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Police: Synagogue gunman said he wanted all Jews to die

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    Two people support each other in front of flowers at a makeshift memorial at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. Robert Bowers, the suspect in Saturday's mass shooting at the synagogue, expressed hatred of Jews during the rampage and told officers afterward that Jews were committing genocide and he wanted them all to die, according to charging documents made public Sunday. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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    Police officers walk outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in the aftermath of a deadly shooting yesterday in Pittsburgh, early Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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    People stand on the stairs of Sixth Presbyterian Church as the crowd spills up the hill and down the street for a vigil blocks from where an active shooter shot multiple people at Tree of Life Congregation synagogue on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018, in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh. (Stephanie Strasburg/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

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    United States Attorney Scott Brady, at podium, speaks with members of the media during a news conference in the aftermath of a deadly shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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    Isabel Kinnane Smith of Allderdice is comforted by Lesley Britton, a math teacher at the school, at a vigil blocks from where an active shooter shot multiple people at Tree of Life Congregation synagogue on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018, in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh. (Stephanie Strasburg/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

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    Spectators stand during a moment of silence for the victims of a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, before the Vancouver Canucks and the Pittsburgh Penguins play an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, British Columbia, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)

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    Vancouver Canucks and Pittsburgh Penguins players stand on the ice during a moment of silence for the victims of a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, before an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, British Columbia, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)

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    People gather for a vigil on Murray and Forbes Avenues, blocks from where an active shooter shot multiple people at Tree of Life Congregation synagogue on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018, in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh. (Stephanie Strasburg/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

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    Rachel Kranson, left, holds her daughter, Sasha Kranson, 12, during a vigil after an active shooter fatally shot multiple people at Tree of Life Congregation synagogue on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018, in their neighborhood of Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh. (Stephanie Strasburg/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

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    A crowd attends a memorial service at the Sixth Presbyterian Church in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh for the victims of the deadly shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue where a shooter opened fire, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

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    A crowd gathers at the intersection of Murray Ave. and Forbes Ave. in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh during a memorial vigil for the victims of the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue where a shooter opened fire earlier in the day Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

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    Emergency vehicles block off the area around the McAnulty Acres apartment complex as authorities continue their investigation of a shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue where multiple people were killed on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018 in Baldwin, Pa., a suburb south of Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

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    The FBI investigates in the rain after an active shooter situation at the Tree of Life Congregation on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018, in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh. A gunman opened fire at the synagogue, killing multiple people and injuring others in one of the deadliest attacks on Jews in U.S. history. (Andrew Stein/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

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    Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, right, and Attorney General Josh Shapiro, attend a news conference in the aftermath of a deadly shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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    Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto speaks with members of the media during a news conference in the aftermath of a deadly shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Published October 28. 2018 02:52PM

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The suspect in the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue expressed hatred of Jews during the rampage and told officers afterward that Jews were committing genocide and that he wanted them all to die, according to charging documents made public Sunday.

Robert Gregory Bowers killed eight men and three women inside the Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday during worship services before a tactical police team tracked him down and shot him, authorities said in state and federal affidavits, which contained unreported details on the shooting and the police response.

“I just want to kill Jews,” Bowers told an officer, according to one of the documents.

Officials released the names of all 11 victims during a news conference Sunday, all of them middle-aged or elderly. The victims included a pair of brothers and a husband and wife. The oldest was 97.

Mayor Bill Peduto called it the “darkest day of Pittsburgh’s history.”

Calls began coming in to 911 from the synagogue just before 10 a.m. Saturday. Bowers, 46, shot one of the first two officers to respond in the hand, and the other was wounded by “shrapnel and broken glass,” according to court documents.

A tactical team found Bowers on the third floor, where he shot two officers multiple times, an affidavit said.

Bowers, who authorities said used an AR-15 rifle and three handguns in the attack, told an officer while he was being treated for his injuries “that he wanted all Jews to die and also that they (Jews) were committing genocide to his people,” a Pittsburgh police affidavit said.

The suspect had a license to carry firearms and legally owned his guns, according to a law enforcement official who wasn’t authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation and spoke Sunday on condition of anonymity.

Bowers was charged with 11 state counts of criminal homicide, six counts of aggravated assault and 13 counts of ethnic intimidation in what the leader of the Anti-Defamation League called the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.

He was also charged in a 29-count federal criminal complaint that included counts of obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death — a federal hate crime — and using a firearm to commit murder. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the charges “could lead to the death penalty.”

Bowers, who underwent surgery and remained hospitalized, is scheduled for a court appearance Monday. It wasn’t clear whether he had an attorney to speak on his behalf. A message left with the federal public defender’s office in Pittsburgh wasn’t immediately returned.

His neighbor, Chris Hall, said he never heard or saw anything to indicate that Bowers harbored anti-Semitic views or posed a threat. Bowers kept to himself, he said.

“The most terrifying thing is just how normal he seemed,” Hall said. “I wish I knew what was going on inside his head. Maybe something could have been done. I don’t know.”

The victims included Melvin Wax, a retired accountant in his late 80s who was always one of the first to arrive at synagogue and among the last to leave.

“He and I used to, at the end of services, try to tell a joke or two to each other,” said Myron Snider, a fellow member of New Light Congregation, which rented space in the basement of Tree of Life. “Most of the time they were clean jokes. Most of the time. I won’t say all the time. But most of the time.”

The toll also included professors, dentists and physicians.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center tweeted it mourned the loss of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, “one of the kindest physicians and human beings in our community.”

Two other victims, Cecil Rosenthal, 59, and his younger brother David Rosenthal, 54, were intellectually disabled and lived together in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, near the synagogue where they were killed.

“Cecil’s laugh was infectious. David was so kind and had such a gentle spirit. Together, they looked out for one another. They were inseparable,” said Chris Schopf, vice president of residential supports for ACHIEVA, which helped the brothers lived independently. “Most of all, they were kind, good people with a strong faith and respect for everyone around.”

The nation’s latest mass shooting drew condemnation and expressions of sympathy from politicians and religious leaders of all stripes.

Pope Francis led prayers for Pittsburgh in St. Peter’s Square.

“In reality, all of us are wounded by this inhuman act of violence,” he said. He prayed for God “to help us to extinguish the flames of hatred that develop in our societies, reinforcing the sense of humanity, respect for life and civil and moral values.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman quoted Merkel on Twitter as offering her condolences and saying that “all of us must confront anti-Semitism with determination — everywhere.”

Calling the shooting an “evil anti-Semitic attack,” President Donald Trump ordered flags at federal buildings throughout the U.S. to be flown at half-staff in respect for the victims. He said he planned to travel to Pittsburgh but offered no details.

Some blamed the slaughter on the nation’s political climate.

“When you spew hate speech, people act on it. Very simple. And this is the result. A lot of people dead. Senselessly,” said Stephen Cohen, co-president of New Light Congregation, which rents space at Tree of Life.

Vigils were planned in Pittsburgh, Washington and elsewhere, while the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns observed a moment of silence at Heinz Field on Sunday.

Little was known about Bowers, who had no apparent criminal record but who is believed to have expressed virulently anti-Semitic views on social media. Authorities said it appears he acted alone.

The Jewish community is “an important part of the cultural and social identity of Pittsburgh, and so this was an attack upon our neighbors and upon our friends,” Scott Brady, the chief federal prosecutor in western Pennsylvania, said.

The gunman targeted a building that housed three separate congregations, all of which were conducting Sabbath services when the attack began just before 10 a.m. in the tree-lined residential neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, about 10 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh and the hub of the city’s Jewish community.

During the week, anyone who wanted to get inside Tree of Life synagogue had to ring the doorbell and be granted entry by staff because the front door was kept locked. Not so on Saturday — the Jewish Sabbath — when the building was open for worship.

Michael Eisenberg, the immediate past president of the Tree of Life, said synagogue officials had not received any threats that he knew of before the shooting. But security was a concern, he said, and the synagogue had started working to improve it.

One of the police officers wounded in the attack was treated and released, and a second was expected to be released Sunday. The other two injured officers were expected to stay in the hospital, and one of them, a 40-year-old man, remained in critical condition Sunday.

Two other people in the synagogue were wounded by Bowers. A 61-year-old woman was listed in stable condition, and a 70-year-old man was in critical condition, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

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Lauer reported from Philadelphia, and Breed reported from Raleigh, North Carolina. Contributing to this report were Associated Press journalists Mark Gillispie, Robert Bumsted and Gene Puskar in Pittsburgh; Eric Tucker, Michael Biesecker and Michael Balsamo in Washington; Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Michael Kunzelman in Silver Spring, Maryland; and Michael Rubinkam in northeastern Pennsylvania.

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For AP’s complete coverage of the Pittsburgh synagogue shootings: https://www.apnews.com/Shootings

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