Robert Bowers, the Pennsylvania man accused of a fatal shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday morning, posted prolifically online about conspiracy theories and repeatedly threatened Jews.
Bowers frequently wrote on the social network Gab, where he made a specific threat against Jews hours before Saturday’s attack, alleging that the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, or HIAS, a humanitarian nonprofit group that assists refugees, brought immigrants to the United States to do violence.
“Screw your optics, I’m going in,” he wrote.
Scott Brady, the U.S. attorney for Pittsburgh, said federal prosecutors were seeking approval from the Justice Department to pursue the death penalty, The Associated Press reported Sunday night.
Bowers frequently posted about the “migrant caravan,” a group of several thousand refugees walking to the U.S.-Mexico border from Honduras to seek asylum. Preventing refugees in the caravan from entering the United States has been a major talking point among right-wing commentators and President Donald Trump, who has spoken about it in recent pre-midterm election stump speeches.
Bowers’ anti-Semitic posts and his apparent disdain for the caravan are tied to a viral image that appears to show refugees hopping onto the bed of a truck with a Star of David on the side. The image has been widely shared on far-right forums like 4chan and the Russian propaganda operation USA Really. He reposted a screenshot of a video of the caravan that had aired on Fox News, as well as other networks, that does not mention the symbol.