Families ‘in Shock' as Pittsburgh Synagogue Victims Identified; Shooting Suspect Charged With Hate Crimes

"We're gonna get through this ... and show what Pittsburgh's made of," said Pittsburgh police chief Scott Schubert

What to Know

  • Officials said at a news conference Sunday that the victims ranged in age from 54 to 97 and included brothers and a husband and wife
  • Four officers were injured as they engaged with the gunman, with three being shot and one sustaining shrapnel wounds
  • "We're gonna get through this ... and show what Pittsburgh's made of," the police chief said

After a gunman stormed a Pittsburgh synagogue Saturday morning and killed 11 people during worship services in what is being treated as a hate crime, officials urged the city to come together in support as the victims were identified.

Those killed ranged in age from 54 to 97 and included two brothers and a husband and wife, the medical examiner said at a news conference Sunday, adding that the victims' families have all been notified and are "are in shock and grieving."

The victims were identified as: 59-year-old Cecil Rosenthal and his 54-year-old brother David Rosenthal, of Squirrel Hill; 86-year-old Sylvan Simon and his 84-year-old wife Bernice Simon, of Wilkinsburg; 75-year-old Joyce Fienberg of Oakland; 65-year-old Richard Gottfried of Ross Township; 97-year-old Rose Mallinger of Squirrel Hill; 66-year-old Jerry Rabinowitz of Edgewood Borough; 71-year-old Daniel Stein of Squirrel Hill; 86-year-old Melvin Wax of Squirrel Hill; 69-year-old Irving Younger of Mt. Washington.

Those killed included professors, dentists and physicians. Friends shared stories of their loved ones and remembered the victims for their advice and generosity.

Medical examiner Karl Williams said the attack is "an awful, awful period for our Jewish community" and that the victims' families "need to know Pittsburgh supports them and is lifting them up."

"We'll get through this darkest day of Pittsburgh's history by working together," said Mayor Bill Peduto. "We know hatred won't win out. ... We will work to eradicate it from our city, our nation and the world." 

Authorities say gunman Robert Bowers made statements to police about his desire to kill Jewish people after unleashing bullets in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood. Bowers is charged with 29 federal counts, including 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."

After sustaining multiple gunshot wounds at the scene, Bowers is being treated at a hospital and is in fair condition. He is scheduled to make his first court appearance Monday, and it wasn't immediately known if he had an attorney.

Pittsburgh Police public safety director Wendell Hissrich thanked law enforcement and first responders to their quick action on Saturday. He asked that locals help show support for the officers after the trying day.

"The last 24 hours have been extremely stressful for them, and a word of thanks would go a long way for them," Hissrich said.

Hissrich also honored the four officers injured in the attack, three of whom remain in the hospital. 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.

Peduto said there is no way to rationalize the actions of the gunman and focus instead needs to be put on controlling the distribution of firearms.

"The approach that we need to be looking at is how we take the guns — which is the common denominator at every mass shooting in America — out of the hands of those looking to express hatred through murder," Peduto said.

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, Cleveland Browns and other NFL teams observed a moment of silence on Sunday.

A design based on the Pittsburgh Steelers' helmet logo — inserting a Star of David — was shared on the team’s social media and was displayed at Heinz Field for game day. In a tribute to the victims, the tweak to the logo changed a yellow shape into a Jewish star, and added the words, "Stronger than hate." One child in the stands wore that new symbol as a patch on his jersey.

In a statement issued before his team's game, Steelers owner Art Rooney II said: "Our hearts are heavy, but we must stand against anti-Semitism and hate crimes of any nature and come together to preserve our values and our community."

NBC's Liz Lane, and Associated Press' Claudia Lauer and Allen Breed, contributed to this report.

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