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.

Just Posted

Film details scourge of opioid overdoses

Shows in Maple Ridge council chambers Thursday

Maple Ridge council puts brakes on garden suite expansion

Pilot projects shelved until politicians tour existing homes

Fixing ‘The Sorriest Bus Stop’ in North America

Stop in Pitt Meadows is being improved, transit riders will no longer hurdle barrier

Approval sought for Environmental School expansion

If approved, school will offer classes in Grades 8 and 9

B.C. storm totals $37M in insured damages

The December storm wreaked havoc on B.C.’s south coast

Trudeau says politicians shouldn’t prey on Canadians’ fears

The Prime Minister was speaking at a townhall in Ontario

B.C. chief says they didn’t give up rights for gas pipeline to be built

Hereditary chief: no elected band council or Crown authority has jurisdiction over Wet’suwet’en land

Thieves steal thousands from 140 Coast Capital Savings members

Online fraud tactics included phising and ‘brute force’ in November and December

Condo rental bans may be on way out with B.C. empty home tax

Many exemptions to tax, but annual declarations required

UPDATE: B.C. boy, aunt missing for three days

The pair are missing from Kamloops

Daredevil changes game plan to jump broken White Rock pier

Brooke Colby tells council daredevil event would help boost waterfront business

Dog shot in foot with BB gun during cellphone sale at SkyTrain station

William Ayers, 28, is facing a number of charges after incident in Burnaby

Liberal bows out of byelection after singling out Jagmeet Singh’s race

Karen Wang says she made comments online that referenced Singh’s cultural background

Man, two children sent to hospital after Vancouver carbon monoxide leak

Nine people were evacuated from the home in south Vancouver

Most Read