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Synagogue Shooting Suspect Linked Jews to Refugees

Robert Bowers had a social media account filled with anti-Semitism
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 27, 2018 3:45 PM CDT

(Newser) – In the wake of a horrific mass shooting Saturday at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh—which left 11 dead and at least six injured—we're learning more about alleged mass shooter Robert Bowers. One apparent key: The 46-year-old's social media account at Gab, a platform that prides itself in unrestricted free speech and attracts alt-right/white nationalist activists including Milo Yiannopoulos and neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin, the New York Times reports. Deleted Saturday morning, an account under Bowers' name was critical of the Jewish non-profit HIAS over a planned shabbat ceremony for refugees. "Why hello there HIAS!" one post reads. "You like to bring in hostile invaders to dwell among us?" But that's just the beginning:

  • "I'm going in": An unverified screen capture of the Bowers account includes several disturbing messages, the Washington Post reports. Among them: "There is no #MAGA as long as there is a kike infestation," and, just before the synagogue shooting, "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."

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  • Social media: Gab, which is cooperating with authorities, released a statement that it "unequivocally disavows and condemns all acts of terrorism and violence," but "defend[s] free expression and individual liberty online for all people."
  • Trump: President Trump said the shooting would have turned out differently if the synagogue had hired armed guards, CNN reports. He also said the attack "definitely looks like ... an anti-Semitic crime, and that is something you wouldn't believe could still be going on," and called for the perpetrator to suffer the death penalty.
  • Hate crime: Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Justice Department plans to file hate crime and other charges against Bowers, the AP reports. Sessions also called the attack "reprehensible and utterly repugnant to the values of this nation."
  • Firearms: Bowers has an active firearm license and has bought firearms at least six times since 1996, a law enforcement official tells CNN.
  • Gun control: "We must all pray and hope for no more loss of life," said Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, per ABC6. "But we have been saying 'this one is too many' for far too long. Dangerous weapons are putting our citizens in harm's way."
  • Gunfire: Bowers reportedly wounded four police officers in gunfire exchanges and was shot multiple times himself, but was sent to Allegheny General Hospital in fair condition, per the Post-Gazette.
  • "Very horrific": Police and local residents are grappling with the scene of mass death. "It's a very horrific crime scene," a Pittsburgh official tells the Post. "One of the worst that I've seen. And I've been on some plane crashes."

Read about the actual shooting. (Read more shooting stories.)

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