Suspect in custody in deadly Pittsburgh synagogue attack

Pennsylvania

Officials say at least 11 people are dead.

Police say a suspect is in custody after a shooting caused “multiple casualties” at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday.

A law enforcement official has identified the suspect in a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue as Robert Bowers.

The official said Bowers was in his 40s.

The official wasn’t authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Pennsylvania attorney general says ‘shooter claimed innocent lives’ at a baby naming ceremony.

Three officers were also shot in the attack at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

It was not immediately known how many people had been shot, whether there were any fatalities or what the shooter’s motive was.

Police spokesman Chris Togneri said police have no more information at this time because they were still trying to clear the building and determine if any more threats exist.

The synagogue is located at the intersection of Wilkins and Shady avenues. The tree-lined residential neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, about 10 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh, is the hub of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said all residents of the neighborhood are required to stay inside their homes until further notice.

Jeff Finkelstein of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh told WPXI that organization’s security officer has notified all JCC synagogues and that they are on modified lockdown.

President Donald Trump said he was monitoring the shooting. In a tweet, Trump encouraged people to shelter in place and said “looks like multiple fatalities.” He says the outcome at Pittsburgh synagogue would have been different with armed guard: ‘They didn’t have any protection’

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf called the shooting an “absolute tragedy.”

“We must all pray and hope for no more loss of life,” Wolf said. “But we have been saying “this one is too many” for far too long. Dangerous weapons are putting our citizens in harm’s way.”

In 2010, Tree of Life Congregation — founded more than 150 years ago — merged with Or L’Simcha to form Tree of Life Or L’Simcha.

The synagogue is a fortress-like concrete building, its facade punctuated by rows of swirling, modernistic stained-glass windows illustrating the story of creation, the acceptance of God’s law, the “life cycle” and “how human-beings should care for the earth and one another,” according to its website. Among its treasures is a “Holocaust Torah,” rescued from Czechoslovakia.

Its sanctuary can hold up to 1,250 guests.

Finkelstein said local synagogues have done “lots of training on things like active shooters, and we’ve looked at hardening facilities as much as possible.”

“This should not be happening, period,” he told reporters at the scene. “This should not be happening in a synagogue.”

Just three days before the shooting, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers posted a column on the congregation’s website, noting that people make time to attend funerals, but not for life’s happy occasions.

“There is a story told in the Talmud of a wedding procession and a funeral procession heading along parallel roads, with the roads intersecting,” Myers wrote on Wednesday. “The question asked is: when they meet at the fork, which procession goes first, funeral or wedding? The correct answer is wedding, as the joy of the couple takes precedence. In fact, the funeral procession is to move out of sight so that their joy is not lessened.”

Myers ended his column with words that now seem all too prescient.

“We value joy so much in Judaism that upon taking our leave from a funeral or a shiva house, the customary statement one makes (in Yiddish) is ‘nor oyf simches’ – only for s’machot,” Myers wrote. “While death is inevitable and a part of life, we still take our leave with the best possible blessing, to meet at joyous events. And so I say to you: nor oyf simches!”

Israel is expressing its shock and concern and offering assistance to the local community following the shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh.

There is no further information available at this time. Check back for updates.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending on WKBN.com