Families Confront Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooter as Death Sentence is Handed Down: A Moving Sentencing Hearing

Pittsburgh, PA – In a poignant sentencing hearing at the federal courthouse, grieving families affected by the Tree of Life synagogue shooting faced Robert Bowers, the individual responsible for one of the most devastating acts of antisemitism in American history, as a federal judge officially condemned him to death, following the recommendation of a jury.

The emotional hearing witnessed the testimonies of 22 witnesses, survivors, and relatives of the 11 victims, who delivered impactful statements about the impact of the attack. Peg Durachko, the wife of Dr. Richard Gottfried, a 65-year-old dentist who lost his life, spoke profoundly about the heartless act that tore her soulmate away. Mark Simon, whose parents were also victims, shared the haunting memory of his mother’s distressing call to 911 as she was shot by Bowers.

Bowers, a 50-year-old truck driver from Baldwin, executed the attack on October 27, 2018, driven by his antisemitic beliefs. He callously announced to the police at the scene that “all these Jews must die,” displaying pride in his killings. The jury unanimously found that Bowers’ attack was motivated by his hatred of Jews and his intention to spread terror within the Jewish community. They additionally determined that Bowers showed no signs of remorse for his actions. Dismissing claims of schizophrenia, the jury convicted him on 63 federal charges, including hate crimes resulting in death, in June.

U.S. Attorney Eric Olshan acknowledged the unfortunate reality that Bowers’ antisemitic views are not uncommon, as white supremacist and bigoted ideologies remain prevalent in society. Considering the jury’s recommendation, Judge Robert Colville formally sentenced Bowers to death, admitting that his words would hold no significance for the perpetrator.

Through the sentencing hearing, the families of the victims found solace in being able to express their pain and grief, while seeking justice for their loved ones who were tragically taken away from them in the attack.

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