The suspect in the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre faces 44 federal charges — most of them death penalty offenses — in the slaying of 11 worshippers during last weekend’s Shabbat services, according to a grand jury filing released Wednesday.
Included are 11 counts each of obstruction of the free exercise of religious belief resulting in death and use of a firearm to commit murder during a crime of violence, a conviction on any of which could be punishable by death, according to the indictment.
“Our investigation of these hate crimes continues,” US Attorney Scott Brady said earlier this week. “Rest assured, we have a team of prosecutors working hard to ensure that justice is done.”
The man accused of the crimes, Robert Bowers, 46, of Baldwin, was wounded at the scene of the shooting and was brought into federal court Monday in a wheelchair. He spoke only to answer the judge’s questions.
He faces 10 other potential death penalty charges, according to the federal indictment:
- Two counts of obstruction of the free exercise of religious beliefs involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous weapon, resulting in bodily injury;
- Eight counts of obstruction of the free exercise of religious beliefs involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous weapon, resulting in bodily injury to a public safety officer.
In total, 32 of the charges are punishable by death, according to the indictment.
The remaining charges are use of a firearm during a crime of violence (two counts), possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence (nine counts) and obstruction of the free exercise of religious beliefs involving use of a dangerous weapons and resulting in bodily injury to a public safety officer (one count).
A conviction on the non-death penalty charges are each punishable by 20 years or life in prison. The suspect also faces millions of dollars in potential fines and restitution, if convicted.
Bowers is accused of targeting the Saturday morning services at the Tree of Life synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood after making anti-Semitic posts online. He also said he wanted to kill Jews during his shootout with police, authorities say.
Four police officers were wounded trying to apprehend Bowers, who stands accused of shooting three of the wounded officers. Two civilians were also wounded.
The indictment on multiple occasions cites the trial of the shooter in the 2015 racially driven slayings of black parishioners at a Charleston, South Carolina, church. The massacre was prosecuted as a hate crime.
Bowers is being held without bond until his preliminary hearing, which is slated for Thursday.
Several of his alleged victims were laid to rest this week.