U.S. President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, and Vice-President Mike Pence have strongly condemned the shooting on Saturday inside a Pittsburgh Synagogue, killing at least 11 worshipers.
Former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton as well as former first lady, Hillary Clinton, also joined to condemn the massacre, described as among the deadliest against the Jewish community in the U.S.
The shooter, identified by law enforcement officials as Robert Bowers, stormed into the Tree of Life Congregation, where worshipers had gathered in separate rooms to celebrate their faith.
Armed with an AR-15-style assault rifle and at least three handguns, Bowers fired indiscriminately into the crowd for several minutes, before he was wounded four police officers, who sustained injuries.
Trump said: “This wicked act of mass murder is pure evil, hard to believe and frankly something that is unimaginable. The nation and the world are shocked and stunned by the grief”.
The president added that “Anti-Semitism and the widespread persecution of Jews represent one of the ugliest and darkest features of human history.
“The vile, hate-filled poison of anti-Semitism must be condemned and confronted everywhere and anywhere it appears.
“There must be no tolerance for anti-Semitism in America or for any form of religious or racial hatred or prejudice”.
Vice-President Mike Pence also strongly condemned the massacre, describing it as “not just criminal – it was evil – an attack on innocent Americans and an assault on our Freedom of Religion.
“There’s no place in America for violence or anti-Semitism, and this evil must end”.
The first lady, condemning the incident said: “My heart breaks over the news out of Pittsburgh. The violence needs to stop. May God bless, guide and unite the United States of America”.
In his statement, Obama said: “We grieve for the Americans murdered in Pittsburgh. All of us have to fight the rise of anti-Semitism and hateful rhetoric against those who look, love, or pray differently.
“And we have to stop making it so easy for those who want to harm the innocent to get their hands on a gun”.
Also, former president Clinton mourned those murdered and wounded at the Synagogue, calling for strong action to end violence and hatred in America.
“We must all send an unequivocal message that the violence and hatred that has been unleashed and fanned across America will not be tolerated. It won’t end until we stop it,” Clinton said.
His wife and former first lady, Hillary, also sent her thoughts to everyone affected by the horrific shooting saying: “We can and must put a stop to this violence and this hate. It should have no home in America”.
Bowers was charged with 29 criminal counts by federal officials, including 11 counts of using a firearm to commit murder and multiple counts of two hate crimes: obstruction of exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death and obstruction of exercise of religious beliefs resulting in bodily injury to a public safety officer.
“The crimes of violence are based upon the federal civil rights laws prohibiting hate crimes,” U.S. Attorney Scott Brady and Bob Jones, Federal Bureau of Investigation’s special agent in charge of Pittsburgh office said in a statement.
He also faced State charges, including 11 counts of criminal homicide, six counts of aggravated assault and 13 counts of ethnic intimidation.
Bowers could face the death penalty if he is convicted of a hate crime.