• What we know about Robert Bowers, suspect in mass shooting at Pittsburgh synagogue

    Updated:

    The suspect in a shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh that killed eleven people and injured six others, including at least four police officers, is Robert Bowers of Pittsburgh.

    On Thursday, November 1, Bowers was arraigned in court.  At that time he plead not guilty to 44 charges against him and requested a jury trial. 

    The FBI has now confiscated all of the contents of a P.O. Box at a Bridgeville UPS store as part of its investigation.

    NEIGHBOR REACTION

    Channel 11 reporter Courtney Brennan interviewed the suspect's next-door neighbor at his apartment in Baldwin. Here is what she learned:

    • He said that Robert Bowers moved into his apartment two years ago and kept to himself.
    • Bowers was a trucker that and would be gone for stretches of time.
    • Bowers lived alone. The neighbor said he never saw any companions or friends come to see him at his apartment.
    • The neighbor said that Bowers would listen to TV loudly at odd hours of the night.

    Bowers' neighbors on Fieldcrest Drive said they often Bowers at a house there smoking cigarettes on the front porch. Neighbors told us they thought it was his relative’s home.

    Back at Bowers’ most recent address in Baldwin, an apartment on McAnulty Road, neighbors said he didn’t really associate with them.

    FBI agents were in those communities late today talking with neighbors and trying to piece together a picture of Bowers man who seemed to only exist online. 

    THE INCIDENT

    The federal criminal complaint filed against Robert Bowers details the 29 federal criminal counts he’s charged with and the weapons he used during the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue.

    READ THE FULL COMPLAINT HERE

    Bowers was exiting the building when he was confronted by a uniformed Pittsburgh police officer, who exchanged gunfire with him, FBI Special Agent in Charge Bob Jones said. The officer was injured, and Bowers retreated into the building, he said.

    Police surrounded the building, and at some point, there was an exchange of gunfire with Bowers after SWAT team personnel entered the synagogue. Jones said Bowers was carrying one assault-style rifle and three handguns.

    Law enforcement negotiated with Bowers while he was inside the building, sources said, and during those negotiations, he was talking about his hatred for Jewish people. Bowers eventually surrendered.
    At least one of those handguns was a 9mm, police sources told Channel 11's Rick Earle.

    FOR THE LATEST NEWS ON THE TREE OF LIFE SYNAGOGUE MASS SHOOTING, DOWNLOAD THE WPXI NEWS APP

    The complaint said Bowers made statements “evincing an animus towards people of Jewish faith.”
    Bowers told one law enforcement officer, “they’re committed genocide to my people. I just want to kill Jews.” Bowers repeated comments regarding genocide, his desire to kill Jewish people and that Jewish people needed to die, the federal complaint said.

    Bowers eventually surrendered.

    According to the complaint, Bowers had four weapons on him including three Glock .357 handguns as well as a Colt AR-15 model SP1.

    The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms confirmed the weapons were not manufactured in Pennsylvania and at some point, after being manufactured, they traveled in interstate commerce to Pennsylvania, the complaint said.

    In a statement Saturday, Sessions said the killings were "reprehensible and utterly repugnant to the values of this nation."


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    COURT PROCEEDINGS

    (Source: Art Lien)

    Bowers had his first court appearance on Monday, Oct. 29, and a judge ordered that he be held without bail. Bowers was transferred to Butler County Prison, which has an agreement with the Department of Justice to hold those awaiting trial on federal charges.

    PHOTOS: Sketches of synagogue suspect Robert Bowers in court

    The Butler County District Attorney told Channel 11 if it was his choice, Bowers would not be an inmate in the prison.

    "He's looking at not only a death sentence by the federal government, but he'll ultimately also be looking at a death sentence by the state," said Channel 11 legal analyst Phil DiLucente.

    On Wednesday, Bowers was indicted by a federal grand jury on 44 counts including obstruction of justice, use of a firearm to commit murder and obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs. 

    He appeared for his arraignment on Nov. 1, and pleaded not guilty as well as requesting a jury trial.

    Local officials said they will let the federal court process progress before pursuing state charges.

    “Ideally, as with these previous prosecutions, the residents of our county would be the ones to sit in judgement of the individual charged with these crimes and should be given the opportunity to determine guilt and subsequent punishment,” Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala said in a statement. “In my experience, I believe this is clearly a capital case.”


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    SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS

    Investigators are looking into social media posts created by Bowers that reportedly contain hateful language and ideology toward Jews, sources said.

    The social media site Gab.com says Bowers had a profile on their website. The company says the account was verified after Saturday's shooting and matched the name of the gunman.

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    A man with the same name posted on Gab before the shooting that "HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I'm going in."

    HIAS is a nonprofit group that helps refugees around the world find safety and freedom. The organization says it is guided by Jewish values and history.

    Gab said in a statement that it suspended the alleged gunman's account, backed up the content and notified the FBI, the Associated Press reported.

    Gab says its mission is to defend free expression and individual liberty online for all people. The social media site is popular with far-right extremists.

    PREVIOUS ENCOUNTERS WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT

    The Dormont police chief told Channel 11's Courtney Brennan his department had several interactions with accused synagogue shooter Robert Bowers from 1993 to 2004 when he lived in that area.

    One was a traffic citation and another time Bowers was stopped in a stairwell late at night because it seemed 'suspicious.'

    He said Bowers was not on their radar because they only had those few interactions.

    FEDERAL CHARGES

    On Wednesday, Oct. 31, Bowers was indicted on 44 counts by a federal grand jury.

    Full list of charges against Robert Bowers:

    • Eleven counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death
    • Eleven counts of use and discharge of a firearm to commit murder during and in relation to a crime of violence
    • Two counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous weapon and resulting in bodily injury
    • Eleven counts of use and discharge of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence
    • Eight counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous weapon, and resulting in bodily injury to a public safety officer
    • One count of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving use of a dangerous weapon and resulting in bodily injury to a public safety officer.

    Due to an agreement between the federal Department of Justice and Butler County, Bowers is being held at the Butler County Prison while he awaits trial. 

    OTHER INFORMATION

    Bowers went to Baldwin High School in the late 80s. He started as a freshman and withdrew midway through his senior year.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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