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More charges against accused Tree of Life gunman Robert Bowers

Megan Guza
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Robert D. Bowers

A federal grand jury has added 19 charges to the indictment against Robert Bowers, accused gunman in the Oct. 27 mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue.

Bowers, 46, of Baldwin Borough, originally faced 44 federal charges in the anti-Semitic attack that left 11 congregants dead and two others injured. Four Pittsburgh police officers were also shot and wounded in the gun battle with Bowers.

The new indictment, returned Tuesday, includes 13 counts of violating the federal Hate Crime Act – one for each victim killed and one count for the two injured congregants – and corresponding counts for using a firearm during those crimes.

Bowers now faces 63 federal charges, 22 of which are punishable by death.

The indictment also includes reference to the website gab.com on which Bowers allegedly made statements against the Hebrew Immigrant Aide Society and its activities – specifically, its list of Jewish congregations hosting refugee-related events.

Dor Hadash one of three congregations housed in the Tree of Life synagogue, was on that list.

According to the indictment, Bowers posted the following statement shortly before he began his shooting Oct. 27: “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.”

The indictment also alleges Bowers made statements about his desire to “kill Jews.”

All told, the superseding indictment includes the following federal charges:

• 11 counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death;

• 11 counts of hate crimes resulting in death;

• 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;

• Two counts of hate crimes involving an attempt to kill;

• 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 public safety officers;

• Four counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving use of a dangerous weapon and resulting in bodily injury to public safety officers;

• 25 counts of discharge of a firearm during these crimes of violence.

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib.