A rabbi who helped alert authorities to the synagogue shooting that killed 11 people says it was because of recent security training that he had a cellphone on him and was able to make the call.
Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of the Tree of Life in Pittsburgh said Monday on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that he hadn’t always carried a cellphone on the Sabbath.
Myers says that he spent 20 minutes on the phone with authorities and that it “felt like an eternity.”
Meanwhile, suspect Robert Gregory Bowers is expected to appear in federal court Monday. Authorities say he expressed hatred toward Jews during the rampage Saturday morning and in later comments to police.
U.S. Attorney Scott Brady says federal prosecutors intend to pursue the death penalty.
Bowers opened fire with an AR-15 rifle and other weapons, killing eight men and three women before a tactical police team tracked him down and shot him, according to state and federal affidavits made public on Sunday.
He apparently posted an anti-Semitic message on a social media account linked to him just a few minutes before he opened fire. He expressed hatred of Jews during the rampage and later told police that “I just want to kill Jews” and that “all these Jews need to die,” authorities said. The Anti-Defamation League called it the deadliest U.S. attack on Jews.
Six people were injured, including four officers.
Bowers was charged with 11 state counts of criminal homicide, six counts of aggravated assault and 13 counts of ethnic intimidation. He was also charged in a 29-count federal criminal complaint that included counts of obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death — a federal hate crime — and using a firearm to commit murder.
It isn’t clear whether Bowers, who underwent surgery and remains hospitalized, has an attorney to speak on his behalf. A message left with the federal public defender’s office in Pittsburgh wasn’t returned.
Barry Werber says members of the synagogue’s New Light Congregation were in the basement and beginning to pray when they heard crashing coming from upstairs. They looked out and saw a body on the staircase.
Werber says he called 911 but was afraid to say anything for fear of making noise as gunshots echoed upstairs.