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November 2, 2018  RSS feed
World News

Text: T T T

How the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting unfolded

By BEN SALES JTA news service

Here’s how the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue happened, reconstructed from JTA’s reporting, Pittsburgh Post- Gazette, New York Times and the Today show. Some of the times are approximate.

Saturday, Oct. 27, 9:45 a.m. – Services begin at Tree of Life Congregation, a synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood that houses three congregations: Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha, a merger of two Conservative synagogues; New Light, a small Conservative congregation that draws about 20 worshippers weekly; and Dor Hadash, a Reconstructionist congregation.

At the entrance, Cecil and David Rosenthal, brothers who are active members of Tree of Life, are handing out prayer books. There is a table with challah, wine and whiskey for a bris, or circumcision ceremony, being held that morning. In the kitchen, two other community members, Daniel Stein and Richard Gottfried, are preparing lox, cream cheese, bagels and eggs.

9:50 a.m. – The gunman enters and begins shooting. His first victims are the Rosenthal brothers. He then enters New Light, where Melvin Wax is leading services.

9:54 a.m. – The first call is placed to 911, apparently by Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of Tree of Life. Barry Werber, of New Light, also calls 911 around this time.

Rabbi Myers told Today that when he first heard the gunshots, he assumed it was an elderly person who had grabbed onto a coat rack for balance and knocked it over. Seconds afterward, after a second round of volleys, Myers realizes he’s hearing gunfire. He takes the four congregants at the front of the sanctuary out of an entrance at the front of the room that leads to a labyrinth of hallways and an exit from the building. He holes up in a balcony from which he can hear the gunshots. He is unable to access the eight remaining congregants sitting in the back of the sanctuary.

9:55 a.m. – After hearing the gunshots, several congregants of New Light – Werber, Wax, Rabbi Jonathan Pearlman and Carol Black – hide in a storage closet. They are unable to find the light switch, leaving the room pitch black. The shooting subsides, and Wax opens the door. He is shot and killed. The gunman then enters the storage closet and begins to fumble around in the dark, with the three other congregants still inside. Unable to see them, he leaves.

9:57 a.m. – The gunman goes upstairs to the Tree of Life congregation, where a number of congregants remain, and begins shooting. Seven are killed, one injured.

Stein and Gottfried are among the murdered. The remaining victims are Sylvan and Bernice Simon, Jerry Rabinowitz, Joyce Fienberg, Rose Mallinger, and Irving Younger. Two others are injured.

10 a.m. – The first police officers arrive on the scene and begin to engage the gunman. He returns fire from the front of the building. The shooter then retreats into the building and barricades himself on the third floor.

10:12 a.m. – The SWAT team arrives. Police have set up a perimeter around the building.

10:29 a.m. – SWAT officers begin to escort congregants out of the building. The SWAT team moves through the building.

10:47 a.m. – The SWAT team encounters the gunman on the third floor and begins exchanging fire with him. One officer is critically wounded.

11:03 a.m. – The gunman begins talking to the officers. He identifies himself as Robert Bowers.

11:08 a.m. – Bowers, who is wounded, crawls toward the officers and surrenders. Five minutes later he is taken into custody. According to an officer, as Bowers crawls toward the officers, he is “talking about [how] all these Jews need to die.”

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