This courtroom sketch depicts Robert Gregory Bowers, who was wounded in a gun battle with police as he appeared in a wheelchair at federal court on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018, in Pittsburgh. (Dave Klug via AP)

Pittsburgh synagogue suspect pleads not guilty

Robert Gregory Bowers, accused in the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, appeared briefly in federal court to face charges he killed 11 people.

The anti-Semitic truck driver accused of gunning down 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue pleaded not guilty on Thursday to federal charges that could put him on death row.

Robert Bowers, 46, was arraigned one day after a grand jury issued a 44-count indictment that charges him with murder, hate crimes, obstructing the practice of religion and other crimes. It was his second brief appearance in a federal courtroom since the weekend massacre at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighbourhood.

Authorities say Bowers raged against Jews during and after the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in American history.

Bowers, who was shot and wounded during a gun battle that injured four police officers, walked into court under his own power, his left arm heavily bandaged. He was in a wheelchair at his first court appearance on Monday.

Bowers, who is stocky and square-faced with salt-and-pepper, closely cropped hair, frowned as the charges were read but did not appear to have a reaction as a federal prosecutor announced he could face a death sentence. He told a prosecutor he had read the indictment and, when asked if he understood the charges, said “Yes!” in a loud voice.

Bowers had been set for a preliminary hearing on the evidence, but federal prosecutors instead took the case to a grand jury.

The panel issued the indictment as funerals continued for the victims.

Jared Younger of Los Angeles told mourners that he waited for hours Saturday for his father to pick up his phone or let them know he was all right. The dread built all day until his sister learned their father, Irving Younger, had indeed been shot and killed.

“That waiting stage was just unbearable,” Jared Younger said at his father’s funeral Wednesday. “Saturday was the most lonely day of my life.”

Related: Victims of shooting at Pittsburgh synagogue remembered in Kelowna

Related: Canadians hold vigils in solidarity with Pittsburgh synagogue shooting victims

Funerals were planned Thursday for Bernice and Sylvan Simon, husband and wife, and Dr. Richard Gottfried, a dentist who worked part-time at a clinic treating refugees and immigrants. The oldest victim, 97-year-old Rose Mallinger, will be honoured at a service Friday. Her daughter was injured in the attack.

Friends recalled Irving Younger, 69, as a “kibbitzing, people-loving” man. He was one of the first people Rabbi Jeffrey Myers met when he came to town last year from New Jersey to lead Tree of Life.

Myers, who survived the massacre, is presiding over five funerals for seven congregants this week. He ran a few minutes late to Younger’s service because he was still at the burial for another victim, Joyce Fienberg.

“I can’t imagine the stress he’s under,” said his predecessor, Rabbi Charles “Chuck” Diamond.

As Younger’s service was wrapping up, Myers momentarily forgot to read a letter to the family that another rabbi had sent.

“After preparing for five funerals, you get a little verklempt,” Myers said.

Bowers remained jailed without bail.

Maryclaire Dale, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta Health Services' central zone jumped from 162 active COVID-19 cases to 178 on Friday. Five additional deaths were reported provincewide, bringing the toll to 323. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
622 new COVID-19 cases set another daily high Friday

Province confirmed 622 additional cases Friday

File Photo
Sylvan Lake Town Council approves second attempt for downtown cannabis retail shop

Firestone Cannabis submitted a new application after their first was denied in August

Alberta children whose only symptom of COVID-19 is a runny nose or a sore throat will no longer require mandatory isolation, starting Monday.
477 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Alberta on Thursday

Changes being made to the COVID-19 symptom list for school-age children

Three young Sylvan Lake residents are asking for lights to be added to the walking trail system to make them safer and less scary at night. Photo by @workinonmyfitness72
Young Sylvan Lake residents ask for lights to be added to walking trails

Three young Sylvan Lake residents appeared before Council recently to present their ask

Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen (Alberta government photo)
Town of Sylvan Lake recieves funding to help with COVID-19 related revenue losses

Minister Devin Dreeshen says the funding will help the Town pay staff and provide services

City of Wetaskiwin Mayor presenting the AUMA Above & Beyond Award to John Maude and Susan Quinn. Ren Goode/ City of Wetaskiwin.
Wetaskiwin County residents win the AUMA Above & Beyond Award

John Maude and Susan Quinn are being recognized for their role in Wetaskiwin’s sustainability.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

Pilots Ilona Carter and Jim Gray of iRecover Treatment Centres, in front of his company’s aircraft, based at Ponoka’s airport. (Perry Wilson/Submitted)
95-year-old Ilona Carter flies again

Takes to the skies over Ponoka

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a daycare in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. Alberta Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz says the province plans to bring in a new way of licensing and monitoring child-care facilities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Alberta proposes legislation to change rules on child-care spaces

Record-keeping, traditionally done on paper, would be allowed digitally

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with US Vice-President Joe Biden on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
A Biden presidency could mean good news for Canadian environment policy: observers

Experts and observers say even a U.S. outside the Paris agreement may ultimately end up in the same place

People take a photo together during the opening night of Christmas Lights Across Canada, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. The likelihood that most Canadians will enjoy a holly jolly Christmas season of gatherings, caroling and travel is unlikely, say public health experts who encourage those who revel in holiday traditions to accept more sacrifices ahead. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Ho, ho, no: Experts advise preparing for a scaled-back COVID holiday season

Many of the holiday season’s highlights have already been scrapped or are unlikely to take place

Sen. Kim Pate is shown in Toronto in an October 15, 2013, file photo. The parliamentary budget office says a proposed law that would give judges discretion on whether to apply a lesser sentence for murder could save the federal government $8.3 million per year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel
Judicial discretion for mandatory minimum sentences for murder would save $8.3M: PBO

The result would be fewer people in long-term custody at federal correctional institutions, experts say

Husky Energy logo is shown at the company’s annual meeting in Calgary on May 5, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Husky pipeline spills 900,000 litres of produced water in northwestern Alberta

The energy regulator says environmental contractors are at the site

Most Read