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Feds now say it’s undetermined whether synagogue shooting suspect legally bought weapons

November 23, 2018

Federal officials now say they have not determined whether the man accused of killing 11 people and wounding six others at a Squirrel Hill synagogue Saturday legally owned 10 guns, including the four he is believed to have used in the shooting.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) previously said that Robert Bowers, 46, of Baldwin, legally owned the guns.

But on Wednesday, the ATF out of Philadelphia tweeted: “Yesterday’s tweet re: Tree of Life investigation, and the conclusion that the defendant legally acquired and possessed the firearms, was premature. No determination has been made on legal acquisition/possession of the firearms.”

Bowers, 46, had an AR-15 and three handguns with him inside Tree of Life Congregation synagogue Saturday when he allegedly opened fire on the congregation and police, according to federal authorities. He was shot and apprehended by police.

In the hours after the attack, ATF investigators searched Bowers’ car and Baldwin home and found six additional guns, according to ATF spokeswoman Charlene Hennessy. Three handguns and two rifles were found at his McAnulty Acres apartment and a shotgun was found in his car outside the synagogue, Hennessy said.

Both Hennessey and a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania in Pittsburgh declined to comment Wednesday night on the ATF’s revised statement.

Bowers was arraigned on 29 federal crimes Monday afternoon. Authorities are prosecuting the shooting as a hate crime.

The attack is believed to be the deadliest against the Jewish community in the United States.

Allegheny County detectives filed separate charges against Bowers, but that case has been put on hold while the federal charges move forward. Bowers is being held without bail at the Butler County jail.

In addition to the 11 killed, eight people were injured during the attack. Four police officers and two worshipers were shot. An additional two police officers were not shot but injured during the attack. One officer and two worshipers remain hospitalized.

Authorities said the active threat lasted about 20 minutes beginning at 9:45 a.m. before the suspect was cornered by police.

Investigators and other officials said Bowers made anti-Semitic statements during the shooting and after being taken to Allegheny General Hospital, where he was treated until Monday morning for gunshot wounds.

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