Synagogue shooting suspect’s mom ‘hurting for the Jewish community,’ pastor says

November 23, 2018

The mother of Robert Bowers, the man charged in the Squirrel Hill synagogue massacre, felt stunned and stricken by grief when she learned her son was arrested in connection with the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history, her pastor said Wednesday.

“Barbara, she’s really saddened,” Pastor Mark Schollaert of First Baptist Church in Monongahela told the Tribune-Review from his home. He did not reveal her last name, though Trib news partner WPXI identified her as Barbara Bolt.

Like some of her son’s neighbors and relatives, Bowers’ mother was in disbelief when her son was identified as the suspected shooter, Schollaert said.

Barbara Bolt now lives near her church in Monongahela with her partner, who is not Bowers’ biological father, he said.

On Wednesday, the mother asked her pastor to convey how troubled and heartbroken she’s feeling about what happened.

“They’re just really saddened for the Jewish community, they really are, that’s Barbara and Ray,” Schollaert said. “They’re hurting for the Jewish community. They love the Jewish people. It’s a hard thing.”

A federal grand jury Wednesday handed down a 44-count indictment against Bowers, 46, in connection with the shooting at Tree of Life Congregation.

The indictment charges Bowers with federal hate crimes, including 11 murders. He is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges in the indictment Thursday at the federal courthouse in Pittsburgh’s Downtown.

Schollaert said he has been helping the shooting suspect’s mother cope in the days following Saturday morning’s massacre in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, about 12 to 15 miles from the homes where Bowers grew up in the South Hills, including in Baldwin and Whitehall.

She’s attended the church for about 10 years, Schollaert said. The pastor said he is not familiar with Bowers and wasn’t sure how close he and his mom had been recently.

“I don’t know anything about Rob, I really don’t,” Schollaert said. “He was never in the Baptist church.”

Bowers was taken into custody Saturday after officials said he exchanged gunfire with police officers inside the synagogue. He was treated for gunshot wounds at Allegheny General Hospital and released to the U.S. Marshals on Monday. Bowers is currently at the Butler County jail where he is being held without bail.

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