Published: Tue, October 30, 2018
Global | By Craig Ferguson

Pittsburgh synagogue massacre: Suspect Robert Bowers appears in court in wheelchair

Pittsburgh synagogue massacre: Suspect Robert Bowers appears in court in wheelchair

The man charged in the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre was brought into court in a wheelchair Monday, as some members of the Jewish community and others objected to President Donald Trump's plans to visit, accusing him of contributing to a toxic political climate in the USA that might have led to the bloodshed.

Charging documents said the suspect, Robert Gregory Bowers, armed with an AR-15 assault rifle and three handguns, wanted all Jews to die and that Jews "were committing genocide to his people", an apparent reference to his belief that a Jewish refugee agency assisting foreign nationals entering the us endangered non-Jews in America.

Robert Bowers was pushed into a federal court in Pennsylvania with bandages on his legs to face 29 federal charges, several of which could see him put to death if convicted. He says he hopes to one day forgive Bowers the way relatives of victims killed in 2015 at the Emanuel AME Church forgave the shooter.

Police tape and memorial flowers are seen on Sun., Oct. 28, 2018, outside the Tree of Life Synagogue after a shooting there left 11 people dead in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh on Sat., Oct. 27, 2018.

He said he lives near the synagogue and heard the shots from his home Saturday.

Robert Bowers, 46, was arrested after the killing and charged under federal hate crime statutes. He was formally charged with killing 11 people in what has been called the deadliest attack on Jews in US history.

US President Donald Trump hit out Saturday at what he called "hate" in America after the attack.

"It was a more general frustration of, 'When is this hateful rhetoric going to stop?' and that [our discourse] seems to be further inflamed by elected leaders", she said, without naming anyone in particular.

"The message I get from that is, yes, there is the possibility of hate in all people".

Some Pittsburghers urged Trump to stay away.

"We're missing the opportunity to talk about what this truly was", she said, "which was people being gunned down because of their faith, not because of their politics".

Among those gathered there were 20 family members of Joyce Fienberg, a 75-year-old who died in the shooting and had previously lived in Toronto.

A social media account with Bowers' name repeatedly posted comments rife with anti-Semitism and other bigotry, but people who encountered him in person described him as an unremarkable loner who gave off no indications of that hatred.

Bowers faces upwards of 50 federal and state charges for the massacre. Bowers told Cohen he was fine and then asked who the doctor was.

The suspect was charged with 11 state counts of criminal homicide, six counts of aggravated assault and 13 counts of ethnic intimidation.

"He was saying to me obviously 'I've been shot, '" Murray said.

"Have the events you were going to have and come together as one because in hard times, now more than ever we need to be together and with each other, " Freedman said.

Sara Lefton, the vice-president of philanthropy at vigil organizer the United Jewish Appeal Federation, said amid tragedy, events like vigil are crucial because those killed in Pittsburgh were "singled out for being Jewish".

Judge Mitchell said a public defender would be appointed to Bowers, who was represented Monday by two attorneys in the federal public defender's office.

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