Emergency vehicles rushed to end the synagogue shooting. Picture: Keith Srakocic
Emergency vehicles rushed to end the synagogue shooting. Picture: Keith Srakocic

US Terrorism: Shooting victim’s fatal mistake

WHEN three people heard gunshots inside an American synagogue they quickly took cover.

The alleged gunman Robert Bower had opened fire inside the Pittsburgh synagogue, ending up killing 11 people.

Three people, including Melvin Wax and Rabbi Jonathan Perlman of the New Light Congregation, were in the chapel when they heard gunshots, the New York Times reports.

Hiding in the "storage room" they quickly took cover and hid with the lights off.

Then it went quiet again.

"Basically everyone froze except for Rabbi Perlman," Stephen Cohen said.

"He shepherded everybody into the back."

When the gunshots stopped, Mr Wax, 88, chose to get out of the storage room. Possibly because he was hard of hearing.

"For whatever reason, Mr Wax opened the door and got shot," Mr Cohen said.

Doctors devoting their lives to their local community, a pair of brothers and a husband and wife were among the 11 people killed at a Pittsburgh synagogue over the weekend.

A day after the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue, officials released the names of the victims. The oldest killed was 97 and the youngest was 54.

The Rosenthal family is mourning the loss of brothers Cecil and David, who both had intellectual disabilities. The pair lived semi-independently and received help from a disability services organisation.

Duquesne University senior David DeFelice, who was paired with Cecil through a disability buddies program, said the 59-year-old was up for anything.

"He was a very gregarious person - loved being social, loved people," Mr DeFelice said. "You could put him any situation, and he'd make it work."

David Rosenthal, 54, was the youngest to die in the shooting and was described by friends as "such a gentle spirit".

Mr Wax was a retired accountant but would often help friends with their finances.

"When my daughters were younger, they would go to him and he would help them with their federal income tax every year. Never charged them," Tree of Life's cemetery chairman Myron Snider said.

Mr Wax threw himself into the congregation when he lost his wife in 2016.

Dr Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, had been working in the medical profession for more than 30 years when he was shot and killed.

"Dr Jerry Rabinowitz … could always be counted upon to provide sage advice whenever he was consulted on medical matters, usually providing that advice with a touch of genuine humour. He had a truly uplifting demeanour, and as a practising physician he was among the very best," former Allegheny County deputy district attorney Law Claus said.

Richard Gottfried was getting ready to retire from his dental career in the next few months when he was shot and killed at the synagogue.

He was well known for his charity work, seeing patients who could not otherwise afford dental care

Joyce Fienberg had lost her husband Stephen to cancer in 2016 and was another of the victims.

The 75-year-old spent most of her career at the University of Pittsburgh's Learning Research and Development Centre, retiring in 2008 from her job as a researcher looking at learning in the classroom and in museums.

Married couple, Bernice and Sylvan Simon, were both in their 80s when they were killed.

Rose Mallinger, 97, was the oldest to die in the shooting.

Witnesses have described the horror moment the gunman opened fire on the group of worshippers.

Joseph Charny, 90, was worshipping in a room with a half-dozen other congregants when he saw a man appear in the doorway and heard shots ring out, he told The Washington Post.

"I looked up and there were all these dead bodies," Mr Charny said.

He and two others fled to a cramped storage room upstairs and hid until they thought it was safe to come out.

"I don't need to tell you how terrible this has all been," he said.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns observed a moment of silence before playing their NFL game on Sunday.


The suspect, 46-year-old Robert Bowers, has been charged with 29 counts including weapons offences and hate crimes. Of those, 22 charges carry the death penalty.

Mr Bowers worked as a truck driver and was linked to a number of anti-Semitic posts on social media.

Not long before the shooting, Mr Bowers described Jews as "invaders" and said, "I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered."

After his arrest, Mr Bowers told a SWAT agent that he wanted "all Jews to die".

Witnesses in the synagogue at the time of the shooting said the gunman had been screaming "death to all Jews" while killing people.


A status posted by shooting suspect Robert Bowers. HIAS, mentioned in the posting, is a non-profit group that helps refugees around the world find safety and freedom. Picture: AP
A status posted by shooting suspect Robert Bowers. HIAS, mentioned in the posting, is a non-profit group that helps refugees around the world find safety and freedom. Picture: AP


Mr Bowers was licensed to carry firearms but was apparently unknown to authorities before the mass shooting.

A neighbour of his told reporters he mostly "kept to himself".

"The most terrifying thing is how normal he seemed," the neighbour said.

Six others were wounded in the attack, including four police officers, one of whom remains in a critical condition.

Two worshippers also remain hospitalised, one of them in a critical condition.