious beliefs played a large role in the massacre. He was staunchly and fanatically conservative and was a fierce white nationalist, and was also involved in the Christian Identity movement. He was a believer in antisemitic conspiracy theories and had a profile on Gab, a social media network favored by the far-right. His posts on Gab have included many hateful things about Jews, such as "Jews are the children of Satan." He has re-shared many Neo-Nazi Party posts and made frequent use of the racial slur "kike", and there is even one recorded use of him saying "Heil Hitler!" Other posts made reference to the Fourteen Words, attacked African Americans with racial slurs and images related to lynching, and attacked women who have relationships with black men. He also used his online accounts to post conspiracy theories regarding investor and philanthropist George Soros.
In the weeks before the shooting, Bowers made antisemitic posts directed at the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) who sponsored National Refugee Shabbat of October 19–20, in which Dor Hadash and Tree of Life participated. He claimed Jews were aiding members of Central American caravans moving towards the United States border and referred to members of those caravans as "invaders". Shortly before the attack, in an apparent reference to immigrants to the United States, he posted on Gab that "HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I'm going in."
At 9:50 AM, shortly after Tree of Life starting their early morning Shabbat service, Bowers entered the synagogue and started shooting. He was armed with a Colt AR-15 semi-automatic rifle (cited by authorities as an "assault rifle") and three Glock .357 SIG semi-automatic pistols, all four of which he fired, according to authorities. The first two fatalities occured here.
After about 20 minutes, Bowers proceeded to a downstairs area, where another group was participating in a Torah study. Three more fatalities occurred here. After this, Bowers proceeded to the main congregational chamber where the primary Shabbat service was occurring and 13 congregants had gathered. The Rabbi leading the service, Jeffrey Myers, was able to evacuate some of the congregants, but eight stayed behind, with seven ending up being killed and one being wounded.
At 9:59 AM, police arrived at the synagogue. Bowers fired on police from the entryway, apparently on his way out of the building, and police returned fire, causing him to retreat back into the building. This resulted in a nearly 30-minute standoff, after which tactical teams arrived on scene and fired on Bowers, who fired back. In the exchange of gunfire two SWAT members were also wounded, one critically.
Bowers finally surrendered to police at 11:08 AM.
Bowers was charged by the US Department of Justice with 29 federal crimes.
Bowers appeared in federal court in Pittsburgh on October 29, to hear the charges against him. His attorney was appointed by the court and Bowers was remanded to the custody of the United States Marshals Service without bail pending further hearings.
On October 31, Bowers was indicted on 44 counts by a federal grand jury. The counts included hate crimes, 11 counts of obstruction of exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death, 11 counts of use of a firearm to commit murder during a crime of violence, four counts of obstruction of exercise of religious beliefs resulting in bodily injury to a public safety officer, and three counts of use and discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence. On November 1, Bowers entered a plea of not guilty.
On January 29, 2019, the grand jury indicted Bowers on an additional 19 counts, 13 of which were for hate crimes. On February 11, 2019, Bowers was arraigned in federal court. Bowers is represented by defense attorney Judy Clarke. Federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Bowers was also charged with 36 state criminal counts, including 11 counts of criminal homicide, 6 counts of aggravated assault, 6 counts of attempted criminal homicide, and 13 counts of ethnic intimidation.
In September 2019, prosecutors asked U.S. District judge Donetta Ambrose to set a trial date of Sep 14, 2020. On October 31, 2019, Ambrose declined to set a trial date, pending the resolution of outstanding motions
- Joyce Fienberg - February 9, 1943 (75 years)
- Richard Gottfried - January 13, 1953 (65 years)
- Rose Mallinger - March 1, 1921 (97 years)
- Jerry Rabinowitz - November 10, 1952 (65 years)
- Cecil Rosenthal - July 20, 1959 (59 years)
- David Rosenthal - June 12, 1964 (54 years)
- Bernice Simon - August 2, 1934 (84 years)
- Sylvan Simon - June 13, 1932 (86 years)
- Daniel Stein - February 19, 1947 (71 years)
- Melvin Wax - November 23, 1930 (88 years)
- Irvin Younger - July 3, 1949 (69 years)
6 months after the shooting, John T. Earnest attacked a Chabad house(Orthodox synagogue) in Poway, California, killing one before his weapon jammed.