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

“Does Kirby care?” Heiltsuk Nation using geo-targeted ads in Houston, Texas for justice

The Heiltsuk Tribal Council has called out Kirby Corporation for the Nathan E. Stewart oil spill

“No excuse” for killing of two young grizzly cubs

Reader hopeful someone will come forward with information

UPDATE: U.S. firm fined $2.9M for fuel spill that soiled B.C. First Nation territory

The Nathan E. Stewart spilled 110,000 litres of diesel and heavy oils in October 2016

No delivery services hard on local families

New parents Candace Knudsen and Bjorn Samuelsen spent five weeks away from home

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Vancouver Island teens missing after vehicle found ablaze near Dease Lake, BC

RCMP say a body discovered nearby not one of the missing teens

A year later, ceremony commemorates victims of the Danforth shooting

It’s the one-year anniversary of when a man opened fire along the bustling street before shooting and killing himself

Japanese Canadians call on B.C. to go beyond mere apology for historic racism

The federal government apologized in 1988 for its racism against ‘enemy aliens’

B.C. VIEWS: NDP pushes ahead with Crown forest redistribution

This isn’t the time for a radical Indigenous rights agenda

Two dead in two-vehicle crash between Revelstoke and Golden

RCMP are investigating the cause of the crash

Ottawa fights planned class action against RCMP for bullying, intimidation

The current case is more general, applying to employees, including men, who worked for the RCMP

Alberta judge denies B.C.’s bid to block ‘Turn Off the Taps’ bill

He said the proper venue for the disagreement is Federal Court

Most Read