A 97-year-old woman, two brothers and a couple in their 80s were among the 11 worshippers murdered at a Pittsburgh synagogue in the deadliest attack ever on the Jewish community in the United States, officials said on Sunday.
The suspected gunman, 46-year-old Robert Bowers of Pittsburgh, stormed the building during a Saturday morning service. He also wounded six others including four police officers before being arrested.
Allegheny County medical examiner Karl Williams named the victims at a news conference Sunday morning:
David and Cecil Rosenthal, 54 and 59-year-old brothers;
Sylvan Simon, 86, and his wife Bernice Simon, 84;
Joyce Fienberg, 75;
Richard Gottfried, 65;
Jerry Rabinowitz, 66; Daniel Stein, 71;
Melvin Wax, 88;
Irving Younger, 69;
The oldest victim was Rose Mallinger, 97.
Williams said that the victims’ families had been notified and are “in shock and grieving”. Their bodies are undergoing autopsies, and authorities are “doing everything in our power that honours both civil and religious law,” he said.
It could take up to a week to finish processing the crime scene, given that bodies were found in three different locations, Williams said.
“There are shell casings everywhere,” he said.
Rabinowitz was a doctor, cat lover and “the kindest person you could dream of meeting”, his friend, Anna Boswell-Levy, said in a Facebook post.
“He was such a good and caring man,” added Lisa Wesson-Richardson, one of his employees. “This is such huge loss to his family, his staff and his patients!”
Stein, a retired plumbing salesman as well as a husband, father of two and grandfather of one, attended Shabbat services every Saturday morning, his nephew, Steven Halle, told WPXI News on Saturday.
“Everybody loved him, there wasn’t one person that didn’t like him in the community,” Halle said.
Bowers, who had made anti-Semitic posts online and shouted about killing Jewish people during the attack, has been charged with federal hate crimes and could face the death penalty.
He will appear before a judge on Monday afternoon, US Attorney Scott Brady said.
“The fact that this attack took place during a worship service makes it even more heinous,” Brady said.
The Tree of Life synagogue in the city’s Squirrel Hill neighbourhood, a heavily Jewish area, was holding a Shabbat religious service when the gunman burst in.
Five of the victims lived in Squirrel Hill and the rest were from other Pittsburgh neighbourhoods and communities surrounding the city.
The mass shooting prompted security alerts at houses of worship around the country and condemnation from politicians and religious leaders.
It followed a spate of pipe bombs found mailed in recent days to prominent political figures, mostly Democrats including former US President Barack Obama, ahead of November 6 congressional elections.
“We’ll get through this darkest day of Pittsburgh history by working together,” the city’s mayor, Bill Peduto, told reporters.