NEW YORK (AP) — Mayor Bill de Blasio joined New York's religious leaders and other elected officials Sunday to condemn the Pittsburgh synagogue mass shooting and vowed to protect the city's Jewish communities from anti-Semitic violence.
NEW YORK CITY DENOUNCES THE SHOOTING
The Democrat gathered outside a Manhattan synagogue Sunday afternoon with Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders, including Roman Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the Rev. Al Sharpton.
(Mayor Bill de Blasio, center, speaks outside Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan on Sunday, with numerous community leaders and elected officials. They gathered to condemn the Pittsburgh synagogue mass shooting and vowed to protect the city's Jewish communities from anti-Semitic violence.)
The people of New York stand with the 11 victims of Saturday's shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue and their families, de Blasio said. He said "violence against people because of their faith does not represent out values."
"This gathering sends a message. New York City will never succumb to hate," he said. "We will never allow ourselves to be divided."
Officials said there are no credible threats to the city, but the city police department will be out in force to protect synagogues and Jewish community centers out of an abundance of caution.
"New Yorkers know that the only way to address hatred is head-on. Don't sweep it under the rug," he said.
The interfaith gathering outside Temple Emanu-El was held barely 27 hours after a gunman opened fire inside the Pittsburgh synagogue during Sabbath services, killing eight men and three women and wounding six others, including four police officers. The suspect, identified as 46-year-old Robert Gregory Bowers, was wounded by police. Authorities said he expressed hatred of Jews during the rampage and told officers afterward that he wanted all Jews to die.
Earlier Sunday, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams joined with the Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition and religious leaders to speak out against "anti-Semitism, bigotry, and hate in all its forms."
Adams called for review of social media accounts before issuing a gun license after it was reported that Bowers was believed to have expressed virulently anti-Semitic views on social media.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday directed flags on all New York state government buildings be flown at half-staff in honor of the victims of Saturday's mass shooting and Friday's slayings of two black grocery store patrons in Kentucky.
The Democrat said flags will be lowered Monday through sunset on Nov. 4. Cuomo said the entire nation has been shaken by the two shootings and by the attempted political bombings of prominent figures in the Democratic Party, including New York residents Hillary Clinton and George Soros, as well as CNN's Manhattan studios.
With New York state having the largest Jewish population outside Israel, Cuomo said he'll work to ensure religious institutions are free from violence and intolerance.
Every day New Yorkers have also organized to denounce the violence. Dozens of people stood in solidarity with the Jewish community and those affected by the shooting Saturday night in Union Square. A candlelight vigil there amid steady rain featured songs for peace.
(People sing in solidarity in Union Square at a vigil for the synagogue shooting victims on Saturday night.)
POLICE: SYNAGOGUE GUNMAN SAID HE WANTED ALL JEWS TO DIE
The suspect in the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue expressed hatred of Jews during the rampage and told officers afterward that Jews were committing genocide and that he wanted them all to die, according to charging documents made public Sunday.
Robert Gregory Bowers killed eight men and three women inside the Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday during worship services before a tactical police team tracked him down and shot him, authorities said in state and federal affidavits, which contained unreported details on the shooting and the police response.
(Police officers walk outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in the aftermath of a deadly shooting yesterday in Pittsburgh, early Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. Matt Rourke/AP.)
"I just want to kill Jews," Bowers told an officer, according to one of the documents.
Officials released the names of all 11 victims during a news conference Sunday, all of them middle-aged or elderly. The victims included a pair of brothers and a husband and wife. The oldest was 97.
Mayor Bill Peduto called it the "darkest day of Pittsburgh's history."
Calls began coming in to 911 from the synagogue just before 10 a.m. Saturday. Bowers, 46, shot one of the first two officers to respond in the hand, and the other was wounded by "shrapnel and broken glass," according to court documents.
A tactical team found Bowers on the third floor, where he shot two officers multiple times, an affidavit said.
Bowers, who authorities said used an AR-15 rifle and three handguns in the attack, told an officer while he was being treated for his injuries "that he wanted all Jews to die and also that they (Jews) were committing genocide to his people," a Pittsburgh police affidavit said.
The suspect had a license to carry firearms and legally owned his guns, according to a law enforcement official who wasn't authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation and spoke Sunday on condition of anonymity.
Bowers was charged with 11 state counts of criminal homicide, six counts of aggravated assault and 13 counts of ethnic intimidation in what the leader of the Anti-Defamation League called the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.
He was also charged in a 29-count federal criminal complaint that included counts of obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death — a federal hate crime — and using a firearm to commit murder. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the charges "could lead to the death penalty."
Bowers, who underwent surgery and remained hospitalized, is scheduled for a court appearance Monday. It wasn't clear whether he had an attorney to speak on his behalf. A message left with the federal public defender's office in Pittsburgh wasn't immediately returned.
His neighbor, Chris Hall, said he never heard or saw anything to indicate that Bowers harbored anti-Semitic views or posed a threat. Bowers kept to himself, he said.
"The most terrifying thing is just how normal he seemed," Hall said. "I wish I knew what was going on inside his head. Maybe something could have been done. I don't know."
The victims included Melvin Wax, a retired accountant in his late 80s who was always one of the first to arrive at synagogue and among the last to leave.
"He and I used to, at the end of services, try to tell a joke or two to each other," said Myron Snider, a fellow member of New Light Congregation, which rented space in the basement of Tree of Life. "Most of the time they were clean jokes. Most of the time. I won't say all the time. But most of the time."
The toll also included professors, dentists and physicians.
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center tweeted it mourned the loss of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, "one of the kindest physicians and human beings in our community."
Two other victims, Cecil Rosenthal, 59, and his younger brother David Rosenthal, 54, were intellectually disabled and lived together in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood, near the synagogue where they were killed.
"Cecil's laugh was infectious. David was so kind and had such a gentle spirit. Together, they looked out for one another. They were inseparable," said Chris Schopf, vice president of residential supports for ACHIEVA, which helped the brothers lived independently. "Most of all, they were kind, good people with a strong faith and respect for everyone around."
The nation's latest mass shooting drew condemnation and expressions of sympathy from politicians and religious leaders of all stripes.
Pope Francis led prayers for Pittsburgh in St. Peter's Square.
"In reality, all of us are wounded by this inhuman act of violence," he said. He prayed for God "to help us to extinguish the flames of hatred that develop in our societies, reinforcing the sense of humanity, respect for life and civil and moral values."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman quoted Merkel on Twitter as offering her condolences and saying that "all of us must confront anti-Semitism with determination — everywhere."
Calling the shooting an "evil anti-Semitic attack," President Donald Trump ordered flags at federal buildings throughout the U.S. to be flown at half-staff in respect for the victims. He said he planned to travel to Pittsburgh but offered no details.
Some blamed the slaughter on the nation's political climate.
"When you spew hate speech, people act on it. Very simple. And this is the result. A lot of people dead. Senselessly," said Stephen Cohen, co-president of New Light Congregation, which rents space at Tree of Life.
Vigils were planned in Pittsburgh, Washington and elsewhere, while the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns observed a moment of silence at Heinz Field on Sunday.
Little was known about Bowers, who had no apparent criminal record but who is believed to have expressed virulently anti-Semitic views on social media. Authorities said it appears he acted alone.
The Jewish community is "an important part of the cultural and social identity of Pittsburgh, and so this was an attack upon our neighbors and upon our friends," Scott Brady, the chief federal prosecutor in western Pennsylvania, said.
The gunman targeted a building that housed three separate congregations, all of which were conducting Sabbath services when the attack began just before 10 a.m. in the tree-lined residential neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, about 10 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh and the hub of the city's Jewish community.
During the week, anyone who wanted to get inside Tree of Life synagogue had to ring the doorbell and be granted entry by staff because the front door was kept locked. Not so on Saturday — the Jewish Sabbath — when the building was open for worship.
Michael Eisenberg, the immediate past president of the Tree of Life, said synagogue officials had not received any threats that he knew of before the shooting. But security was a concern, he said, and the synagogue had started working to improve it.
One of the police officers wounded in the attack was treated and released, and a second was expected to be released Sunday. The other two injured officers were expected to stay in the hospital, and one of them, a 40-year-old man, remained in critical condition Sunday.
Two other people in the synagogue were wounded by Bowers. A 61-year-old woman was listed in stable condition, and a 70-year-old man was in critical condition, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.