U.S. News Update: Hate-Fueled Crimes

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BY Evan Denny

News Editor

Pittsburgh Synagogue Massacre

A gunman who is believed to have spewed anti-Semitic slurs and rhetoric on social media barged into a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday and opened fire, killing 11 people in one of the deadliest attacks on Jews in U.S. history.

The suspect, Robert Bowers, traded gunfire with police and was shot several times. Bowers, who was in fair condition at a hospital, was charged late Saturday with 29 federal counts, including hate crimes and weapons offenses.

“Please know that justice in this case will be swift and it will be severe,” Scott Brady, the chief federal prosecutor in western Pennsylvania, said at a news conference, characterizing the slaughter as a “terrible and unspeakable act of hate.”

The mass shooting came amid a rash of high-profile attacks in an increasingly divided country, one day after a Florida man was arrested and charged with mailing a series of pipe bombs to prominent Democrats and little more than a week before the midterm elections.

The killings immediately reignited the longstanding national debate about guns: President Donald Trump said the outcome might have been different if the synagogue “had some kind of protection” from an armed guard, while Pennsylvania’s Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf noted that once again “dangerous weapons are putting our citizens in harm’s way.”

John Petillo, President of Sacred Heart University, arranged a prayer service on Monday, Oct. 29, for the victims of the tragedy.

“I would like to propose that we come together tomorrow in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit at 2 p.m. for a prayer service in support of the victims, their loved ones, law enforcement personnel and our country and its leaders,” Petillo said in an email to the University. “I am particularly hoping that students will join me there to stand in solidarity for the victims and unite against hate. Let’s support one another, especially the Jewish members of our community, and pray for peace as we enter into the joyful holiday season.”

At the service, the chapel nave was completely filled, with more people gathered in the narthex to offer their prayers.

Mail Bombing Suspect Caught

Pipe bombs were sent to critics of President Trump, including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and ex-CIA director John Brennan. None of the bombs detonated. Federal authorities have captured a Florida man with a criminal history and a fervor for Trump, and have accused him of sending at least 14 mail bombs to prominent Democrats.

Justice Department officials have announced five federal charges against Cesar Sayoc, 56, of Aventura, Florida, and revealed that DNA and a fingerprint found on an envelope helped them identify the suspect after a five-day, coast-to-coast investigation.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said Cesar Sayoc’s fingerprints and possible DNA were collected from two of the 13 devices. Wray said the fingerprints matched a print found on one of the packages sent to Rep. Maxine Waters of California.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he doesn’t know why pipe bombs were sent to prominent Democrats and CNN but says a Florida man charged in the case “appears to be a partisan.”

The man is a registered Republican and an ardent supporter of Trump.

Trump declared that “these terrorizing acts are despicable” and said Americans “must unify.” His remarks came just hours after Trump tweeted a complaint that the media’s focus on bombs was distracting from Republican efforts in the upcoming midterm elections.

A number of Trump’s allies, including his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and conservative commentator Lou Dobbs, have used social media to spread the idea that the bombs may be a Democrat-run hoax. Rush Limbaugh, influential right-wing radio host, and some GOP congressional candidates did the same.

Sessions and other law enforcement officials have declined to speculate on whether the current divided political climate in America and Trump’s rhetoric emboldened Sayoc. Wray says it’s too early to discuss a motive behind the pipe bombs.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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