Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting Trial Day 3: officer shot responding to scene testifies

PITTSBURGH — Testimony resumed Thursday in the trial against Robert Bowers, the man accused of shooting and killing 11 worshippers at a Squirrel Hill synagogue.

On Wednesday, the jury saw new pictures of the scene for the first time and heard difficult and emotional testimony from six witnesses. That included five people who were inside the synagogue when the shooting happened.


Warning: the details coming out of this trial are difficult to hear and may be upsetting to some.

If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health effects from the trial, go to 1027healingpartnership.org to find help resources. As always, call 911 to report threats.

We have a team of reporters inside the courthouse and will have live updates below:

UPDATE 3:40 p.m.: Officer Dan Mead testifies

Witness No. 15 is Officer Dan Mead.

He said the call for the shooting came out at around 9:55 a.m. Mead was at the station but hadn’t started his shift yet.

“I said, ‘That’s right down the street,’ and Mike Smidga and I left,” Mead remembered.

Mead said he saw a man in a blue shirt walking out of the building.

“I said, ‘Where’s he at?’ and he pointed at the building,” Mead said. “We didn’t hear anything. We didn’t know what was going on.”

Mead said he stepped out and saw a man with a rifle inside the building.

“I‘m standing there, and this all took a half a second. He started shooting. I remember the first bullet coming through the glass at me. I felt my hand go up in the air. It was like a rag doll,” Mead said.

Mead was shot in the hand and in the leg.

“My hand was just dangling there, ‘Oh boy, this doesn’t look good,’” he recalled. “I stepped back and walked away. My partner was behind me.”

Mead was not able to fire back due to his injuries.

“I walked away toward Shady Avenue,” Mead said. “I stated I’d been shot and I needed an ambulance.”

Mead was not able to return to work as a police officer after he was shot. The bullet shattered through his wrist and came out of the top of his hand.

“I’ve had multiple surgeries,” Mead said. “That’s what we do.”

UPDATE 3:30 p.m.: Rabbi Doris Dyen testifies

Witness No. 14 is Rabbi Doris Dyen.

Dyen and her husband, Deane Root, were regular attendees for Saturday morning services.

She said she usually got to the synagogue about 10 or 15 minutes early.

“I was hearing rapid shots, rapid sounds from inside the building,” Dyen said. “That brought back what I had heard as we were coming around the building. I didn’t comprehend. My initial reaction was deer in headlights. I kind of froze.”

Dyen said she was looking at the glass wall that was totally shattered.

“My husband, Dean, said ‘Active shooter, we got to run.’ He pulled me away,” Dyen said.

The couple ran to their car, got inside and locked the doors. Root got his phone out and called 911. They stayed in the parking lot.

“Sy Drescher pulled in next to us,” she said. They told him to get back in his car before shouting at Lou Fineberg not to go in.

UPDATE 2:51 p.m.: Member of Dor Hadash testifies

Lou Fineberg, a member of Dor Hadash, is witness No. 13.

Fineberg said he went to services that Saturday morning. He parked his car and was walking to go inside.

“Something at that moment was clearly not right,” Fineberg recalled. “I parked on Wilkins and walked to Tree of Life, as I walked in the parking lot I saw some hands waving to me. It was Doris and Dean. Dean was on the phone with 911, nervous and scared.”

Fineberg said he felt cautious, but not in danger at that moment.

A car pulled up as he was talking to Doris and Dean Dyen.

“It was Judea and I said, ‘Hey, you better get back in your car, we’ve heard gunshots, we think there might be a problem, gunshots or something,” Fineberg said. “He was a Holocaust survivor, he was used to things.”

The trio warned another member of the congregation not to enter the building. Then, police arrived.

“I heard gunshots and turned my head, I saw people rushing the building,” Fineberg said. “I’m guessing they were law enforcement. I decided at that point it was time to leave. I ran ‘cause my life was in danger.”

UPDATE 1:04 p.m.: Another member of Tree of Life testifies

Witness No. 12 is Audrey Glickman, another member of Tree of Life.

Glickman moved into Tree of Life, and shared a school with the congregation before the merge in 2010. She regularly attended weekdays and Saturdays at Tree of Life.

She retired as the rabbi’s assistant and led opening services in the sanctuary on Saturdays.

The day of the shooting, Glickman left at 9 a.m. and picked up Joe Charny. Charny was her significant other, the two met on a trip to Israel.

The couple drove to Tree of Life together and Glickman parked in her usual spot. They met Dan Leger before walking into the building. The group said hello to Cecil and David Rosenthal. David typically stood next to Glickman during services and joined her in singing.

“He would stand to my right and join me in singing. He and his brother loved the service and enjoyed participating,” Glickman said.

The service began promptly at 9:45 a.m. and Glickman said after the Rabbi read a few lines, the congregation heard what sounded like a giant metal crash.

“I thought it was a coat rack falling on someone,” she said. “I saw people leaving the back of the room and the rabbi continued, but soon enough we heard rapid fire echoing down the hallway. The echoing of the machine gun fire was unmistakable.”

Glickman said she looked to find David and grabbed him to escape. As they headed toward the steps, the rabbi told everyone to get down.

“At that point, I heard Bernice [Simon] scream that her husband was bleeding,” Glickman said. “I looked out the doorway and saw Sylvan was over the pew and saw that there was no helping Bernice.”

Glickman saw Charny running from the other side. He eventually joined her and David. Charny and Glickman both tried convincing David to come with them and hide.

“But he did not want to go with Joe and me up the steps,” Glickman said. “He ran back into the chapel. We could only hope that whatever was going on was not in the chapel and he would get out.”

Glickman and Charny ran out of a door, the rabbi was ahead of them. Glickman said she heard him call 911.

Glickman called 911 with Charny’s cell phone.

“We had no idea how many people were attacking at that point. It could have been a whole army,” she recalled.

Charny and Glickman hid in a room with clothing donations in it.

“We knelt down on the floor and covered ourselves with our prayer shawls so we would look like these bags of clothing,” Glickman said. “We kept deciding,should we go or stay? At some point, Joe said, ‘This is it, we just have to go.’”

The pair went to the choir loft area, and saw police coming in.

UPDATE 10:38 a.m.: Member of Tree of Life testifies

Witness No. 11 is Stephen Weiss, a member of Tree of Life, a retired school teacher from Pittsburgh Public Schools and a lifelong member of Squirrel Hill.

Weiss was the ritual director for Tree of Life. He said the congregation prided itself on having open doors and welcoming anyone in.

“If you did not know the building, it was like a maze getting through it,” Weiss said.

He said on three out of four Saturdays of the month, he was involved in the junior congregation that met. The Saturday of the shooting was the Saturday off.

Weiss said he grew up with David and Cecil Rosenthal, who were regulars on Saturday mornings.

He said David would stand next to Audrey Glickman, who would begin the start of the service. He said Cecil sat in the back and helped Irv Younger usher people into the service.

Weiss said Rose Mallinger, who was also a regular in the morning, would lead the prayer for peace.

He said Bernice and Sylvan Simon were also regulars. “They were married at the Tree of Life,“ Weiss said.

Weiss said Joyce Fienberg was a consistent loyal attendant.

He said on the morning of the shooting, he arrived around 9:30 a.m. with services set to start at 9:45 a.m.

Weiss said Cecil and Irv sat in the back of the room, a few rows up were Andrea and Rose and more towards the front were Bernice and Simon.

Weiss said he sat at the rear of the chapel in case anyone needed anything.

He said Services began with Audrey leading the prayer and David right next to her.

Weiss testified that about halfway through the prayer, there was a loud crashing sound.

“My first thought when I heard it, I thought August Siriano was setting up for the meal,” he said. He said it sounded like he dropped a bunch of glasses in the lobby area.

He said Irv and Cecil ran out of the chapel.

“As I was standing there, I could see shell casings bouncing off the floor in front of me,” Weiss said. The rabbi was telling people to get down.

Weiss remembered active shooter training he had where he learned not to hide in a place where you are visible.

That’s when Weiss said he got up and ran up the side aisle, up towards the alter and through a door.

He said he saw Rabbi Myers with his phone out and then went down to a space and saw Audrey and David together. David was very agitated and frightened and wanted to go home.

Weiss said he then went down a hallway that connects to the main sanctuary. At the bottom of those steps, he saw Rabbi Perlman.

“Mel Wax was standing in the doorway when I looked into the worship space,” Weiss said. Mel was trying to peek out the door and the Rabbi told him to stay away from it, he said.

Weiss said he went back to the top of the stairs where he had initially seen Audrey, David, Joe and the Rabbi.

At this point, he said he could hear gunshots from the lower level in the worship space where New Light was.

“Once I came back upstairs, I continued down the hall to the main sanctuary. I thought since the gunshots were on the lower level, I would be safe to go through the main sanctuary and out of the building,” he said.

Once Weiss got out, he said he went to Shady Avenue to wait for the police, who showed up about 30 seconds later. He informed police where he believed the shooting was happening and advised them the best spot to go in.

“They immediately left me and went running towards the main entrance of the building,” Weiss said.

Weiss said in a short while, August ended up coming out of the same doors.

“One of the officers that had originally met us at his patrol car, he was using profanity and had been shot in the hand,” he testified.

UPDATE 9:35 a.m.: Rabbi of New Light Congregation takes stand

Rabbi Jonathan Perlman of New Light Congregation, Witness No. 10, has taken the witness stand.

The New Light Congregation was one of the three congregations in the Tree of Life synagogue on the day of the shooting.

Perlman said that the New Light Congregation had three homes in over 115 years of being a congregation. It started in the Hill District and later moved to Squirrel Hill in a house and ultimately moved into the Tree of Life.

“I would describe it as an older congregation. There were families with children but the children are all grown,” Perlman said.

He said he saw Carol Black, Barry Werber, Mel Wax and Richard Gottfried on the morning of the shooting.

Perlman said he first heard the sound of glass shattering and then the sound of gunfire. He said, “We are in danger and you should follow me, we are going to hide in this storage closet to the left of the podium.”

Perlman testified that he had everyone get low, crawl and follow him to the storage room. He said that Wax, Black and Werber all went into that space with him.

“Mel Wax was extremely hard of hearing, near deaf. I don’t know if he heard the noise or even understood what we were doing. He certainly couldn’t hear the whispers to find a place to hide,” he said on the stand.

Perlam said Wax wanted to check and see what happened whenever it is over. “I said to him, ‘Please don’t. Stay inside,’ and he wouldn’t listen to me.”

Perlman said he later encountered Steve Weiss, a member of Tree of Life, in that space. He said Weiss was coming down to check on them.

“I was surprised he was still in the building and was brave enough to come down and check on us. A man of brave courage to think of others before himself,” Perlman said.

Perlman said he found a door that led to the backyard of a house next door. He then found police and ran for help.

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