Pittsburgh Tree of Life gunman found guilty of carrying out deadliest antisemitic shooting in US history

A jury on Friday found Robert Bowers guilty of dozens of federal hate crimes for killing 11 worshippers at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue in 2018


PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 31: Mourners visit the memorial outside the Tree of Life Synagogue on October 31, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Eleven people were killed in a mass shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood on October 27. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

A truck driver faces the death penalty after being convicted of barging into the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue and killing 11 congregants in an act of antisemitic terror.

Bowers burst into the synagogue on October 27, 2018 and opened fire with an AR-15 rifle and other guns. Seven people were also wounded, including five police officers.

After 11 days of testimony, jurors spent more than two hours reviewing the mountain of evidence against Bowers on Thursday, June 15.

Bowers was found guilty of 63 criminal counts, including hate crimes resulting in death and obstruction of the free exercise of religion resulting in death. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Jurors must now decide whether the 50-year-old should be sent to death row or sentenced to life in prison without parole as the federal trial shifts to a penalty phase expected to last several weeks.

It comes as a survivor of the deadly antisemitic attack told now her 97-year-old-mother had been shot and killed right next to her.

Andrea Wedner, the trial's last witness, told jurors she touched her mother's lifeless body and cried out, "Mommy," before SWAT officers led her to safety.

Wedner told a Pittsburgh court that she was shot in the arm and then realised her 97-year-old-mother had been shot and killed right next to her. 

In closing arguments on Thursday, prosecutor Mary Hahn also told the jury that Bowers targeted his victims because of their religion, noting his extensive online trail of antisemitic and white supremacist content. 

Bowers also told police at the scene that "all these Jews need to die", Hahn said. 

The defence argued that Bowers was not trying to stop people from practising their faith, an element of some of the crimes he is charged with. 

Elisa Long said Bowers instead acted out of a delusional belief that he had to attack congregants because of their support of a Jewish humanitarian group that resettles refugees, people he viewed as invaders.

Bowers had also extensively posted, shared or liked antisemitic content on Gab, a social media platform popular with the far right. He also praised Hitler and the Holocaust.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive