by Vivian Lee
On Saturday morning, October 27, 2017, a mass shooting was reported at the Tree of Life synagogue in the Squirrel Hill region of Pittsburgh, PA. A suspect, Robert Gregory Bowers, was apprehended at the scene, after being wounded by SWAT officers. Before he was taken into custody, Bowers is said to have killed 11 of the congregants and injured six, including four members of the SWAT team that he engaged in two separate gun battles. Bowers was allegedly armed with “an AR-15-style assault rifle,” a Glock pistol, and two other handguns.
The officers who rushed to the scene came upon Mr. Bowers as he was trying to leave the synagogue. He fired at them, injuring one officer in the hand, according to the criminal complaint. Another officer had injuries to his face from shrapnel and broken glass. Mr. Bowers then darted back inside and ran up to the third floor.
At that point, a SWAT team went in and came upon the scene of the massacre. Two people were still alive and the police carried them out. As they were searching for other victims, SWAT officers encountered Mr. Bowers, who fired at them and critically injured two officers.
The remaining officers “engaged the suspect in a gun battle in which multiple rounds were exchanged,” the criminal complaint said. At some point in the shootout, Mr. Bowers was wounded, and he eventually surrendered to the police.
Bowers reportedly entered the synagogue just before 10 am, and “the Allegheny County Emergency Operations center received calls of an active shooter at 9:54 am ET…Officers were dispatched at 9:55 am,” according to CNN. In all, Bowers is said to have been inside the synagogue for a full 20 minutes.
Where did the shootings occur?
The synagogue was hosting services for three congregations, “Tree of Life,” “New Light,” and “Dor Hadash,” according to Michael Eisenberg, past president of Tree of Life. The Tree of Life service would usually have around 40 people in attendance, in the main part of the building. New Light’s service would have had a group of 30‒40 people meeting in the basement, and Dor Hadash would have had around 15 people meeting in the rabbi’s study room.
Michael Eisenberg gives a CNN interview at the scene. Image: CNN.
According to early coverage by The Daily Mail, Bowers “burst through the synagogue’s doors and opened fire on the congregation on the main floor where around 40 to 50 people had gathered…shouting ‘all Jews must die!’ while spraying bullets over them.”
After killing three people on the main floor, he went downstairs, where the New Light congregation was gathering in the basement, and opened fire there. He murdered four people there then fled upstairs where, on the third floor, he exchanged fire with SWAT teams and injured three police officers. Dor Hadash, a third, smaller group, was gathered in the rabbi’s study to the side of the Tree of Life’s congregation.”
Just how The Daily Mail came by this information is unclear, but it does not square with other reports. According to The New York Times, Stephen Weiss, one of the congregants present, heard “a loud noise” and then “a couple more loud sounds.” Weiss and the rabbi then discovered it was the sound of gunshots.
The rabbi instructed everyone to get to a safe place, and after the Tree of Life congregants had done so, [Weiss] considered the other congregations that meet in the building on Saturdays. The bris was taking place on a lower floor, and he checked first to make sure the people there were safe. They were.
Weiss never saw the shooter, but “before evacuating, he was at one point close enough to see the shell casings.” This suggests that the Tree of Life congregants on the main floor were all able to “get to a safe place,” and that the New Light congregation was safe in the basement as well. That leaves only the rabbi’s study, where around 15 people had been meeting. Was this the site of the alleged massacre? Meanwhile, we hear about victims found in an “atrium.” And where did Bowers run to when he fled back inside the synagogue to hide from the SWAT team? The third floor? And in the additional time he had to kill more congregants, why did he not do so?
SWAT team members on the scene. Image: Associated Press.
According to the latest New York Times reports, Bowers barged into the building and “then killed at least 11 people in and around the synagogue.” Nowhere is it specified exactly what this means. However, he had somehow, somewhere allegedly killed all 11 before encountering the SWAT team. Just how the media will re-construct the story for the final narrative remains to be seen. The rolling barrage of coverage has just begun.
Who is Robert Bowers?
Who is this abhorrent character, previously known to law enforcement only through a traffic ticket? An angry man turned insane mass murderer, if details as reported are to be believed. Bowers has been charged with 29 federal criminal counts, including obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs, a hate crime, and using a firearm to commit murder. In addition, he faces state charges including 11 counts of criminal homicide, six counts of aggravated assault, and 13 counts of “ethnic intimidation.” Billed as a raging anti-Semite, he reportedly shouted “All Jews must die!” before opening fire, and he told a policeman, “I just want to kill Jews,” according to an FBI affidavit.
Anti-Semitic post by Robert Bowers on Gab.
In January, “an account under his name was created” on the social network site Gab, “a free-speech alternative” that has become “a haven for white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and other extremists.” Several weeks ago, Bowers reportedly posted a link to the website of HIAS, a Jewish non-profit in support of refugees, with the following caption: “Why hello there HIAS! You like to bring in hostile invaders to dwell among us?” And supposedly “just before the shootings” at Tree of Life, he posted about HIAS again:
The website has since been penalized, with its provider moving to shut it down and its payment platforms frozen or cancelled. According to PayPal, “When a site is allowing the perpetuation of hate, violence, or discriminatory intolerance, we take immediate and decisive action.” The casting of Bowers as a demented anti-Semite aids numerous agendas of the security state, including the current move to monitor, censor, or completely eliminate inconvenient websites and payment platforms. It also generates sympathy for the Jews and for Israel, and promotes the idea that anti-Semitism is on the rise:
“I’m afraid to say that we may be at the beginning of what has happened to Europe, the consistent anti-Semitic attacks,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of Simon Wiesenthal Center, who prayed at Mr. Trump’s inauguration. He spoke in a phone interview from Austria, where he was visiting the Mauthausen concentration camp. “If it is not nipped in the bud,” he continued, “I am afraid the worst is yet to come.”
Yes, this would be terribly worrying, if the shooting in question had actually occurred.
Another active-shooter drill?
Although reported as a real event by the corporate media, there are suggestions that this may actually have been a drill. As with other fake shootings, the action – or rather inaction – at the scene is troubling. Police, men in SWAT gear, EMTs, and others are shown standing around or walking casually, with no one exhibiting any sense of urgency or fear. Despite the claim of Dr Donald Yealy, chairman of emergency medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, that experts were dispatched to the scene to help accomplish triage, there is no evidence of colored tarps for START triage procedure near the synagogue.
Tree of Life synagogue, with no evidence of colored tarps for START triage protocol. Image: ABC.
As with other drills-gone-live, there are no bodies, blood, or other gruesome evidence that a massacre has occurred. Despite hearing about victims being “extracted” from the synagogue, there is no indication of any such actions. Only one empty stretcher is visible in photos from the scene, and no helicopters are shown airlifting victims to nearby hospitals, three of which have supposedly accepted the injured. As with Sandy Hook and other such events, victims were apparently declared dead at the scene, although this is not standard protocol; except in unusual circumstances, in an effort to save lives, victims are normally transported to a hospital. And as with Sandy Hook, the bodies of the dead were apparently identified and left where they fell – although we hear that “a Jewish volunteer group from New York will soon go through the grueling task of collecting all the blood and bodily fluids from the 11 victims left inside” the synagogue.
Any fluids that can’t be identified as belonging to a specific victim will be buried together in a separate location. The team uses towels to soak up the blood. The arduous process is also conducted at car accident scenes and other violent deaths involving Jewish victims. In Pittsburgh, authorities Sunday morning allowed a Misaskim volunteer to check out the inside of the synagogue to see what needs to be done. But investigators are still collecting evidence from the crime scene and have blocked anything from being removed. As for the funerals, Jewish law requires that the burial be conducted soon after death…the bodies have not yet been released by the medical examiner’s office.
Law enforcement officers standing around with an empty stretcher. Image: Associated Press.
As with other like events, televised interviews show people seemingly unaffected by the horrifying carnage. Neighborhood residents are calm and smiling, and even the former rabbi at Tree of Life, Chuck Diamond, has the presence of mind to add a bit of levity: “Jews come late to services, so for a lot of people, that’s probably a good thing.”
Former rabbi Chuck Diamond being interviewed. GameTimeWoo.
Reports of active-shooter training have cropped up, and Stephen Weiss, mentioned above, had taken part in such training “the year before,” according to The New York Times. Michael Eisenberg, ex-president of the synagogue, reports that they had been working with DHS on security issues, “to evaluate exit routes,” and also with the security expert at the Jewish Federation on “what to do in an active shooter situation,” along with other area synagogues. An FBI active-shooter drill was held at the nearby Jewish Community Center on Thursday evening, January 25, 2018, as reported in the local press. And, in a nice touch, the shooter is called an “actor” by police chief Scott Schubert in an interview; Bowers is again called an “actor” in audio from a police scanner.
Gun grab and security state
As is common in alleged mass shootings, the shooter was carrying multiple weapons: an assault rifle as well as handguns. Like Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook, Bowers had an “AR-15 style assault rifle” and a Glock pistol, although he had two additional handguns instead of one. How did he carry all these weapons? And did he have extra ammunition? Bowers was found to have 21 guns registered to his name – obviously another crazy gun nut who should not have been allowed to own all these weapons. As with other mass shootings, the calls for stricter gun laws are pouring forth in the media.
Likewise calls for more security at religious institutions – and everywhere else. Trump insisted that this shooting was not about guns, and that things might have gone better if the synagogue had had armed guards for protection. “‘If there was an armed guard inside the temple, they would have been able to stop him,’ he said to reporters before boarding a flight to a pair of events later in the afternoon.” This comment, of course, was derided by gun-control advocates, such as comedienne Wanda Sykes:
And along with gun control goes more stringent security: more monitoring and censoring of the web and social media, more electronic surveillance, and more active-shooter drills in schools, the workplace, and places of worship. Security is a mega-growth industry, and organizations are shelling out for all these services. Mass shootings are also a growth industry. Funds were being raised almost immediately for the victims of the Pittsburgh massacre, with a GoFundMe account for “Tree of Life Synagogue Victims” totaling $510,000 at the time of this writing, and climbing.
It’s Trump’s fault, particularly right before the election
Even though Bowers was not a Trump supporter, Trump is being blamed for the alleged synagogue shooting. According to The New York Times, “Critics of President Trump have argued that he is partly to blame for recent acts of violence because he has been stirring the pot of nationalism, on Twitter and at his rallies, charges that Mr. Trump has denied.” Or it could be that Trump is just plain toxic, in the words of New York Times op-ed writer Charles M. Blow. The Washington Post tied Trump to the shooting on the front page of the Sunday paper: “Trump, Allies Set the Tone for the Violence They Denounce, Critics Say.” Sarah Sanders hit back, asking “Is there any tragedy the Washington Post won’t exploit to attack President @realDonaldTrump?” Look for more such criticism in the near future.
Anti-Trump post by Robert Bowers, reportedly showing part of his gun collection. Image: Daily Mail.
Hollywood types have jumped on board, tweeting up a storm, hoping to influence the coming election.
 “Victims of Synagogue Shooting Identified after ‘Darkest Day of Pittsburgh’s History.’” The New York Times, October 28, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/28/us/pittsburgh-synagogue-shooting.html
 “‘At Least Eight Dead’ and Multiple Injured – Including Three Police Officers – after a ‘White Man with a Beard’ Armed with an AR-15 Opens Fire at a Pittsburgh Synagogue Shouting ‘All These Jews Must Die’ before Surrendering to SWAT.” DailyMail.com, October 27, 2018, 12:34 EDT. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6323781/Active-shooter-Pittsburgh-synagogue.html
 “11 Killed in Synagogue Massacre; Suspect Charged with 29 Counts.” The New York Times, October 27, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/27/us/active-shooter-pittsburgh-synagogue-shooting.html
 S.T.A.R.T. Simple Triage and Rapid Treatment. http://www.cert-la.com/downloads/education/english/start.pdf
 “Jewish Burial Group from New York To Collect Blood and Bodily Fluids from 11 People Killed in Pittsburgh Synagogue.” New York Daily News, October 28, 2018. http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/ny-metro-burial-20181028-story.html
 “Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting hoax opinions crisis actor interviewed.” GameTimeWoo, October 27, 2018. https://153news.net/watch_video.php?v=6O5GH6DK685S
 “Pittsburgh synagogue Hoax Drill/Training before it. Predictive programming.” GameTimeWoo, October 10, 2018. https://153news.net/watch_video.php?v=ASBK5YN95OXN
 “Police Chief calls shooter a Actor in the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting” [sic]. GameTimeWoo, October 27, 2018. https://153news.net/watch_video.php?v=AOU1GAA7K6DA. “Police scanner calls shooter a ACTOR in the Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting” [sic]. GameTimeWoo, October 27, 2018. https://153news.net/watch_video.php?v=7DY3S85OND74
 Charles M. Blow, “Trump’s Potent Toxicity.” The New York Times, October 28, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/28/opinion/trump-toxicity-pittsburgh-violence.html
Vivian Lee is the nom de plume of a tenured professor at an east coast university.