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Eleven dead, six injured at Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

Tree of Life Synagogue, Pittsburg, PA. Image: Google Maps

Eleven people were killed and six injured in a shooting at a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania synagogue earlier on Saturday, October 27, according to city officials. A male suspect, who police believe acted on his own, entered the synagogue and began shooting shortly before 10 a.m. The suspect was taken into custody by police officers who responded to the scene and transported to a local hospital after being shot.

A 9:45 a.m. Shabbat service was scheduled for Saturday morning, according to the synagogue’s website.

The first 9-1-1 emergency calls were received by the Allegheny County Emergency Center at 9:54 a.m. and officers were dispatched just moments later at 9:55 a.m. FBI Special Agent in Charge Bob Jones said at a press conference later on Saturday they believe Pittsburgh police officers encountered the suspect when he was exiting the building; two officers were shot at that time.

Additional police and SWAT officers later took the suspect into custody after he went back inside the synagogue. Jones said he believes the suspect had not previously been a person of interest to police before Saturday.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is leading the investigation and treating it as a hate crime, according to Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich. The scene is “very bad inside,” he added, “it’s one of the worst that I’ve seen.” Scott Brady, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, says they are preparing to file charges against the suspect as early as later on Saturday.

No children were among the deceased, according to Dr. Don Yealy, Chair of Emergency Medicine at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Six patients total were taken to local hospitals; four to UPMC Presbyterian, one to UPMC Mercy, and one to Allegheny General Hospital.

Among the inured were a 61-year-old female, a 70-year-old male, and two male police officers. The suspect was transported to a local hospital where city officials said he is in ‘fair’ condition after suffering multiple gunshot wounds.

Multiple local media outlets have identified the suspect as a male resident of Castle Shannon, just south of Pittsburgh. The social media network Gab says in a statement they suspended an account of a person whose name matched that of the alleged shooter. The network “took swift and proactive action to contact law enforcement immediately,” including the FBI.

The FBI said that an assault rifle and three handguns were recovered from the suspect.

Gab said the network was  “saddened and disgusted by the news of violence in Pittsburgh” in a statement posted Saturday on Medium, and that they “unequivocally disavows and condemns all acts of terrorism and violence”. “We refuse to be defined by the media’s narratives about Gab and our community.” A tweet posted on the network’s Twitter timeline includes a screenshot appearing to show an email from Paypal terminating their relationship with the social network.

Carnegie Mellon University canceled all activities for the rest of the day.

“We are providing local first responders with whatever help they need,” said Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. Wolf said he was heading to the scene, and that the suspect is in custody.

“The shooting in Pittsburgh this morning is an absolute tragedy. I have spoken with local leaders and my administration and the Pennsylvania State Police will provide any resources to assist local law enforcement and first responders.

“These senseless acts of violence are not who we are as Americans. My thoughts right now are focused on the victims, their families and making sure law enforcement has every resource they need.

(Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf)

The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh issued a statement on Saturday, saying “Anti-Jewish bigotry, and all religious and ethnic bigotry, is a terrible sin…we must put prayer into action by loving our neighbors and working to make “Never again!” a reality”

Special Agents from the Philadelphia branch of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as well as Pennsylvania State Police were responding to the incident to assist local police officials.

The U.S. President Donald Trump sent a tweet, noting he was “watching the events unfolding in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,” at 11:08 a.m. “God Bless All!” he added.

Before boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Trump suggested that the synagogue should have had armed guards to stop the attack: “They would have been able to stop him and maybe nobody would have been killed.”

Police departments around the United States including in D.C., Los AngelesNew York City, stepped up patrols around religious buildings in their cities “out of an abundance of caution.

The Pittsburgh shooting comes just two days after a gunman attempted to enter a predominantly-black church and killed two inside a Kroger in Kentucky; the shooting is being investigated as a possible hate crime.

This is a developing story.

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