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Haunting tales emerge after Pittsburgh synagogue shooting as suspect due in court – National

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As Barry Werber walked into the Tree of Life Synagogue, he passed a cart carrying glassware and whiskey meant for the baby-naming ceremony scheduled at Dor Hadash, one of three small congregations that worship there.

He went downstairs, where his New Light Congregation meets, and found only a few people gathered. Melvin Wax, 88, was chatting up front with David Rosenthal, who had intellectual disabilities and spent hours helping out there. Rosenthal soon went upstairs for his own service at Tree of Life.


READ MORE:
Authorities, documents reveal how the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting unfolded

Two other men, Daniel Stein and Richard Gottfried, were checking on food supplies in the kitchen for the breakfast New Light planned to host.

Minutes later, Werber found himself hiding in a dark storage closet after an anti-Semitic gunman tore through the building and opened fire, killing Wax, Rosenthal, Stein, Gottfried and seven others across two floors.

“I don’t know why he thinks the Jews are responsible for all the ills in the world, but he’s not the first and he won’t be the last,” Werber, 76, said Sunday. “Unfortunately, that’s our burden to bear. It breaks my heart.”


Werber’s recollection was among the harrowing accounts that emerged from survivors as authorities worked to piece together the background and movements of the suspected gunman, Robert Gregory Bowers.

Bowers opened fire with an AR-15 rifle and other weapons, killing eight men and three women before a tactical police team tracked him down and shot him, according to state and federal affidavits made public on Sunday.

He apparently posted an anti-Semitic message on a social media account linked to him just a few minutes before he opened fire. He expressed hatred of Jews during the rampage and later told police that “I just want to kill Jews” and that “all these Jews need to die,” authorities said. The Anti-Defamation League called it the deadliest U.S. attack on Jews.

Six people were injured, including four officers.

WATCH: Suspect in Pittsburgh synagogue shooting could face the death penalty






Bowers, who underwent surgery and remained hospitalized, is scheduled to appear in court Monday. It isn’t clear whether he has an attorney to speak on his behalf. A message left with the federal public defender’s office in Pittsburgh wasn’t returned.

All three congregations were conducting Sabbath services when the attack began just before 10 a.m. Saturday in the tree-lined residential neighbourhood of Squirrel Hill, about 10 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh and the hub of the city’s Jewish community.

Speaking at a vigil in Pittsburgh on Sunday night, Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers said about a dozen people had gathered in the main sanctuary when Bowers walked in and began shooting. Seven of his congregants were killed, he said.

“My holy place has been defiled,” he said.


READ MORE:
Pittsburgh synagogue shooting victims included 97-year-old woman, couple in their 80s

In the basement, four members of New Light were just starting to pray – with the two others in the kitchen – when they heard crashing coming from upstairs, looked out the door and saw a body on the staircase, Werber recalled Sunday in an interview at his home.

Rabbi Jonathan Perlman closed the door and pushed them into a large supply closet, he said. As gunshots echoed upstairs, Werber called 911 but was afraid to say anything, for fear of making any noise.

When the shots subsided, he said, Wax opened the door, only to be shot and fall back inside.

“There were three shots, and he falls back into the room where we were,” he said. “The gunman walks in.”

Apparently unable to see Werber and the other congregants in the darkness, Bowers walked back out.

Werber called the gunman “a maniac” and “a person who has no control of his baser instincts.”

WATCH: What’s behind hate-fuelled crimes in the U.S?






Perlman, who also spoke at the vigil Sunday night, said New Light lost three congregants.

“These three men, they cannot be replaced,” said Perlman, his voice breaking. “But we will not be broken. We will not be ruined.”

Officials released the names of all 11 of the dead , including Rosenthal and his brother, and a husband and wife. The youngest was 54, the oldest 97. The toll included professors, dentists and physicians.

Cecil Rosenthal, 59, and David Rosenthal, 54, were intellectually disabled and lived together near the synagogue.

“Cecil’s laugh was infectious. David was so kind and had such a gentle spirit. Together, they looked out for one another. They were inseparable,” said Chris Schopf, vice-president of residential supports for ACHIEVA, which helped the brothers live independently. “Most of all, they were kind, good people with a strong faith and respect for everyone around.”


READ MORE:
What we know about Robert Bowers, suspect in Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

Bowers shot his victims with an AR-15, used in many of the nation’s mass shootings, and three handguns, all of which he owned legally and had a license to carry, according to a law enforcement official who wasn’t authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation, and who spoke Sunday on the condition of anonymity.

Bowers was a long-haul trucker who worked for himself, U.S. Attorney Scott Brady said Sunday.

Little else was known about the suspect, who had no apparent criminal record. It appears he acted alone, authorities said.

WATCH: Members of Toronto’s Jewish community in shock following shooting at Pittsburgh synagogue






Bowers was charged with 11 state counts of criminal homicide, six counts of aggravated assault and 13 counts of ethnic intimidation. He was also charged in a 29-count federal criminal complaint that included counts of obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death – a federal hate crime – and using a firearm to commit murder.

Federal prosecutors intend to pursue the death penalty against Bowers, Brady said.

Of the six survivors, four remained in the hospital Sunday night, and two – including a 40-year-old officer – were in critical condition.



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FOREIGN NEWS

Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

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Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

Contrary to the expectations of the people, the leadership of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) has termed the Tuesday, August 18 military coup in the West African nation as “regrettable” and “a big failure for our democracy” and called for a change of mentality if the country has to put an end to coups.

In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 19, made available to RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA, the President of CEM, Bishop Jonas Dembélé said that the governance challenges the country is facing can be managed through dialogue.

“The military coup that led to the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is regrettable because we are in a state of law and democracy. This is the second time that Mali has had a military coup as a result of the way in which the country is governed. It is a big failure for our democracy even if there were reasons for it,” Bishop Dembélé told ACI Africa.

“It is true that our country has serious challenges including bad governance, the poor management of the economy, corruption, insecurity and so on,” Bishop Dembélé said and probed, “Why is it that we Malians have not managed to engage in dialogue to be able to discuss these problems and face up to these challenges responsibly?”

“Our leaders, our people lack transparency, they hate those who speak the truth and advocate for good governance. This mentality must change for our country to move on,” the Prelate told ACI Africa August 19.

Bishop Dembélé who is a frontline member of RECOWA-CERAO urged the military officials “to ensure a return to democracy as promised but most especially ensuring the new leadership of the country put the people first and tackle the security challenges facing the nation.”

Asked about the role of the Church in the current crisis, the 57-year-old Prelate noted, “For us the Catholic Church in Mali, our role is to preach peace; our role is to preach dialogue. We shall continue in this path of dialogue for peace just like Cardinal Jean Zerbo and some religious leaders initiated.”

“In a state of law, power is not in the hands of certain individuals but to the people. The anger of our people led to this crisis, but we must work for peace and reconciliation in Mali,” Bishop Dembélé said.

He continued in recollections, “The Bishops in Mali have always issued messages before every election in our country sounding the alert and inviting the government to organize transparent elections, ensure good governance and better management of resources.”
“But it seems our messages are never taken into consideration that is why we find ourselves in this situation today,” the Local Ordinary of Kayes Diocese told ACI Africa and added, “If the opinion of the Episcopal Conference of Mali is needed to mediate in bringing back stability and peace in the country, then we are ready.”

As a way forward, the Bishop urged the people of God in Mali to “seek the path to conversion” and to accept dialogue in the spirit of truth and honesty.
“We all want change in our

country, but this change can only be possible if individually we seek the path to conversion. It is for Malians be they Muslims or Christians or members of traditional religion, to do an examination of conscience and accept personal and community conversion in order to engage in sincere dialogue,” he said.

The Malian Prelate added, “Now there is this coup d’état to demand change we really wonder where change should come from. As long as we don’t change our behavior, our mentality, we will always have a repeat of the current situation.”

On Tuesday, August 18, President Keita announced his resignation and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, Aljazeera reported.
“For seven years, I have with great joy and happiness tried to put this country on its feet. If today some people from the armed forces have decided to end it by their intervention, do I have a choice? I should submit to it because I do not want any blood to be shed,” President Keita said August 18 during the televised address to the nation.

Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu
RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA

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Harris accepts VP nomination

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Harris accepts VP nomination

Senator Kamala Harris formally accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday following a scathing speech by former President Barack Obama, who said the fate of the nation” depends entirely on the outcome of this election.”

Both Mr. Obama and Harris stressed the importance of voting, with Harris saying “we’re all in this fight together.” Harris sounded an optimistic note by highlighting her personal history and the promise of America, saying she was “so inspired by a new generation.”

“Make no mistake, the road ahead will not be not easy,” she said. “We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us.” She called Mr. Trump a “predator” in a speech that came after Mr. Obama issued his most forceful rebuke of his successor to date, saying Mr. Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”

“This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism,” Mr. Obama said. “They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.

That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.”

Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, speaking earlier in the night, both said they had hoped Mr. Trump would rise to the occasion. But they both stressed what they called his failures while in office, with Mr. Obama saying Mr. Trump has shown “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

The Malian soldiers who forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign in a coup promised early Wednesday to organize new elections after their takeover was swiftly condemned by the international community.

In a statement carried overnight on state broadcaster ORTM, the mutinous soldiers who staged Tuesday’s military coup identified themselves as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People led by Colonel Major Ismael Wagué.

“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” Wagué said, announcing that borders were closed and that a curfew was going into effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m

The news of Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Bamako, and alarm by former colonial ruler France and other allies and foreign nations.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed meeting Wednesday August 19, 2020 afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the U.N. has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission. Keita, who was democratically elected in a 2013 landslide and re-elected five years later, still had three years left in his term.

But his popularity had plummeted, and demonstrators began taking to the streets calling for his ouster in June.

West African regional bloc ECOWAS had sent mediators to try and negotiate a unity government but those talks fell apart when it became clear that the protesters would not accept less than Keita’s resignation.

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