Grand Jury adds hate crime charges against alleged Tree of Life gunman Robert Bowers

By Steve Pope | January 29, 2019

A federal grand jury added additional charges Tuesday against Robert Bowers, the man authorities allege is responsible for the Oct. 27, 2018 massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue that left 11 people dead and seven injured, including five police officers.

The new 63-count superseding indictment adds 19 new charges, which include 11 counts of hate crimes leading to death, two counts of hate crimes leading to injury and six additional firearms charges. According to federal law, 22 of the charges could lead to the death penalty if prosecutors decide to seek it.

The new indictment alleges that Bowers willfully caused bodily injury to 11 deceased and two surviving victims because of their actual and perceived religion.

Authorities allege that Bowers drove to the synagogue and entered the building armed with multiple firearms, including three handguns and an AR-15 rifle and opened fire.

The superseding indictment alleges that on Oct. 10, 2018, Bowers posted statements on the website gab.com that were critical of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) saying, “Why hello there HIAS! You like to bring in hostile invaders to dwell among us? We appreciate the list of friends you have provided.”

On the day of the shooting, Bowers posted the following on the website gab.com: “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in,” according to court documents.

While inside the synagogue, Bowers made statements indicating his desire to “kill Jews.”

Specifically, the superseding indictment charges Bowers with:

• 11 counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death;

• 11 counts of hate crimes resulting in death;

• Two 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;

• Two counts of hate crimes involving an attempt to kill;

• Eight 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 public safety officers;

• Four counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving use of a dangerous weapon and resulting in bodily injury to public safety officers;

• 25 counts of discharge of a firearm during these crimes of violence.

In addition to a possible death sentence, should federal authorities decide to seek it, Bowers faces a maximum sentence of  life in prison without parole, followed by a consecutive sentence of 250 years.

Steve Pope can be contacted at steve.pope@grantstreetnews.com

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