A gunman who frequently posted anti-Semitic threats online burst into a busy Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday and opened fire, killing 11 people and injuring six others. After exchanging gunfire with police, 46-year-old Robert Bowers surrendered and was taken into custody.
U.S. Attorney Scott Brady said federal prosecutors are seeking approval to pursue the death penalty against Bowers, who was injured during the shootout with police. He made a brief court appearance in a wheelchair Monday and is being held without bail for a Thursday court appearance.
Armed with an AR-15 and three handguns, Bowers entered the Tree of Life Congregation and fired inside while expressing his hatred toward Jewish people, according to a charging document made public Sunday. It said the statements continued during his gunfight with police, with Bowers telling one officer: "They're committing genocide to my people. I just want to kill Jews."
It is considered the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history, and a massacre that highlights the rise of hate crimes across the country.
Wendell Hissrich, the city's public safety director, said there was no further threat to the public. "It's a very horrific crime scene," he told reporters Sunday. "It's one of the worst that I've seen, and I've been on some plane crashes. It's very bad."
Tree of Life is located in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood, which is known as the heart of the local Jewish community.
Robert Jones, head of the FBI's Pittsburgh office, said worshippers at the synagogue were "brutally murdered by a gunman targeting them simply because of their faith." Jones said Bowers' full motive is unknown, but said investigators believe he acted alone.
Gov. Tom Wolf arrived at the scene Saturday and called the attack an "absolute tragedy."
"These senseless acts of violence are not who we are as Americans," Wolf said in a statement. "My thoughts right now are focused on the victims, their families and making sure law enforcement has every resource they need."
President Trump and first lady Melania Trump will travel to Pittsburgh on Tuesday to express the support of the American people, the White House said. On Saturday, Mr. Trump said there would have been a different outcome if the synagogue had an armed guard at the building.
"If there was an armed guard inside the temple, they would have been able to stop him, maybe there would have been nobody killed, except for him, frankly," Mr. Trump told reporters at Joint Base Andrews on Saturday, adding that the U.S. should "stiffen up" its laws on the death penalty.
"When people do this, they should get the death penalty," he added. "And they shouldn't have to wait years and years. I think they should very much bring the death penalty into vogue."