The gunman indicted by federal authorities for the deadly mass-shooting Saturday in a Pittsburgh synagogue gave no outward indication in person of either his fanatical anti-Semitism or readiness to engage in violence, neighbors say, despite his willingness to share such sentiments in online social networks.
Shortly before 46-year-old Baldwin, Pennsylvania resident Robert Bowers entered the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, he alluded to his impending attack in a social media post in which he declared he was “going in”.
"HIAS [Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society] likes to bring in invaders that kill our people. I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I'm going in,” Bowers wrote.
During the 20-minute shooting attack on the synagogue, Bowers fired on congregants and guests with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and three handguns. Thirteen people were shot inside the Tree of Life synagogue, 11 of them fatally.
Bowers reportedly made anti-Semitic statements during the shooting, and shouted that “All Jews must die”.
After police arrived on the scene, Bowers wounded four officers before his was himself wounded and taken into custody.
Upon his arrest, Bowers explicitly stated that he had been motivated by a deep-seated anti-Semitism, and had desired to kill Jews specifically.
“They’re committing genocide to my people,” Bowers told police. “I just want to kill Jews.”
After the attack, investigators found a treasure-trove of anti-Semitic statements on Bowers’ social media accounts, including on the ‘Gab’ network.
Bowers accused Jews of orchestrating a propaganda war against Western Civilization, and decried the American Jewish population as “a kike infestation”. He also mocked President Trump as a puppet of Jewish interests, and advocated for the ethnic cleansing of Jews from the US, calling Jews the “enemy of white people”.
“Kick the jews OUT! This is Not Their Home! No One Wants the Whiny kikes!”
In contrast, however, neighbors say Bowers gave no indication of his deep-seated hatred, calling him bland to the point of being “forgettable”.
“I really wish there was some type of clue,” Chris Hall, a neighbor of Bowers, told Fox News. Bowers, Hall continued, must have ““felt more comfortable expressing his views online rather than in person. If I were to wave to him and he said, ‘All Jews must die’ or there was an SS sticker on his car, I would have f---ing reported him... but he didn’t do any of those things.”
Hall said he was in “complete shock” when he discovered that Bowers was the synagogue shooter, saying that while Bowers was a loner and described him as somewhat isolated, he gave no hints of what he believed or was planning.
“I can’t believe this S.O.B. was right there. We didn’t know what was on the other side of our walls.
“He never had any visitors. No family. No real friends. We’d see him go to his car where he had an ashtray. He’d sit in there, smoke and listen to talk radio.
“This guy hid everything,” Hall said. “He got a P.O. box. He didn’t get his mail here. His name isn’t even in the mail room. No stickers or anything. And he paid the rent in cash.”