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Synagogue Shooting Suspect, Robert Bowers, Indicted On 44 Federal Charges

Robert Bowers was charged with 44 federal counts, including hate crimes, prosecutors announced on Wednesday. He is accused of killing 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue on Oct. 27.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI
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AFP/Getty Images
Robert Bowers was charged with 44 federal counts, including hate crimes, prosecutors announced on Wednesday. He is accused of killing 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue on Oct. 27.

The man accused of killing 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh was indicted on 44 federal counts, including hate crimes, federal prosecutors said on Wednesday.

The indictment accuses Robert Bowers, 46, of walking into Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue carrying an AR-15 rifle and three handguns on Oct. 27. Once inside he ranted about his desire to "kill Jews," according to the indictment, then opened fire on members of three congregations who had gathered for morning services. He also fired on responding officers.

"Today begins the process of seeking justice for the victims of these hateful acts and healing for the victims' families, the Jewish community and our city," U.S. Attorney Scott Brady said in a statement. "Our office will spare no resource and will work with professionalism, integrity and diligence in a way that honors the memories of the victims."

Federal prosecutors originally detained Bowers on 29 counts of hate crimes and firearms offenses. He was taken into custody on Saturday after being injured in a shootout with police.

Wednesday's indictment includes additional firearms charges. It also accuses him of preventing 10 other worshipers from practicing their religion while he attempted to kill them.

The following is a complete list of the charges:

  • 11 counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death; 
  • 11 counts of use and discharge of a firearm to commit murder during and in relation to a crime of violence;
  • 2 counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous weapon and resulting in bodily injury;
  • 11 counts of use and discharge of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence;
  • 8 counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous weapon, and resulting in bodily injury to a public safety officer; and
  • 1 count of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving use of a dangerous weapon and resulting in bodily injury to a public safety officer.
  • A federal grand jury returned the indictment as funerals for the victims continued on Wednesday.

    Bowers is set to appear for a preliminary hearing on Thursday. He is being detained without bail and could face the death penalty.

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    Vanessa Romo
    Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.
    An-Li became a reporter while completing her law degree at Stanford. In law school, she wrote about housing affordability, criminal justice and economic development, among other topics. She also served as the intern to NPR Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg in Washington, DC, helping Ms. Totenberg to cover the U.S. Supreme Court and other legal matters. Originally from Pittsburgh, An-Li interned with the investigations team at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette before joining WESA in August 2017.