Gov. Herbert orders flags lowered following deadliest attack on Jews in US history

Stock image, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — In coordination with the proclamation of President Donald Trump, Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert ordered on Monday the lowering of the flag of the United States of America and the flag of the State of Utah in solemn memory of those killed Saturday in the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

According to a report from The Associated Press, the man accused in the massacre, Robert Gregory Bowers, was released from a hospital and turned over to federal authorities for a court appearance Monday on charges he killed 11 people in what is believed to be the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.

Federal prosecutors set in motion plans to seek the death penalty against the 46-year-old truck driver, who authorities say expressed hatred of Jews during the rampage. Bowers later told police, “I just want to kill Jews” and “All these Jews need to die.”

Bowers killed eight men and three women before a police tactical team shot him, authorities said. Six other people were wounded, including four officers. Four of the wounded remained hospitalized Sunday night, two in critical condition.

Herbert issued the following statement Monday in conjunction with his order to lower the flags:

Jeanette and I mourn with the people of Pittsburgh and Jewish communities across the world in the wake of this weekend’s shooting. I grew to love the people of Pittsburgh as a young man when I served there as a volunteer representative for my church. I admire their close families, their work ethic and their cultural diversity. My prayers are with the families who lost loved ones. Our houses of worship should be places of refuge and peace, and it is devastating to see this peace so cruelly attacked. I am heartsick at the open contempt and violent bigotry on display throughout our country.

The first funeral for victims of the massacre – for Cecil Rosenthal and his younger brother, David – was set for Tuesday. Survivors, meanwhile, began offering harrowing accounts of the mass shooting Saturday inside Tree of Life Synagogue.

Barry Werber, 76, said he found himself hiding in a dark storage closet as the gunman tore through the building.

“I don’t know why he thinks the Jews are responsible for all the ills in the world, but he’s not the first and he won’t be the last,” Werber said. “Unfortunately, that’s our burden to bear. It breaks my heart.”

The weekend massacre – which took place 10 days before the midterm elections – heightened tensions around the country, coming just a day after the arrest of the Florida man accused of sending a wave of pipe bombs to critics of Trump.

The mail bomb attacks and the bloodshed in Pittsburgh set off debate over whether the corrosive political climate in Washington and beyond contributed to the violence and whether Trump himself bears any blame because of his combative language.

Werber noted that the president has embraced the politically fraught label of “nationalist.” He said the Nazis were nationalists.

“It’s part of his program to instigate his base,” Werber said, and “bigots are coming out of the woodwork.”

However, Trump shifted the blame, renewing his attacks on the news media Monday, arguing that “fraudulent” reporting was contributing to anger in the country and declaring that the press was the “true Enemy of the People.”

Trump tweeted: “There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news.”

He added that the media “must stop the open & obvious hostility & report the news accurately & fairly.”

Trump strongly condemned the Pittsburgh attack as an act of anti-Semitism and has denounced political violence and called for unity, but with eight days to go before the midterm elections, he has continued to hold his political rallies, complete with harsh criticism of Democrats and the media.

At a rally Saturday night, Trump was somewhat muted but still offered his standard campaign attack lines, including citing Hillary Clinton and Rep. Maxine Waters, both of whom were targeted in the bomb plot. On Twitter on Sunday, he attacked billionaire businessman Tom Steyer, another target of the mail bombs.

The man arrested in connection with the mail bomb plot, Cesar Sayoc, was a fervent Trump supporter.

The White House has pushed back against the suggestion Trump should change course. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said on CNN on Monday that Trump was “trying to heal the country.” Asked about Trump’s comments since the massacre, she pointed to Waters’ and Steyer’s criticism of the Republican president and went on to say Trump was seeking unity.

“The president’s not trying to reach his base by denouncing anti-Semitism and asking everybody to rise above hate, he’s being the president of all Americans,” Conway said.

Flags will be flown at half-staff at all Utah state facilities and public grounds from sunrise until sunset through Wednesday. Individuals and businesses are encouraged to fly the flag at half-staff for the same length of time.

Associated Press writers CATHERINE LUCEY, MARYCLAIRE DALE, CLAUDIA LAUER and ALLEN G. BREED contributed to this report.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press as AP portions. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • JOSH DALTON October 29, 2018 at 4:21 pm

    Being that my family is Jewish. using the term “jew” is slang and pejorative. Just like the LDS thinks “this is a victory for the devil” GO FALCONS!

    • KR567 October 29, 2018 at 11:01 pm

      4 stand up comedians refer to themselves as a Jew ! so lighten up and move on

  • AnnieMated October 29, 2018 at 4:36 pm

    What a tragedy. I hope that families of the victims of this horrendous, deplorable terrorist attack are able, somehow, to find some kind of closure or justice or peace or ANYTHING that helps them get though it.

  • iceplant October 29, 2018 at 6:02 pm

    While I don’t agree with Herbert on anything, this is something I can get on board with.
    Well played, Mr. Herbert. Cheers.

    I wonder why the Conman-in-Chief couldn’t be bothered to do this.
    Too busy spreading more fear and propaganda by stoking up his base at so-called “rallies.”
    Dotard being shown up by little ol’ Utah ??? Say it ain’t so, Captain Mango!

    • Happy Commenter November 1, 2018 at 12:07 pm

      Are you ignorant or something?

  • jaltair October 29, 2018 at 11:26 pm

    If US flags were flown at half-staff for every mass killing, we would have our flags held that way indefinitely these days. Sorry, this is not particularly good “flag etiquette,” be it well-intentioned or for political gain on the Governor’s part.

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