A gunman entered the conservative Jewish Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh Saturday morning and opened fire on congregants attending a service, killing 11 people, authorities said.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said the attack occurred during a baby-naming ceremony, at around 10 a.m. Eastern Time.
Early reports said four police officers were also reportedly shot upon responding to the attack. Several ambulances were also dispatched to the scene.
According to Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich, the crime scene was “one of the worst I’ve ever seen.”
“There doesn’t seem to be much doubt here, as if there was any to start with, that this is a hate crime.” @petewilliamsnbc updates us on the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting and details about a potential suspect pic.twitter.com/rU8Tuokrd9
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) October 27, 2018
Former Tree of Life president Michael Eisenberg told KDKA-TV that there were around 100 people present at the synagogue Saturday, from three congregations.
Little is known about the victims so far, though local law enforcement stated the shooter, 46-year-old Robert Bowers, may have been carrying an AR-15-style rifle and “multiple handguns,” according to NBC.
Officials believe the attack was targeted. Witnesses said Bowers, who is white, yelled “All Jews must die” upon entering the synagogue.
Reports also claimed the gunman had an account on GAB, a social media site similar to Twitter that is popular with far-right figures and right-wing extremists. An account listed under the alleged gunman’s name showed dozens of anti-Semitic posts and ominous threats of violence.
The FBI is currently investigating the attack as a hate crime.
— Lori Houy (@WPXI_Lori) October 27, 2018
Officials from the Pittsburgh Public Safety Department tweeted that there was “an active shooter in the area of WILKINS and Shady” around 10:30 a.m. Eastern Time. They urged the public to avoid the area, and said additional information would be released as it became available.
Media reports suggested the gunman surrendered to police after being confined to the third floor.
Carnegie Mellon University, which is located down the road from the synagogue, was reportedly placed on lockdown during the shooting, with students receiving text messages to remain indoors.
Watching the events unfolding in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Law enforcement on the scene. People in Squirrel Hill area should remain sheltered. Looks like multiple fatalities. Beware of active shooter. God Bless All!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 27, 2018
President Trump weighed in on the situation Saturday morning, tweeting that he was monitoring the response.
“Watching the events unfolding in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,” he wrote. “Law enforcement on the scene. People in Squirrel Hill area should remain sheltered. Looks like multiple fatalities. Beware of active shooter. God Bless All!”
Later, however, the president suggested the attack might have been foiled if the synagogue had armed guards.
“If you take a look, if they had protection inside, the results would have been far better,” he told reporters. “This is a dispute that will always exist, I suspect, but if they had some kind of a protection inside the temple, maybe it could have been a very much different situation. They didn’t. [The gunman] was able to do things that unfortunately he shouldn’t have been able to do.”
In a statement Saturday afternoon, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom expressed condolences for the victims and lamented the toll gun violence had taken on the country.
“The shooting in Pittsburgh this morning is an absolute tragedy,” he said. “…These senseless acts of violence are not who we are as Americans. My thoughts right now are focused on the victims, their families and making sure law enforcement has every resource they need. We must all pray and hope for no more loss of life. But we have been saying ‘this one is too many’ for far too long. Dangerous weapons are putting our citizens in harm’s way.”
He added, “…In the aftermath of this tragedy, we must come together and take action to prevent these tragedies in the future. We cannot accept this violence as normal.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center also issued a statement Saturday, sending sympathies to the victims’ families and loved ones, and drawing comparisons between the synagogue shooting and other high-profile attacks on religious congregations.
“It reminds us of the slaughter of nine African American worshipers at Charleston’s Mother Emmanuel Church in 2015, the killings of six Sikh worshipers at a temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, in 2014, and, of course, the bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963 that left four young African American girls dead,” SPLC president Richard Cohen wrote.
Cohen noted that the shooting followed closely on the heels of “a string of attempted pipe bombings by a white supremacist who targeted frequent critics of President Trump.”
“Our hearts go out to the families of the victims of the most recent shootings,” he added.
In an email statement to ThinkProgress, co-president Avery Gardiner of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence mourned those killed in the attack, “for their loved ones, and for members of the Jewish faith who are reeling across the world today.”
“Today, we simply say, zikhronam liv’rakha – may their memories be for a blessing,” she said.
This news story updates an earlier post, adding the toll casualties.