Deadly Shooting at Pittsburgh Synagogue

tree of life

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October 27, 2018

According to police and media reports, Robert Bowers allegedly entered the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday morning, yelling, “All Jews Must Die” as he opened fire. As of Saturday evening, the death toll stood at 11, and several people remained hospitalized.

A profile on Gab – a social media site frequented by right-wing extremists – which appears to belong to Bowers, showcases his virulent anti-Semitism. The vast majority of the posts are anti-Semitic in nature, using language like “Jews are the children of satan,” “kike infestation,” “filthy EVIL jews” and “Stop the Kikes then worry about the Muslims.”  Other posts repeat standard white supremacist slogans, such as “Diversity means chasing down the last white person.”

The main photo on the Gab account is of a digital device showing the number 1488, a combination of two popular white supremacist numeric symbols. 

  • The “14 Words” is a reference to the most popular white supremacist slogan in the world: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”
  • 88 is a white supremacist numerical code for “Heil Hitler.” H is the eighth letter of the alphabet, so 88 = HH = Heil Hitler.

Law enforcement reports that the device shown in the photograph is called a bullet chronograph, used by gun enthusiasts to measure the speed of bullets.

The account’s tagline (by the top photo) reads, “Jews are the children of satan. (john 8:44) --- the lord jesus christ is come in the flesh.”

Below are two of the alleged shooter's apparent Gab posts that include references to ADL and a belief that the organization is one of the Jewish institutions promoting mass immigration.



One of the most recent posts (possibly from Saturday morning), criticizes HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, which has been instrumental in providing aid to refugees. It also echoes anti-immigration language about hordes of murderous “invaders.”  “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I'm going in."

Our analysis of Bowers' Gab profile reveals more about the language he used online. The following image represents the words that appear in comments Bowers either made and re-posted on Gab from the end of July 2018 to the day of the shooting. The relative size of a word reflects the frequency with which it appeared on his profile.

Bowers word cloud

Among the additional anti-Semitic posts to this account:

  • “Trump is a globalist, not a nationalist. There is no #MAGA as long as there is a kike infestation.”
  • “Amazing amount of division on gab today, glad the overwhelming jew problem has been solved so we can now fight with each other.”
  • “First Trump came for the Charlottesville 4 but I kept supporting Trump because he is better than Hillary Clinton. The Trump came for RAM but I kept supporting Trump because he is better than Hillary Clinton. Then Trump came for the Proud Boys but I kept supporting Trump because he is better than Hillary Clinton. Then Trump came for me and the was no one left to suppor...”
  • “Why hello there HIAS! You like to bring in hostile invaders to dwell among us? We appreciate the list of friends you have provided:" He included an image of a HIAS  "National Refugee Shabbat” event.
  • "Trump is a globalist, not a nationalist. There is no #MAGA as long as there is a kike infestation. #Qanon is here to get patriots that were against martial law in the 90's to be the ones begging for it now to drain muh swamp. But go ahead and keep saying you are #Winning"
  • Posted an anti-immigration video titled “The Mass Migration Agenda,” he commented “diversity for you but not for Jew.” He has also retweeted anti-Semitic and anti-immigration posts from notorious anti-Semite Patrick Little.
  • Posted his own variation of MAGA:  “Make Ovens 1488° Again.”
  • Referred to Jews as “oven dodgers” and “filthy vile degenerates.”
  • Posted photographs of firearms he appears to own.
  • A month before the October shooting, Bowers posted this threat against Jews:  “just want to put this psa out there for all the vile degenerate oven dodgers. The goyim know. This is becoming increasingly obvious. Eventually it will not be safe here for you and you will be unable to leave. It takes time to convert your stuff to shekels and flee.  Time is critical. That is all.” 

Over the last two decades, white supremacists have targeted the Jewish community in the United States via a range of terrorist acts, conspiracy theories and plots. During that same time, Pittsburgh has seen a number of shootings involving white supremacists. In 2000, Richard Baumhammers went on a shooting spree targeting minorities, including Jews.  In 2009, Richard Poplawski ambushed and murdered three police officers.