Jury selection begins Monday in the trial of Robert Bowers, a Pennsylvania truck driver accused of killing 11 Jewish worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018.
Bowers faces 63 counts, including obstruction of free exercise of religion resulting in death and hate crimes resulting in death, in the federal trial.
Bowers, 50, could be sentenced to death. According to the Associated Press, prosecutors turned down his offer to plead guilty in return for a life sentence.
Prosecutors say Bowers entered the tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, and opened fire on October 27, 2018, screaming “All Jews must die!”, as CrimeOnline previously reported. Three congregations were holding Sabbath activities at the synagogue at the time.
In addition to the 11 people killed, seven more — five of them police officers — were wounded before police bullets struck Bowers.
The defendant’s online writings will be used as evidence in the trial, while his attorneys argue that he has schizophrenia and structural and functional brain impairments.
Earlier this month, prosecutors said that Bowers “harbored deep, murderous animosity towards all Jewish people” in a court filing and that he hated the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, known as HIAS, a non-profit that helps refugees and asylum seekers.
Prosecutors said that Bowers regularly posted to a Gab social media account promoting “his anti-Semitic views and calls to violence against Jews.”
Two police officers testifying at a pretrial hearing in 2021 recounted what they heard Bowers say. Clint Thomas testified that Bowers was “very calm and he said he’s had enough and that Jews are killing our children and the Jews had to die.” David Blahut said that Bowers told him “these people are committing genocide on my people and I want to kill Jews.”
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[Featured image: Left, Robert Bowers/Pennsylvania Department of Transportation via AP, File and Kris Kepler at a commemoration ceremony on October 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)]