The man accused of opening fire and killing 11 people in a synagogue in Pittsburgh on the Sabbath was indicted Wednesday on 44 federal criminal charges, including for hate crimes, and could face the death penalty.
According to the indictment, Robert Bowers, 46, entered the Tree of Life synagogue where worshippers were gathered for Saturday morning Shabbat service, armed with an AR-15 rifle and several handguns. He killed 11 people, and wounded six, including four police officers who responded to the scene.
The indictment, returned by a federal grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, includes charges for obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death.
“Today begins the process of seeking justice for the victims of these hateful acts,” U.S. Attorney Scott Brady said in a statement from the DOJ. “Our office will spare no resource, and will work with professionalism, integrity and diligence, in a way that honors the memories of the victims.”
The criminal complaint, filed at 8:05 p.m. Saturday as Pittsburgh was still reeling in the immediate aftermath of the massacre, makes specific reference to the gunman’s alleged anti-Semitism, which he'd also expressed online on Gab.
“During the course of his deadly assault on people at the Synagogue, and simultaneously with his gunfight with responding officers, Bowers made statements evincing an animus towards people of the Jewish faith,” the complaint states. “For example, Bowers commented to one law enforcement officer, in substance, "They're committing genocide to my people. I just want to kill Jews."
Federal prosecutors will seek the maximum penalty of death, or life without parole, followed by a consecutive sentence of 5345 years’ imprisonment.
“Hatred and violence on the basis of religion can have no place in our society. Every American has the right to attend their house of worship in safety,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “These alleged crimes are incomprehensibly evil and utterly repugnant to the values of this nation. Therefore this case is not only important to the victims and their loved ones, but to the city of Pittsburgh and the entire nation.”
Cover: A woman seen praying at the memorial service for the victims of the Tree of Life Massacre. Members of Pittsburgh and the Squirrel Hill community pay their respects at the memorial to the 11 victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre perpetrated by suspect Robert Bowers on Saturday, October 27. (Photo by Matthew Hatcher/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)