Hate crimes, groups have history in Pittsburgh area

Hate crimes, groups have history in Pittsburgh area

PITTSBURGH — Channel 11 is working to learn more about the man just arrested who was an online friend of synagogue shooting suspect Robert Bowers.

Jeffrey Clark wasn't charged in connection with the synagogue shooting, but the hate both men showed online underlines a disturbing pattern not just in Pittsburgh, but across the country.

Channel 11 asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation if agents have connected Bowers to any of the white nationalist groups in Pittsburgh.

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In the last five months, Channel 11 has covered two other hate crimes that involved self-avowed white supremacists or members of white nationalist groups.


Bowers' alleged massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue was the third local crime in the last five months in which the suspect is accused of holding a deep hatred for Jews or African-Americans.

In August, Joden Rocco was charged in the stabbing death of Dulane Cameron outside a North Shore bar.

Police say Rocco, a self-professed white supremacist, created several social media posts and videos where he used racial slurs.

The month before that, police said a group of apparent skinheads attacked a black man at a bar in Avalon.

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Six of them in that case are now awaiting trial on ethnic intimidation, simple assault and conspiracy charges.

Duquesne University associate professor of sociology, Norm Conti, told Channel 11 this kind of rhetoric and violence has a history in our area.

"It's been going on for quite awhile, a lot of people forget we're coming up on the 10-year anniversary of the three police officers," Conti said.

He's talking about the 2009 killing of three Pittsburgh police officers by white supremacist Richard Poplowski.


And in 2015, five men were accused of attacking a black man at the Wood Street T station after the Kenny Chesney concert.

One man was sentenced to prison, the others accepted plea agreements.

Conti says getting to the root of these hate crimes will take a multipronged approach. 

"We have to address mental health in this country, then we should look into firearms and maybe most importantly we should just think about how we are treating each other," Conti said.

The Southern Poverty Law Center tracks hate crimes and hate groups. In Pennsylvania, there are two white nationalist groups in Pittsburgh.

Channel 11 contacted the FBI to find out of Bowers was a member of any local groups and have not heard back.