The man who allegedly shot up a Pittsburgh synagogue Saturday and killed 11 people in what is likely the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history was later treated by Jewish medical staffers for his wounds.
“The irony of all this is that the first people that took care of him were all Jewish,” Dr. Jeffrey Cohen, the president of Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, said in a Fox News interview Monday.
The suspect ― who had a history of posting racist and anti-Jewish statements online ― reportedly yelled during the attack, “All Jews must die.”
“Isn’t it ironic that somebody who is yelling in the ambulance and in the hospital, ‘I want to kill all the Jews,’ is taken care of by a Jewish nurse and there’s a Jewish hospital president that comes in to check on him afterwards?” Cohen, who is Jewish, told CNN.
Cohen is a member of the Tree of Life–Or L’Simcha synagogue that was attacked, he told the Pennsylvania-based Tribune-Review. His mother-in-law often attended services there and knew many of those who were killed. Cohen lived nearby and heard the noise from the attack and police response.
The day after the shooting, Cohen visited the suspect in his hospital’s trauma unit. He told Fox News that he “just wanted to see him. I was curious as to what this gentleman was and to make sure he was being taken care of.” He said he asked the suspect if he was OK, told him he was “Dr. Cohen ... the president of the hospital,” and he left.
“I thought it was important to at least talk to him and meet him,” Cohen told ABC News, explaining why he went to see the man. “You can’t on one hand say we should talk to each other and then I don’t talk to him. So you lead by example, and I’m the leader of the hospital, and I have a powerful voice in the community.”
The emergency room doctor and nurse who treated Bowers at the hospital are also Jewish, Cohen told The Tribune-Review. The nurse’s father is a rabbi.
Cohen told CNN he was proud of his medical staffers, who he said, despite their “conflicting emotions,” fulfilled their mission to “take care of sick people [and not] ask questions of who they are.”
“I wanted to try and understand why did he do this. And I have no answers,” Cohen told the network, adding that the suspect “listens to the noise” and is “completely confused.”
The suspect was charged with 29 federal criminal counts and 36 state criminal counts, and the Justice Department said it plans to charge him with hate crimes, among other charges. He was discharged from the hospital Monday, Fox reported.
“He had a mother once, or maybe still does. He was loved by a family,” Cohen told the Tribune-Review. “How do you get from here to there?”