A SWAT team arrives at the Tree of Life Synagogue where a shooter opened fire Oct. 27, 2018, injuring multiple people. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Suspect in custody in deadly Pittsburgh synagogue attack

PITTSBURGH (AP) —Police said a suspect was in custody after a shooting caused "multiple casualties" at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

A law enforcement official has identified the suspect in a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue as Robert Bowers.

The official said Bowers was in his 40s.

Authorities said the gunman opened fire during a baby naming ceremony Saturday (Oct. 27) at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

City officials said six people, including four police officers, were injured. They said several people were also killed.

The synagogue is about 10 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh in a neighborhood that is the hub of Pittsburgh's Jewish community.

Police spokesman Chris Togneri said police have no more information at this time because they were still trying to clear the building and determine if any more threats exist.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said all residents of the neighborhood are required to stay inside their homes until further notice.

Jeff Finkelstein of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh told WPXI that organization's security officer has notified all JCC synagogues and that they are on modified lockdown.

President Trump said he was monitoring the shooting. In a tweet, Trump encouraged people to shelter in place and said "looks like multiple fatalities."

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf called the shooting an "absolute tragedy."

"We must all pray and hope for no more loss of life," Wolf said. "But we have been saying 'this one is too many' for far too long. Dangerous weapons are putting our citizens in harm's way."

In 2010, Tree of Life Congregation — founded more than 150 years ago — merged with Or L'Simcha to form Tree of Life (asterisk) Or L'Simcha.

The synagogue is a fortresslike concrete building, its facade punctuated by rows of swirling, modernistic stained-glass windows illustrating the story of creation, the acceptance of God's law, the "life cycle" and "how human-beings should care for the earth and one another," according to its website. Among its treasures is a "Holocaust Torah," rescued from Czechoslovakia.

Its sanctuary can hold up to 1,250 guests.

Finkelstein said local synagogues have done "lots of training on things like active shooters, and we've looked at hardening facilities as much as possible."

"This should not be happening, period," he told reporters at the scene. "This should not be happening in a synagogue."

Just three days before the shooting, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers posted a column on the congregation's website, noting that people make time to attend funerals, but not for life's happy occasions.

"There is a story told in the Talmud of a wedding procession and a funeral procession heading along parallel roads, with the roads intersecting," Myers wrote on Wednesday. "The question asked is: when they meet at the fork, which procession goes first, funeral or wedding? The correct answer is wedding, as the joy of the couple takes precedence. In fact, the funeral procession is to move out of sight so that their joy is not lessened."

Myers ended his column with words that now seem all too prescient.

"We value joy so much in Judaism that upon taking our leave from a funeral or a shiva house, the customary statement one makes (in Yiddish) is 'nor oyf simches' - only for s'machot," Myers wrote. "While death is inevitable and a part of life, we still take our leave with the best possible blessing, to meet at joyous events. And so I say to you: nor oyf simches!"


  1. Looking forward to “thoughts and prayers” from President Trump and from all the politicians bought and paid for by the NRA.

  2. No point in wasting a tragedy by not using it as stepping off point for attacking your favorite political targets, irrelevant or not.

  3. President Trump has implied that it is the synagogue’s fault because they did not have their own armed guard present. This is Trump’s America. Rejoice and be glad.

  4. No but he said the results might have been far better if they had had protection inside.

  5. Assault rifles are rifles firing an intermediate-sized cartridge (larger than a pistol, smaller than a full-size rifle) capable of firing fully automatic.

    Weapons of that type have been heavily restricted since 1934 (National Firearms Act) and have not been made for civilian sale since 1986.

    As a result the current price for an actual assault rifle is in the range of $20k, although some beat-up examples show up from time to time in the $10-15k range.

    Assuming the shooter – and we have no solid information yet – is mentally ill and was adjudicated mentally ill, he or she would have been prohibited from buying any firearm.

    We also don’t know if she or he is a “neo-Nazi”.

    Once we have some facts ….

  6. He was asked about gun laws but deflected to that previous go to position for shootings. His use of if and then would suggests implied blame.

  7. He was asked some questions, unprepared, on his way to boarding a plane.

    If you begin with your a priori assumption – and you do – then it “suggests implied blame”.

    If you simply listen to his off-the-cuff remarks, and he promised a full address on the shooting when he has all the facts, it does not.

    The raw remarks appear near the bottom of this article.


  8. I find it hard to understand the perspective of spending more mental energy nitpicking the precise type of murder device than addressing the more important fact that we have a mental health emergency of lunatics committing mass murder of people they have not even met.

    The perpetrator is a man, so the “he or she” is necessary nor relevant. If the statements on this guy’s antisocial media pages are correctly attributed, there is no doubt he is a neo-Nazi. It’s vile stuff.

    These problems did not start with Trump but he is fanning the flames.

  9. You must’ve meant “the [No-Atheists-Here] Jewish Agency … Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”

    And you must’ve meant “[No-Atheists-Here] Pittsburgh Steelers … We send our thoughts and prayers to those affected by this morning’s tragedy in Pittsburgh.”

    And you must’ve meant “[No-Atheists-Here] Pirates … Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those affected by this horrible event.”

    And you must’ve meant “[No-Atheists-Here] Pittsburgh Penguins … Our thoughts and prayers are with all the victims and the families affected by what happened this morning,”


  10. An old saying, my Dad used to repeat: “There are no atheists fox-holes.” Our society is consumed with violence. I only wish we could remember to pray when we are NOT in a WAR ZONE.

  11. I find it hard to understand the perspective of shouting “assault rifle” when it is not an assault rifle and when the make and model is unknown, going on about mental health when the shooter has not been examined, and positing an “emergency of lunatics committing mass murder” when mass shootings are no more common now then mass murders have ever been.

    If the statements on this guy’s antisocial media pages are correctly attributed” demonstrates you jumped the gun.

    And “… Trump … is fanning the flames” demonstrates that you disregard Maxine Waters, Hillary Clinton, Eric Holder, et al.

    It’s great to have all the answers before the event occurs. All you have to do is pull them out, peel off the backing, and paste them on the event.

  12. Why can’t The RNS Intermural Atheists leave “thoughts and prayers” alone, honestly? What’s the Big (Bang) Deal? Better to say to surviving loved ones, Yeah, about that, our Evidence-Based Conclusions and Social Justice Wargames go to you on account of the Dead-Turning-Into-Worm-Feed.

  13. Because when it hits close to home, they are not atheists. Some of the media and politicians will use it for “Social Justice Wargames (as you say so aptly).” But even so, they cannot escape the shock of the mystery that is contemplated at times of loss and implanted in us–the longing for eternal life.

  14. Amen to that, Pilgrim! (Bad John Wayne imitation, I know.)

    Hey, speaking of “TiredCatholic”, there’s my EnergeticCatholic friend of mine I’d like you to bump into around here at St. RNS. Oh there the name appears after this comment: Mark Connelly.

    Me? I spent only 3 years at a local Catholic parish, discussing The Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    I’m an Evangelical None. (Long story.) Nice to meet you, TiredCatholic. Kinda TiredEvangelical, me. (Long story.)

  15. Well Met, Kinda TiredEvangelical. Can you let me know what HpO stands for? I was looking in the periodic table without success…Uh, Oh! The Communion of Saints channeling again. John Wayne (DiedCatholic) does have something to say here! Pilgrims on the road recognize the name of Tree of Life as a sign. Nobody in the media really talked about that, except to mention it was in Genesis. Thanks, I looked at Mark’s posts. I was confused at first, then realized he was above you, not because of Catholic triumphalism, but because of sorting on my screen!

  16. Thank you for this CBS link. Thank goodness no children were harmed in the synagogue, as it turns out. I was particularly interested in that point, as I find PA State Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s words troubling. It appears he is using children again, to make political points. Shapiro has used abused children of PA to try to ramrod through a piece of legislation that favors civil suits against private entities, while raising the level of proof to gross negligence for public entities. Senator Jake Corman noted this, and said the Senate would try to amend the bill. The Senate left, on Oct. 17th, without acting on it, and on Oct. 18th, Bishop Zubik (of Zubik vs. Burwell) received a subpoena for another Grand Jury investigation, issued on the Federal level from Philadelphia. In late 2017, Josh Shapiro put in a suit to stop the reversal of Zubik vs. Burwell, at the behest of his boss, Gov. Tom Wolf, who has received a couple million dollars campaign money from Planned Parenthood in June. These mid-terms are vicious, and this tragedy will be used far beyond Donald Trump.

  17. Anti-Catholicism is a form of bigotry that is ignored or even accepted or encouraged in quarters (mainly politically and culturally liberal ones) that would not tolerate most other forms of bigotry.


    For an example:


    where we read that the “…. Vatican is an institution, not a person, and has been subject to criticism since, oh, the 11th century. It is fair game …” which converts Catholicism into “an institution” disregarding the fact that Catholicism is a belief system, that it has adherents, and so on.

    This is the kind of thinking that takes issue with statements seen as racist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic, or homophobic but looks the other way at hostile and vituperative public statements about Roman Catholicism.

  18. HpO are the initials to my name. Not exactly anonymous, not exactly revealing, given the nature of internet & social media these days. Speaking of name, how about that Tree of Life, what. It’s spoken of in:

    Genesis 2:9
    Genesis 3:17
    Genesis 3:22
    Genesis 3:24
    Proverbs 3:18
    Proverbs 11:30
    Proverbs 13:12
    Proverbs 15:4

  19. Wow, HpO, you are a veritable Concordance! I didn’t know about the Proverbs citations. Proverbs 11:30 expresses so admirably the consoling vision of eternal life for the victims: “The fruit of the just man is a tree of life…”

    As you know, the beginning story is most wonderfully told. There are 2 trees in the middle of the garden in Gen 2:9 (Knowledge of Good and Evil, and Life). It appears Adam and Eve ate of the Knowledge of Good and Evil(Gen 3:17). Sin and Death come into the world, and eternal life is denied to all (Gen 3:22 and 3:24). Angels guard the way to the Tree of Life.

    You have opened my eyes to the prophetic nature of the Proverbs. For in the fullness of time, there comes a New Adam. The Son of God is conceived by the Spirit of Wisdom (Proverbs 3:18), and is the fruit of the womb of the New Eve. Throughout his early life, he is guarded by Joseph the Just Man (Proverbs 11:30) who precedes him in death, and goes down among the silent (according to Catholic tradition). Three years of public life, shows that Jesus cures the sick, feeds the hungry and speaks of that long-desired peace between God and man (Proverbs 13:12 and 15:4). Finally, on the cross, he takes on our just punishment for sin, and wins back the Way to the Tree of Life. His mother stands at the foot of the cross, and becomes the Mother of all the Living (john 19:25-27). In proof of God’s mercy, he descends to the dead, and takes the souls of the just to their Home with the Living God. His Resurrection presages the final harvest pilgrimage of all those who seek his Way of Wisdom. His mother is the first fruits of this harvest. That is why Catholics believe she has been Assumed into heaven. When the trumpet sounds the dead will be bodily raised, and gloriously praise the New Adam in the new Creation: “And he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming forth from the throne of God, and of the Lamb. In the midst of the city street, on both sides of the river, was the Tree of Life, bearing twelve fruits, yielding its fruit according to each month and the leaves for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22:1-2).”

    Thank you! Best of luck on your Way to the Tree, when we shall gather at the River.

  20. Too bad there’s no mention of “Tree of Life” in The Cathechism of the Catholic Church. Otherwise you & I could’ve studied & discussed the official Catholic catechisms on “Tree of Life”, looking up the scriptural references they rely on for their views. I got only the following, which when compared with your version of “Tree of Life”, deviates significantly. Then again there are no official Catholic catechisms on “Tree of Life”, so the need to dig deeper than the following blurb, albeit referencing the vision in Revelation, is unmotivating & pointless.

    “Christ, the Good Shepherd who leads and protects his faithful (the lamb) by his authority (the staff), draws them by the melodious symphony of the truth (the panpipes) and makes them lie down in the shade of the TREE OF LIFE, his redeeming Cross which opens paradise”.

    Source: The Cathechism of the Catholic Church: 2nd Edition, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2000.

  21. Wow! I have never talked in Catholic circles this much about the Catechism. I love that book. But I disagree. The picture at the front of the Catechism is a good one, and even though a picture is worth a thousand words, I pray (for my own sake as well — since I don’t want to spread anything but Good News) that my explanation is not deviant. I know it is certainly not original to me. The Catechism is an outline of beliefs that enhances, but can in no way be substituted, for study of Scripture. The Catechism should “systematically present the teaching of Sacred Scripture, the Living Tradition of the Church, and the authentic Magisterium,as well as the spiritual heritage of the Fathers, doctors and saints of the Church…( Apostolic Fidei Depositum, intro to the Catechism by JPII).” So in that regard, I used the outline of the Creed (Which is elaborated in Part I of the Catechism), in the meditation on the Tree of Life. Truly, the Way to the Tree of Life is the Way of the Cross. As Hilary says, “Thus on the Tree of Life the salvation and life of all is suspended.” Again, on Hilary’s comments on the Gospel of Matthew: ” He robbed the spirits of death.” But if you base all on that Catechism picture you will be disappointed of the richness of symbolism. For example, the Lamb (Jesus) being worshiped In Heaven, as in Revelation, does not preclude the lamb being the faithful people, as in the Catechism picture! One of the most famous pictures showing this is the Altar piece at Ghent (see bottom panel of it). HbO, don’t tempt me to do a Creed-Based exposition of the references to the “Lamb of God,” in Scripture! Thank you again for the rousing discussion.

  22. I’m replying to you 2x, because I realize that while I’ve been enjoying myself talking about the Tree of Life, you have not enjoyed the 3 years with the Catechism. If your St. RNS, allows, may I ask what your experience was? I know you said it was a long story, and may not want to go into it, but I’ll listen.

  23. Catholic friends & I savoured our Saturday time together when, after the church deacon would pass along our copies of the Readings for the Mass the next day, we’d reflect on them and share our thoughts. The most valuable time would be when the scriptures used for the Mass were read and discusssed in light of the official Vatican interpretation of those verses found in The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, after 3 years of doing that, what goes around comes around. The Reading Cycle got repeated, so it was like a rerun of a TV show. That was when I decided that rehashing what was already discussed in the previous year or so, was a bore. And I moved onto similar discussion sessions like with my Catholic friends, run by Mormons, then by Jehovah’s Witnesses, then by Seventh-Day Adventists.

  24. That was succinct! I think I understand. I have found at Mass that I could hear the first few lines of the Gospel, and then predict what was coming, and tune out. But I stopped doing that when I started going to daily Mass (a different 2-year cycle). Although I can’t do daily any more, I think that no matter where you are the Scripture has a power. Also, the Rosary allows one to meditate, and go deeper and deeper into the mysteries, which never get stale. Happy All Saints Day! Talk to you again some time on your St. RNS.

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