Watch CBS News

Federal Prosecutors Seeking Approval To Pursue Death Penalty Against Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting Suspect

Follow KDKA-TV: Facebook | Twitter

PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – Criminal homicide charges have been filed against a man accused of killing 11 people and injuring several others inside a Squirrel Hill synagogue on Saturday.

Police say 46-year-old Robert Bowers walked into the Tree of Life Synagogue yelling anti-Semitic slurs and shooting at worshipers while three separate services were taking place.

Robert Bowers
(Photo Credit: Pennsylvania Department of Transportation)

The Allegheny County District Attorney's Office has now filed charges against the alleged gunman, which include 11 counts of criminal homicide, along with six counts of attempted homicide, six counts of aggravated assault and 13 counts of ethnic intimidation.

U.S. Attorney Scott Brady says federal prosecutors are seeking approval to pursue the death penalty against Bowers.

Brady says he has begun the process to get Attorney General Jeff Sessions' approval as required by law to pursue a capital case against Bowers.

The attack went on for about 20 minutes and the FBI is treating the shooting as a hate crime.

"Members of the Tree of Life synagogue conducting a peaceful service were brutally murdered in their place a worship by a gunman targeting them simply because of their faith," Bob Jones, of the FBI, said.

Among the victims were a 97-year-old woman, a pair of brothers and a husband and wife. The 11 people who lost their lives have been identified as:

  • Joyce Fienberg, 75, of Oakland
  • Richard Gottfried, 65, of Ross Township
  • Rose Mallinger, 97, of Squirrel Hill
  • Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, of Edgewood
  • Cecil Rosenthal, 59, of Squirrel Hill
  • David Rosenthal, 54, of Squirrel Hill
  • Bernice Simon, 84, of Wilkinsburg
  • Sylvan Simon, 86, of Wilkinsburg
  • Daniel Stein, 71, of Squirrel Hill
  • Melvin Wax, 87, of Squirrel Hill
  • Irving Youngner, 69, of Mt. Washington

Investigators say Bowers was armed with an AR-15 and three handguns. All four weapons were used in the shooting.

Bowers exchanged gunfire with police before he was subdued and taken to the hospital. He has undergone surgery and is under guard at the hospital.

Four officers were among the injured. One officer was released from the hospital on Saturday and a second was released Sunday. According to Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert, the other two officers will require further treatment.


According to court paperwork, Bowers made statements to police "that he wanted all Jews to die and also that they were committing genocide to his people."

Police have processed Bowers' home, but are not releasing details about what they may have found at this time.

Congressman Mike Doyle told KDKA-TV's Andy Sheehan the FBI confirmed to him that Bowers possessed a total of 21 legally registered firearms.

Mayor Bill Peduto described him as an unhinged individual who should never have had that kind of weaponry.

"We're dealing with irrational behavior. There is no way that you can rationalize a person walking into a synagogue during services and taking the lives of eleven people," he said.

Investigators say it appears that Bowers acted alone.

Bowers graduated from Baldwin High School in 1990 and kicked around South Hills towns working as a laborer and, more recently, a truck driver.

(TM and © Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.