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What We Know About The Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting Suspect

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to talk briefly now about the man who allegedly committed these terrible crimes. Robert Bowers is 46 years old. He was captured alive, yesterday. And he is in a hospital, being treated for multiple gunshot wounds. He is in stable condition. NPR's Brian Mann is with us now here in Pittsburgh to tell us more. Brian, thank you so much for being here.

MARTIN: Hi, Michel.

MARTIN: So what can you tell us about Bowers' background?

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Yeah. This is a guy who wasn't on anybody's radar until he walked into the Tree of Life synagogue Saturday morning and opened fire. Here's Scott Brady, the U.S. attorney for the western district of Pennsylvania speaking at a press conference earlier today.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

SCOTT BRADY: Bowers made statements, regarding genocide and his desire to kill Jewish people. After a standoff with police, Bowers eventually surrendered and remains in federal custody today.

MARTIN: Now, we understand that Bowers talked a lot about his anti-Semitic views before the attack on a social media platform, called Gab, that we understand has become popular with some far-right conservatives and "alt-right" activists. What did he say there?

MANN: Yeah. His writings reflect really hardcore anti-Semitism, vicious hatred and a lot of it echoing conspiracy theories, Michel, about Jewish leaders, including the idea that they're secretly funding undocumented immigrants who are coming to the U.S. Federal investigators say they're looking now at Bowers' social media activity as part of their investigation. Here's Robert Jones with the FBI.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROBERT JONES: Already, we've conducted a search at the subject's house in Baldwin, and a search of his vehicle will take place this morning. I can't comment on what was found in those searches. We continue to conduct interviews, scrub social media, review possible surveillance camera - video and exploit digital media to determine how and why Bowers committed this terrible act.

MANN: I should say that Gab, this "alt-right" social media platform that Bowers used - they've been struggling to stay afloat since this attack. Their internet service provider kicked them off their servers today, so they've been scrambling to find a way just to remain active.

MARTIN: What have authorities been saying about how this attack - which is not the first mass shooting we've been seeing but, sadly, the latest. How was it so deadly?

MANN: Once again, this was a gunman who amassed a really incredibly powerful arsenal. He was armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. This is a weapon with a very high rate of fire, as well as three Glock .357 handguns. Authorities said today he used all of those weapons during the attack, and it appears, so far, that he acquired them all, legally. And I should say that officials do think he acted alone, but there is heightened security tonight across Pittsburgh.

MARTIN: And, as I said earlier, Bowers is in the hospital under arrest. What charges does he face?

MANN: A total of 29 federal charges so far, including murdering victims who were exercising religious beliefs, and also harming police officers. At the press conference today, they were blunt about the fact that some of these charges do carry the death penalty. And he'll be back in court tomorrow afternoon.

MARTIN: NPR's Brian Mann here with us covering this story. Brian, thank you.

MANN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.