Pittsburgh synagogue massacre suspect appears in court; could face death penalty
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Pittsburgh synagogue massacre suspect appears in court; could face death penalty

Robert Bowers accepts public defender; sits in wheelchair during hearing due to injuries sustained in shootout with police

A courtroom sketch depicting Robert Gregory Bowers as he appeared in a wheelchair at federal court on Monday, October 29, 2018, in Pittsburgh. (Dave Klug via AP)
A courtroom sketch depicting Robert Gregory Bowers as he appeared in a wheelchair at federal court on Monday, October 29, 2018, in Pittsburgh. (Dave Klug via AP)

The man accused in the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre appeared briefly Monday in a federal courthouse in a wheelchair to face charges that he killed 11 people in the attack.

Robert Bowers wore a blue sweatshirt in the Pittsburgh courtroom. He had been released from a hospital in the morning and turned over to federal authorities.

He spoke with lawyers before the judge took the bench, going over documents and confirming his identity to the judge. He accepted a court-appointed defender.

Bowers was shot and wounded in a gun battle with police on Saturday, after what is believed to be the deadliest attack in the history of the US Jewish community. Authorities say he expressed hatred toward Jews during the rampage Saturday and in later comments to police.

Mourners, most of whom stood in the rain because of over crowdedness, attend a vigil for the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue mass shooting at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Pittsburgh, on October 28, 2018. (Michael M. Santiago/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

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.

Driver’s license photo of Pittsburgh synagogue massacre suspect Robert Bowers. (Pennsylvania DOT)

Federal prosecutors intend to pursue the death penalty against Bowers, US Attorney Scott Brady said Sunday.

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.

Six people were injured, including four officers.

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