Tragic twist in synagogue shooting where gunman 'wanted all jews to die'

The 11 victims shot dead at a Pittsburgh synagogue have been identified, including a 97-year-old woman who survived the Holocaust.

Rose Mallinger, 97, was the eldest victim and would have lived through the Holocaust following her birth in 1921.

Officials released the names of the victims of the shooting at the Tree of Life congregation in Squirrel Hill in a press conference on Sunday morning who were all older than 54.

Robert Bowers, 46, has been charged over the shooting on Saturday morning (local time).

The attack, which also injured six others, is believed to be the deadliest attack on Jews in US history.

Among the dead were a pair of brothers and a husband and wife. The professions of the deceased included doctors, professors, and dentists.

Bowers is accused of killing 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill. Source: AP

Daniel Stein, 71, was the first victim to be named and has been remembered as a visible member of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community.

Stein’s nephew Steven Halle told the Tribune-Review that his uncle “was always willing to help anybody”.

With his generous spirit and dry sense of humour, “he was somebody that everybody liked”, Halle said.

Daniel Stein has been identified as one of the 11 victims in the shooting. Source: WXPI

Victim Melvin Wax, a retired accountant in his late 80s, was always one of the first to arrive at the 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.”

Dr Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, has been remembered as a dedicated physician who was far more than just a doctor.

Robert Bowers is understood to have had a history of anti-Semitic comments on social media. Source: Pennsylvania Department of Transportation

“He is one of the finest people I’ve ever met,” close friend Dr Kenneth Ciesielka said.

Widow Joyce Fienberg, 75, was remembered as “a magnificent, generous, caring, and profoundly thoughtful human being”.

Dr Gaea Leinhardt, who was Fienberg’s research partner for decades, said she is devastated by the murder of her colleague and friend.

The other victims identified include Richard Gottfried, 65, Cecil Rosenthal, 59, and his brother David Rosenthal, 54; married couple Bernice Simon, 84, and Sylvan Simon, 86; and Irving Younger, 69.

Gunman ‘wanted all Jews to die’

Bowers 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.

“I just want to kill Jews,” Bowers told an officer, according to one of the documents.

Calls began coming in to 911 from the synagogue just before 10am Saturday (local time).

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.

Mourners gather outside in Pittsburgh following the shooting on Saturday. Source: Getty

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 licence to carry firearms and legally owned his guns, according to a law enforcement official who wasn’t authorised 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.

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. US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the charges “could lead to the death penalty”.

Bowers, who underwent surgery and remained hospitalised, 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.

Chilling social media post moments before shooting

Bowers is believed to have shared a haunting message of intent on social media site at 9.49am criticising a Jewish organisation which helps refugees.

“HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in,” he wrote.

The post was the latest in a long line of anti-Semitic messages on Bowers’ profile.

Gab, similar to Twitter, said it has suspended the alleged gunman’s account, backed up the content and notified the FBI.

Gab says its mission is to defend free expression and individual liberty online for all people. The social media site is popular with far-right extremists, according to AP.

– With AP and Reuters