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Suspect Pleads Not Guilty In Deadly Pittsburgh Synagogue Attack

Robert Bowers, who has been charged with murdering 11 people at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life Synagogue, pleaded not guilty in federal court on Thursday.
Robert Bowers, who has been charged with murdering 11 people at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life Synagogue, pleaded not guilty in federal court on Thursday.

The suspect in Saturday's Tree of Life Synagogue shooting walked into a federal courtroom in Pittsburgh on Thursday and pleaded not guilty to all 44 counts against him. The case is set for a jury trial and could result in the death penalty.

A day earlier, a federal grand jury charged Robert Bowers of Baldwin, Pa., with the murder of 11 people, as well as with hate crimes.

Bowers, 46, strode into U.S. District Court clad in a red jumpsuit and shackled by handcuffs — in contrast to his appearance Monday when he arrived tied to a wheelchair after sustaining injuries in a shootout with police Saturday.

His arm remained in a bandage Thursday, and he said little other than to tell the judge he understood the charges against him. "The suspect didn't make eye contact with the attorneys but appeared to listen intently," WESA's An-Li Herring reported

Herring tweeted that prosecutors are still weighing whether to charge Bowers with domestic terrorism.

Officials say Bowers was armed with three Glock .357-caliber handguns and an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, when he burst into what had been quiet Sabbath services and fired at congregants. Prosecutors say that once inside, Bowers, who had been vocal about his anti-Semitic beliefs on social media, said he was there to "kill Jews."

This courtroom sketch depicts Bowers, who was wounded in a gunbattle with police, as he appeared in a wheelchair at federal court on Monday. On Thursday, he walked into the courtroom to plead not guilty in the Pittsburgh synagogue attack.
Dave Klug / AP
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This courtroom sketch depicts Bowers, who was wounded in a gunbattle with police, as he appeared in a wheelchair at federal court on Monday. On Thursday, he walked into the courtroom to plead not guilty in the Pittsburgh synagogue attack.

In addition to the 11 people killed Saturday, multiple people were injured, including four Pittsburgh police officers.

Bowers' arraignment came on the same day three more victims of the massacre in Pittsburgh's historically Jewish Squirrel Hill neighborhood were laid to rest.

Bernice Simon, 84, and 86-year-old Sylvan Simon of Wilkinsburg, Pa., were married at Tree of Life more than six decades ago.

Services for the couple were scheduled at Pittsburgh's Ralph Schugar Chapel at noon with burial — including military honors for Sylvan Simon — to follow at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies.

The funeral for Dr. Richard Gottfried, a 65-year-old dentist, was scheduled later Thursday afternoon at the same funeral home.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Amy Held is an editor on the newscast unit. She regularly reports breaking news on air and online.
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