Law enforcement sources tell CBS News and KDKA that the suspect in a fatal shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue is 48-year-old Robert Bowers. His online activity shows he posted anti-Semitic threats and conspiracy theories in the weeks before Saturday’s shooting, which left at least eight dead.
Here’s what we know about Bowers so far:
- Police said Bowers shouted “All Jews must die!” while firing indiscriminately in the Tree of Life synagogue during services. He exchanged gunfire with officers while confined on the third floor of the synagogue before being taken into custody.
- Bowers was a regular user on Gab, a social network often associated with white supremacists and extremists. Shortly after the attack, Gab was alerted to a user profile of the alleged Tree of Life Synagogue shooter. The account was verified and matched the name of the alleged shooter’s name, which was mentioned on police scanners.
- On Gab, Bowers posted dozens of anti-Semitic messages in the past month, including denials of the Holocaust and conspiracy theories about Jews destroying the planet and fueling mass migration. Many of the posts included a slur for Jews. A quote on the top of his page said, “jews are the children of satan.” He also posted about popular right-wing conspiracy theories such as QAnon.
- Bowers posted several messages on Gab supporting President Trump. “Trump is a globalist, not a nationalist,” he wrote on Thursday. “There is no #MAGAas long as there is a k–e infestation.”
- Bowers also appeared to post two cryptic warnings about the shooting hours before the attack. On Friday, he wrote about HIAS, a Jewish organization that aids refugees and recently listed congregations across America that held Shabbat services for refugees. “Why hello there HIAS! You like to bring in hostile invaders to dwell among us? We appreciate the list of friends you have provided,” Bowers wrote. On Saturday morning, about two hours before the attack, he wrote in another post, “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”
This is a developing story and will be updated.
Former State Senator Reportedly Found Shot to Death at Her Home
A former Arkansas state senator was reportedly found dead at her home this week, and authorities are investigating her death as a homicide.
The body of a woman was discovered Tuesday night at Linda Collins-Smith’s residence in the city of Pocahontas, some 145 miles northeast of the state capital, Little Rock. The Randolph County Sheriff’s Office said its deputies responded to the scene and then asked the Arkansas State Police to be the lead investigative agency in what is currently being treated as a homicide investigation.
“The condition of the body prevented any immediate positive identification,” Randolph County Sheriff Kevin Bell said at a press conference Wednesday. “The body has been sent for an autopsy to determine the positive identification and cause of death.
Authorities wouldn’t say if Collins-Smith is the victim, and a judge has issued a gag order sealing the documents and statements obtained by police.
“Arkansas State Police has not, as of this hour, issued a statement that positively identifies a homicide victim in this case,” Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler told ABC News in an email early Thursday morning.
However, Collins-Smith’s former press secretary, Ken Yang, told Little Rock ABC affiliate KATV that she was found shot to death inside her home and her body was wrapped in some sort of blanket. Neighbors apparently reported hearing gunshots a day or two before her body was discovered.
Collins-Smith, who ran for reelection last year but was defeated in the Republican Party primary, was “someone who truly cared about Arkansas, truly cared about her district,” according to Yang. She was 57.
“It was shocking,” he said during an interview Tuesday night. “This was not just a political relationship. This was a close personal friendship that I had with Linda.”
Politicians on both sides of the aisle expressed shock and sadness at the news of the death of their Republican colleague.
“I’m both stunned and saddened by the death of former State Senator Linda Collins-Smith,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon. “She was a good person who served in the public arena with passion and conviction. The First Lady and I extend our deepest sympathies to her family and friends during this difficult time.”
“Today, we learned of the untimely death of former Senator Linda Collins Smith. She was a passionate voice for her people and a close member of our Republican family,” the Republican Party of Arkansas said in a statement on Tuesday evening. “We are praying for her loved ones during this difficult time.”
“To so many of us, Senator Linda Collins-Smith was more than just a colleague,” the Democratic Party of Arkansas said in a statement via Twitter on Tuesday night. “She was a friend and warm person. We are stunned and saddened to hear of her death. Please join us in prayer as we remember her family and her loved ones.”
Collins-Smith lost to James Sturch in the Republican Party primary for the 19th district in Arkansas in May 2018 by fewer than 600 votes. She previously served one term in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 2011 to 2013, switching parties after being elected as a Democrat.
Police arrest stepfather of 4-year-old girl he claims was kidnapped
The stepfather of missing 4-year-old Maleah Davis was arrested and charged in connection to her disappearance, one week after he told Texas police that she was kidnapped by three men who assaulted and knocked him unconscious.
Derion Vence, 26, was arrested by the Houston Police Department at a relative’s home and charged with tampering with evidence, human corpse, in the disappearance of his stepdaughter on the night of May 4.
Although a police source told ABC News that the young girl was still missing, they would not say whether she was believed to be dead or alive.
Police said in a statement on Saturday that they had obtained blood evidence linked to Maleah from Vence’s apartment and that he was seen leaving his apartment with a full laundry basket, which was found Thursday along with a gas can in the trunk of the silver Nissan Altima that he reported missing following the kidnapping.
At a late night hearing, the district attorney said cadaver dogs reacted to scents in the trunk and the laundry basket.
Vence reported the abduction on May 5, nearly 24 hours after it occurred, claiming that he had been unconscious for much of that time, according to the statement.
He told police that he was driving with Maleah and his 2-year-old son on the night of May 4 to George Bush Intercontinental Airport in north Houston to pick up the girl’s mother, Brittany Bowens, who was returning from a trip to Massachusetts, police said.
He said that on the way there, he heard a popping noise coming from his car that made him believe he had a flat tire, so he pulled over to check on it. When he got out of the car, he said that a blue pickup truck pulled up behind him and two men got out, police said during a news conference on May 5.
He told police that one of the men commented on Maleah’s appearance as the other hit him in the head, knocking him out, police said.
Vence told police that he kept going in and out of consciousness, but at one point realized that he was in the back of the pickup truck where there were actually three men and that he also saw Maleah and his son in the truck, police said.
He said that he regained consciousness the next day with only his son in Sugar Land, nearly 22 miles southwest of central Houston, and walked to Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital where he received treatment and reported Maleah missing, police said.
Although he told police that his car was taken during the kidnapping, surveillance footage showed someone in the Nissan dropping Vence off at Methodist Sugar Land Hospital on May 5, police said.
Vence’s public defender asked for a $5,000 bond, while the district attorney proposed $500,000.
Instead, the judge ruled Vence be held on $1 million bond since the ongoing investigation “is likely to result in a significant upgrade to this second-degree felony.”
Houston police are asking anyone with information about the case, the whereabouts of Maleah Davis or the person who sold the gas can to Vence to contact the department’s Homicide Division at 713-308-3600.
Ethiopia Airlines Updates: Boeing 737 Crash Kills at Least 150
An Ethiopian Airlines flight carrying more than 150 people crashed early Sunday shortly after departing from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, en route to Nairobi, Kenya, the airline said, killing everyone onboard.
The plane was identified by its manufacturer, Boeing, as one of its newest models, a 737 Max 8. The cause of the crash was unclear, but a Lion Air flight using the same model of plane went down in Indonesia in October and killed 189 people.
Officials are investigating whether changes to the Max 8’s automatic controls might have sent that flight into an unrecoverable nose-dive. The airline said the 737 had been subjected to a “rigorous” maintenance check in February.
Flight 302 was carrying passengers from at least 35 countries, according to the airline. The dead included 32 Kenyans, 18 Canadians, nine Ethiopians, eight each from the United States, China and Italy, and seven each from France and Britain, the airline said. Serbia’s Foreign Ministry said one citizen, a staff worker for the United Nations World Food Program, had died.
The office of Abiy Ahmed, the Ethiopian prime minister, expressed on Twitter “profound sadness at the loss of life,” as did President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya. The Ethiopian House of People’s Representatives declared Monday a national day of mourning.
The airline said in a statement that 149 passengers and eight crew members were aboard the flight. The United States Embassy in Addis Ababa confirmed that Americans were on board and said it was working with the Ethiopian government and the airline to determine their identities.
The U.S. Embassy is aware of the crash this morning of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302. We extend our sincerest sympathies to all who are impacted by this tragic event.
Updated as of 5pm 3/10/19: 1/2 The U.S. Government, the Embassy team, & the American people extend our sincere sympathies to all those who lost loved ones in the crash this morning of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302. https://t.co/VZxEHYFPUK
— U.S. Embassy Addis (@USEmbassyAddis) March 10, 2019
The flight on Sunday took off in good weather from Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa at 8:38 a.m. local time and lost contact six minutes later, the airline said. The plane went down near Bishoftu, about 35 miles southeast of Addis Ababa.
Images from the vast crash site revealed a grim tableau. Workers loaded body bags into a truck, while plane fragments and various items from the flight — cigarettes, shoes, napkins with the Ethiopian Airlines logo — were scattered across the field.
Tewolde GebreMariam, the chief executive officer of Ethiopian Airlines, said at a news conference that the pilot had sought and had been given clearance to return to the airport in Addis Ababa after reporting difficulties.
Mr. GebreMariam said that it was too early to determine a cause or rule anything out, adding that a team from the National Transportation Safety Board in the United States would be arriving shortly to work with civil aviation authorities in Ethiopia and officials from Boeing.
The N.T.S.B. said that it would be sending a four-person team. The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement, “We are in contact with the State Department and plan to join the N.T.S.B. in its assistance with Ethiopian civil aviation authorities to investigate the crash.”
The airline identified the pilot as Yared Getachew, saying he had more than 8,000 cumulative flight hours and describing his performance as “commendable.”
“Ethiopian Airlines is very, very highly regarded; it’s part of the Star Alliance,” Graham Braithwaite, a professor of safety and accident investigation at Cranfield University in Britain, said by phone on Sunday.
Professor Braithwaite was referring to the airline alliance that includes carriers like Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines and United, and he described Ethiopian Airways as “one of the best operators in Africa.”
The lead investigation will start in the country where the crash happened, Ethiopia, he said, but other countries will also be involved — Kenya and the United States, independently of Boeing, because the aircraft was made in the United States.
“They’ll want to work quite swiftly,” Professor Braithwaite said. “It’s in nobody’s interest that a failure goes unknown.”
The priority will be to make sure there is no link between the crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia, and other countries and airlines will no doubt be watching closely. The plane is “the most populous aircraft out there,” he added.
Relatives anxiously waited for news, as journalists from around the world descended on Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. At least three buses carrying family members left the airport for a nearby hotel, and emergency responders were shielding them from the press.
“I came to the airport to receive my brother but I have been told there is a problem,” said Agnes Muilu, The Associated Press reported. “I just pray that he is safe or he was not on it.”
The Kenyan transport secretary, James Macharia, said his country was setting up two emergency response centers to assist those who had friends and relatives on the flight.
“The purpose of these centers is to provide the relatives with information as much as we have,” he said. “At the same time to provide them with an environment of privacy.”
There has not been a crash involving Ethiopian Airlines since January 2010, when a Boeing 737 crashed into the Mediterranean Sea shortly after it took off from Beirut, Lebanon. None of the 90 people onboard that flight — 82 passengers and eight crew members — survived.
The latest known accident involving the airline was in January 2015, when a Boeing 737-400 cargo aircraft veered off the runway with flat tires after it landed in Accra, Ghana. None of the three crew members onboard were injured.
The Lion Air Max 8 in Indonesia was a brand-new plane, like Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which was delivered to the African carrier late last year, according to websites that track commercial fleet updates.
Lynette Dray, an aviation expert and senior research associate at University College London, said that the Max model has a more efficient engine than the previous 737 aircraft, but, “It’s not revolutionary new.”
The flight took off in good weather, but the vertical speed of Flight 302 had been unstable after takeoff, fluctuating wildly, according to data published by FlightRadar24 on Twitter.
In the first three minutes of flight, the vertical speed varied from 0 feet per minute to 1,472 to minus 1,920 — unusual during ascent.
“During takeoff, one would expect sustained positive vertical speed indications,” Ian Petchenik, a spokesman for FlightRadar24, said in an email on Sunday.
Crashes involving new planes in good weather are rare. The Lion Air accident also involved a plane that crashed minutes after takeoff and after the crew requested permission to return to the airport.
Investigations by the Indonesian and American aviation authorities have determined that the Lion Air plane’s abrupt nose-dive may have been caused by updated Boeing software that is meant to prevent a stall but that can send the plane into a fatal descent if the altitude and angle information being fed into the computer system is incorrect.
The change in the flight control system, which can override manual motions in the Max model, was not explained to pilots, according to some pilots’ unions. Global alerts were sent to notify pilots flying the Max about how to counter the anti-stall system.
Ethiopia, with about 100 million people, is the second-most populous nation in Africa. After elections in March, the new prime minister has embarked on a series of political reforms, chiefly to officially end two decades of hostilities with neighboring Eritrea, a longtime rival.
The country’s flagship carrier has undergone a major expansion in past years, more than doubling its staff to 11,000 employees in the past decade, with the goal of easing air travel in a part of the world where flying is notoriously complicated. For instance, it added nonstop flights from Newark to Lomé, Togo, a hub for the airline, that then continued on to Addis Ababa.
In West Africa, Ethiopian is the technical and strategic partner for a relatively new airline, Asky, created with investment from the Economic Community of West African States. Asky offers a web of cross-border flights in West and Central Africa and connects with Ethiopian flights to expand its reach across the continent and beyond.
In Africa, Ethiopian has a reputation for having a newer fleet than other airlines, for operating flights that are mostly on time and for having accommodating schedules.
The airline has ordered 30 Boeing 737 Max jets, with the first being delivered last year. It currently has five of the models in its fleet, according to FlightRadar24.
Chinese news websites said that the eight Chinese killed on the flight included tourists and business people. One was Zhou Yuan, a worker for the China Electronics Technology Group Corporation, which sells electronics, communications and security technology for civilian and military needs, the Beijing News reported, citing a press officer for the corporation.
Ethiopia and Kenya have drawn growing numbers of Chinese investors and tourists in recent years. The casualties may also include people from Hong Kong or Taiwan, whom China counts as its own citizens.
The Russian Embassy confirmed the deaths of three citizens and expressed its condolences, as did Canada, which had the second-highest number of victims on the flight. “Terrible news from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this morning,” the foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, wrote on Twitter. “My heartfelt condolences to all those who have lost loved ones.”
Ms. Freeland added that the Canadian government was in close contact with the Ethiopian authorities to gather additional information as quickly as possible.
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