Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto in wake of synagogue shooting: ‘We are a resilient city’
A husband and wife in their 80s.
Two brothers who lived next door to each other.
The former president of a Jewish congregation. A 97-year-old woman who lived three blocks from her synagogue.
A doctor. A dentist. A former real estate company owner. And a retired researcher and accountant.
All were among the 11 killed Saturday morning in Robert Bowers’s alleged rampage through the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood.
Authorities identified the victims and offered more details about the massacre during a Sunday morning news conference.
“The fact that this attack took place during a worship services makes it even more heinous. A place of worship is a sacred place, it’s a place of peace and grace,” said U.S. Attorney Scott Brady. Bowers, 46, faces 29 federal charges, 22 of which are punishable by death, Brady said.
The Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office separately filed 36 charges against Bowers, including 11 counts of homicide.
Bowers, who remained in fair condition and under guarded watch at Allegheny General Hospital after undergoing surgery for multiple gunshot wounds, is scheduled for his first court appearance at 1 p.m. Monday.
A 70-year-old man and 61-year-old woman also remained hospitalized after being wounded in Saturday’s massacre.
Three police officers remained hospitalized, according to Chief Scott Schubert. One was released Saturday, and Schubert was hopeful another would be released Sunday.
“They ran into danger. They ran into gunfire to help others,” Schubert said of the officers. “Some of that’s training. Some of that’s experience. But it’s their inner core that wants to help others, that wants to save lives, and they did that yesterday.
Saturday’s active threat lasted about 20 minutes beginning with the first shots fired at 9:45 a.m., according to Bob Jones, special agent in charge of the FBI Pittsburgh office. The first 911 call was placed at 9:54 a.m.
Jones said the deceased victims were taken from the scene to the medical examiner’s office at about 6 a.m. Sunday.
Medical Examiner Dr. Karl Williams said autopsies had begun, and four Rabbis have maintained a presence in his office.
Religious practice dictates that Jewish burials should take place as quickly as possible. Williams said his office is working to balance the criminal investigation with the needs of the families.
“We are doing everything in our power to complete the process in a way that honors both civil and religious law,” Williams said.
Jewish tradition calls for funerals to be held within a few days of death and sometimes just 24 hours later, said Jonathan Schachter, president of the Jewish Cemetery and Burial Association in Pittsburgh.
“A lot of it is customs and nuances among the different streams of Judaism,” Schachter said. “The goal is to do it sometime within 24 hours but that’s not always possible.”
Tradition calls for Jewish families to sit Shiva in their homes for up to seven days after a funeral.
“The purpose of Shiva is for the community to come and talk about the deceased, to comfort the mourners. It’s very cathartic for the families,” Schachter said.
The streets nearest the Tree of Life Congregation on Wilkins Avenue remained closed Sunday, and could for up to a week while the processing of the scene continues, according to Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich.
It figures to take longer for life to return to normal for many. But officials said Sunday they were confident it would.
“Pittsburgh is a strong town, and we are a resilient city. We have been knocked down and we have found ways to stand back up, and we have always done it in one way, by working together,” Mayor Bill Peduto said.
Peduto added: “We know that we, as a society, are better than this. We know that hatred will never win out. We will not try to figure out ways to lessen the degree of crimes such as this. We will work to eradicate it. We will work to eradicate it from our city, and our nation, and our world. Hatred will not have a place anywhere.”
Tribune-Review staff writer Rich Cholodofsky contributed. Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer.