A gunman screaming, “All Jews must die,” stormed a Pittsburgh synagogue during Saturday services, killing 11 worshippers and wounding six other people including four police officers, before he was arrested.
US attorney for western Pennsylvania Scott Brady told a news conference that charges could be filed later on Saturday against the suspected shooter, 46-year-old Robert Bowers from Pittsburgh.
"The actions of Robert Bowers represent the worst of humanity. We are dedicating the entire resources of my office to this federal hate crime investigation and prosecution," Brady said.
The US Department of Justice will file hate crime and other criminal charges against Bowers that could lead to the death penalty, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said.
FBI special agent Bob Jones said the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is leading the probe into the attack, believed Bowers was acting alone, adding: "We have no knowledge that he was known to law enforcement before today."
Bowers had made many anti-Semitic posts online, including one early on Saturday. In another, he slammed President Donald Trump for doing nothing to stop an "infestation" of the United States by Jews.
Officials said Bowers was armed with an assault rifle and three handguns.
After entering the synagogue, Bowers allegedly opened fire and, as he exited the building, a Pittsburgh police officer engaged him, according to FBI Special Agent Bob Jones.
Bowers then allegedly shot the officer and retreated back into the synagogue to escape others officers, Jones said.
While inside, he shot three officers in total, two of whom were SWAT members, before he was apprehended.
Bowers was shot multiple times before being taken into custody. He was taken to Allegheny General Hospital for treatment.
Dr. Don Yealy, chair of emergency medicine at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, said of the two civilians injured, one was a 61-year-old woman and a 70-year-old man, both of whom were in critical condition.
Thousands of people jammed an intersection amid a light rain for a vigil Saturday evening.
The gathering included prayers and singing in memory of those killed and wounded.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf attended the vigil, suspending a campaign bus trip after learning of the attack.
Police surrounded the Tree of Life synagogue after reports of an active shooter at the building in the city’s Squirrel Hill neighbourhood, local TV news images showed.
The synagogue was holding a Shabbat religious service that started at 9:45 am Saturday morning, according to its the website.
Jeff Finkelstein, chief executive of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, told reporters the Tree of Life was a Conservative synagogue and said a little more than half of the Jewish community in the greater Pittsburgh area lived in and around the Squirrel Hill neighborhood.
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, called the shooting an “anti-Semitic attack.”
Local TV news footage showed police at that location with rifles and wearing helmets and other tactical gear. Paramedics also were stationed near the synagogue and police vehicles were blocking some streets in the area.
Shortly after reports of the shooting emerged, US President Donald Trump said in a tweet he was watching what he described as a “devastating” situation.
Trump told reporters the killings might have been prevented if there had been an armed guard in the building.
“If they had some kind of a protection inside the temple maybe it could have been a much more different situation, they didn’t,” he said when asked about a possible link to US gun laws.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the shooting as "horrendous anti-Semitic brutality".
In New York City and Baltimore, police said they were stepping up security at synagogues and houses of worship. In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti said police were stepping up patrols around places of worship.
Rabbi Chuck Diamond, a former spiritual leader of Tree of Life, told reporters that he never spoke to his congregation about what to do during a shooting, but it's something he thought about.
"There's a lot of anti-Semitism out there and a lot of hate out there," Diamond said. "Sobering that it's touched our community."
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