Gunman Kills 11 in Pittsburgh Shooting

Gunman Kills 11 in Pittsburgh Shooting

Armed with an AR-15-style assault rifle and at least three handguns, a man shouting anti-Semitic slurs opened fire inside a Pittsburgh synagogue Saturday morning, killing at least 11 congregants and wounding four police officers and two others, the authorities said.

In a rampage described as among the deadliest against the Jewish community in the United States, the assailant stormed into the Tree of Life Congregation, where worshipers had gathered in separate rooms to celebrate their faith, and shot indiscriminately into the crowd, shattering what had otherwise been a peaceful morning.

The assailant, identified by law enforcement officials as Robert D. Bowers, fired for several minutes and was leaving the synagogue when officers, dressed in tactical gear and armed with rifles, met him at the door. According to the police, Mr. Bowers exchanged gunfire with officers before retreating back inside and barricading himself inside a third-floor room. He eventually surrendered.

Mr. Bowers, 46, was injured by gunfire, although the authorities said it was unclear whether those wounds were self-inflicted or whether the police had shot him. He was taken to Allegheny General Hospital.

Federal officials charged Mr. Bowers with 29 criminal counts. They included obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs — a hate crime — and using a firearm to commit murder. He also faces state charges, including 11 counts of criminal homicide, six counts of aggravated assault and 13 counts of ethnic intimidation.

Though a bris, a ceremony to mark a child’s birth, was among the ceremonies taking place Saturday, no children were among the casualties, law enforcement officials said. The wounded included a 70-year-old man who had been shot in the torso, and a 61-year-old woman with soft tissue wounds, said Dr. Donald Yealy, chairman of emergency medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

The attack Saturday morning struck the heart of the city’s vibrant Jewish community, in the leafy Squirrel Hill neighborhood that is home to several synagogues, kosher restaurants and bakeries. Hours later, hundreds gathered at three separate interfaith vigils on a cold, rainy evening to mourn the dead and pray for the wounded.

The assault on the synagogue unfolded on a quiet, drizzly morning, and came amid a bitter, vitriolic midterm election season and against the backdrop of what appears to be a surge in hate-related speech and crimes across America. It also took place in the wake of the arrest Friday morning of a man who the authorities said sent more than a dozen pipe bombs to critics of Mr. Trump, including several high-profile Democrats.

Calling it the “most horrific crime scene” he had seen in 22 years with the F.B.I., Robert Jones, special agent in charge in Pittsburgh, said the synagogue was in the midst of a “peaceful service” when congregants were gunned down and “brutally murdered by a gunman targeting them simply because of their faith.”

“We simply cannot accept this violence as a normal part of American life,” said Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, speaking at a news conference Saturday afternoon in Pittsburgh. “These senseless acts of violence are not who we are as Pennsylvanians and are not who we are as Americans.”

The anguish of Saturday’s massacre heightened a sense of national unease over increasingly hostile political rhetoric. Critics of President Trump have argued that he is partly to blame for recent acts of violence because he has been stirring the pot of nationalism, on Twitter and at his rallies, charges that Mr. Trump has denied.

About Saturday’s attack, Mr. Trump, addressing reporters at Joint Base Andrews, said: “It’s a terrible, terrible thing what’s going on with hate in our country and frankly all over the world, and something has to be done.”

“The results are very devastating,” he said, adding that if the temple “had some kind of protection” then “it could have been a much different situation.”

Later, speaking to reporters as he got off Air Force One in Illinois, Mr. Trump said he planned to visit Pittsburgh but he did not say when.

Leaders in the United States and across the world condemned the attack. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said he was “heartbroken and appalled” and that the “the entire people of Israel grieve with the families of the dead.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that criminal charges by the Justice Department “could lead to the death penalty.”

“Hatred and violence on the basis of religion can have no place in our society,” Mr. Sessions said. “Every American has the right to attend their house of worship in safety.”

The massacre Saturday was at least the third mass shooting in a house of worship in three years. Last November, a gunman killed 26 worshipers at a church in Sutherland Springs, Tex., and in 2015, a white supremacist killed nine congregants in a church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Article Originally Appeared On: New York Times
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