Tree of Life massacre

A federal grand jury has levied 44 charges against the suspected Tree of Life gunman

Robert Bowers is due back in court Thursday.

Officials stand in front of Tree of Life.

Officials stand in front of Tree of Life.

Colin Deppen / The Incline
MJ Slaby

A federal grand jury has charged Robert Bowers with 44 crimes — including federal hate crimes resulting in death — in the shooting deaths of 11 people on Saturday at Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill.

He also faces 36 state charges and had initially faced 29 federal charges via complaint.

The indictment was released Wednesday, a day before Bowers is scheduled to return to court for a 10 a.m. Thursday arraignment, where grand jury charges and potential penalties would be read to him, along with his rights. Bowers faces a possibility of the death penalty or a maximum of life without parole, followed by a consecutive sentence of 535 years’ imprisonment.

Per the indictment, Bowers drove to Tree of Life and entered the building with four firearms. He opened fire, killing 11 people and injuring six others. Two additional officers sought treatment. Nine others escaped unharmed.

While inside, he made statements indicating his desire to “kill Jews,” per the indictment.

The federal charges are:

  • 11 counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death
  • 11 counts of use and discharge of a firearm to commit murder during and in relation to a crime of violence
  • 2 counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous weapon and resulting in bodily injury
  • 11 counts of use and discharge of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence
  • 8 counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous weapon, and resulting in bodily injury to a public safety officer
  • 1 count of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving use of a dangerous weapon and resulting in bodily injury to a public safety officer

The grand jury also asked that firearms and ammunition used in the massacre be forfeited, including three Glock .357 handguns, a Colt-AR 15 rife, and a “shotgun recovered from the scene of the incident and any ammunition contained therein.”

In a statement released with the indictment, Attorney General Jeff Sessions thanked law enforcement for their response.

“Hatred and violence on the basis of religion can have no place in our society,” Sessions said. “Every American has the right to attend their house of worship in safety… These alleged crimes are incomprehensibly evil and utterly repugnant to the values of this nation. ”

Sessions added that the Department of Justice will bring “the full force of the law” in this case and “are resolutely determined to achieve justice in this case.”

Assistant United States Attorneys Troy Rivetti and Soo C. Song, along with DOJ Trial Attorney Julia Gegenheimer are prosecuting the case for the U.S. government, per the DOJ, with help from Assistant United States Attorneys Cindy Chung, Eric Olshan, and Rebecca Silinski.

On Monday, Bowers appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert C. Mitchell who said then that Bowers submitted a financial claim requesting the appointment of a public defender. Scott Brady, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, said he’d started the approval process to pursue the death penalty, a decision that’s up to Sessions.

Bowers is being held in federal custody at the Butler County Prison.

Allegheny Co. DA Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said Tuesday that the federal case is taking priority, but state charges ” will remain in abeyance.”

Read the indictment here: