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11 dead in Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

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Pittsburgh police officers depart the scene of the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh where at least 11 people died Saturday. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI

By Danielle Haynes, UPI

Eleven people died Saturday after a gunman opened fire at a synagogue in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood, a shooting law enforcement said will be treated as a federal hate crime.

Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich told reporters that 11 died and six people sustained injuries, including four police officers. The shooter also was injured with multiple gunshot wounds.

Emergency officials transported four of the injured victims to University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Presbyterian, and one each to UPMC Mercy and Allegheny General Hospital. Two of the victims were in critical condition in the intensive care unit.

"It's a very horrific crime scene," Hissrich said, appearing to hold back tears. "One of the worst I've seen. It's bad."

No children died in the attack, he added.

Police arrested a suspect in the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue, where congregants were attending a prayer service. Conrad said the suspect surrendered to police before he was transported to UPMC Mercy.

Officials identified the suspect as Robert Bowers, 46. FBI Special Agent in Charge Bob Jones said the suspect had an assault rifle and three handguns at the time of the attack.

He was inside the synagogue for 20 minutes before officers arrested him.

A law enforcement official told CNN that the suspect made anti-semitic remarks after his arrest. The Anti-Defamation League called it the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in the United States since 2014.

"Unfortunately, this violent attack ... occurs at a time when ADL has reported a historic increase in both anti-Semitic incidents and anti-Semitic online harassment," a statement from the organization said.

Hissrich said authorities were treating the shooting as a federal hate crime and the FBI took control of the investigation.

"There appears to be no active threat to the community," he said during a briefing shortly after 1 p.m. "We believe the subject responsible for this has been taken into custody."

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf called the shooting "an absolute tragedy."

"These senseless acts of violence are not who we are as Americans. My thoughts right now are focused on the victims, their families and making sure law enforcement has every resource they need.

"We must all pray and hope for no more loss of life. But we have been saying "this one is too many" for far too long. Dangerous weapons are putting our citizens in harm's way."

The Pittsburgh Public Safety Department earlier described the incident as an "active shooter" situation.

"There are multiple casualties. Neighbors are advised to shelter in place and stay in their homes and lock their doors," Pittsburgh Police Cmdr. Jason Lando said in a statement to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Stephen Weiss was inside the synagogue when the shooting began. He said the gunfire sounded like it came from an automatic weapon.

"It sounded like a loud crash in the hallway," he told the Post-Gazette.

President Donald Trump said he was monitoring the shooting.

"Law enforcement on the scene. People in Squirrel Hill area should remain sheltered. Looks like multiple fatalities. Beware of active shooter. God Bless All!" he tweeted.

Speaking to reporters at Andrews Air Force Base, Trump said the shooting "has little to do" with gun laws in the United States.

"If they had protection inside the temple, maybe it could've been a very much different situation.

"It's a terrible, terrible thing that's going on with hate in our country."

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