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Killer who shot 11 people in attack on synagogue will be sentenced to death

A gunman will be sentenced to death after killing 11 worshippers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh in the deadliest antisemitic attack in US history.

Jurors found Robert Bowers guilty in June for the October 2018 attack in Pennsylvania, and have been deliberating over whether he should face execution or life in prison without parole.

For Bowers to receive the death penalty, jurors needed to be in unanimous agreement.

The 50-year-old truck driver also wounded seven others in the shooting, including five police officers, after he barged into the Tree of Life synagogue and opened fire with an assault rifle and other weapons.

Bowers’ victims – Top row (L-R) Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, and David Rosenthal. Bottom row (L-R), Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Dan Stein, Melvin Wax, and Irving Younger

Following the verdict Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who survived the attack, said the jury’s decision “marks the closing chapter of an emotional, months-long trial”.

He said: “In the years we have spent waiting for this trial to take place, many of us have been stuck in neutral. It was a challenge to move forward with the looming spectre of a murder trial.”

He added that now the trial is “nearly over”, it is his “hope that we can begin to heal and move forward”.

Meanwhile, the family of victim Rose Mallinger said although they will “never attain closure” for their loss, they now “feel a measure of justice has been served”.

“Returning a sentence of death is not a decision that comes easy, but we must hold accountable those who wish to commit such terrible acts of antisemitism, hate, and violence,” they added in a statement.

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Safety fears in Jewish communities

Bowers was convicted of 63 counts, including hate crimes resulting in death and obstruction of the free exercise of religion resulting in death.

During his weeks-long trial, the court heard testimony from survivors and evidence of Bowers’ antisemitism – including posts attacking Jews made on a far-right website in the months before the attack.

He told police at the scene that “all these Jews must die” and has since expressed pride in the killings.

Bowers turned a sacred house of worship into a “hunting ground” – targeting his victims because of their religion, a prosecutor had told jurors during the trial.

Read more:
Pittsburgh and Thousand Oaks: Two cities united by grief after shootings
Nine dead including suspect after shooting at US shopping mall

Pic: AP
Pic: AP

In the sentencing phase, prosecutors have argued that Bowers had the necessary intent and premeditation to qualify for the death penalty.

They presented witnesses and evidence to show he carefully planned the attack and deliberately targeted vulnerable elderly worshipers.

Defence lawyers argued that Bowers suffers from major mental illness, including schizophrenia, and so lacked the necessary level of intent.


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