According to Allegheny General Hospital President Jeffrey J. Cohen, at least three of the doctors or nurses tasked with keeping Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect Robert Bowers alive after he was rushed to the hospital were Jewish.
When Bowers entered the emergency room, he was shouting “I want to kill all the Jews,” said Cohen, who is a member of the Tree of Life Congregation where the 46-year-old allegedly killed 11 people during a weekly Shabbat service this past Saturday.
However, he added in his interview with the ABC-affiliate station WTAE, hospital staff are not there to judge the people brought through those doors.
“We’re here to take care of sick people. We’re not here to judge you. We’re not here to ask ’Do you have insurance?’ or ’Do you not have insurance?’ We’re here to take care of people that need our help,” he said.
Cohen says he stopped by Bowers’ room to see how he was doing, and asked him whether he was in pain.
“I stopped to see him, I just asked him how he was doing. Was he in pain, and he said no, he was fine,” Cohen told ABC News. “He asked me who I was. I said ‘I’m Dr. Cohen, I’m the president of the hospital.’ I turned around and left.”
Cohen added in an interview with ABC that, “I thought it was important to at least talk to him and meet him. 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.”
Not only is Cohen a member of the Tree of Life synagogue, he lives so close to the building that he heard the gunshots Saturday morning. His mother-in-law usually attends services there on Saturday mornings, but by chance, she didn’t attend that morning.
The president of Allegheny General says he knew nine of the 11 people killed at Tree of Life on Saturday, but that he hopes to one day forgive Bowers the way relatives of victims killed in 2015 at the Emanuel AME Church forgave that shooter.
Bowers, 46, is charged with 29 counts of federal crimes for violence and firearms-related offences. Several of the charges are hate-crime related. In addition, many of the charges may warrant the death penalty.
Cohen adds that he wasn’t alone in the difficult position he found himself in on Saturday, Oct. 27. A Jewish nurse and a Jewish doctor cared for Bowers at Allegheny hospital as well.
The doctor concluded by saying that he felt Bowers was a product of a larger problem in the United States.
“He listens to the noise, he hears the noise, the noise was telling him his people were being slaughtered. He thought it was time to rise up and do something. He’s completely confused,” he told CNN.
Bowers’ social media feeds were rife with anti-Semitic rhetoric and conspiracy theories.
In one post on a right-wing Twitter-alternative platform, Bowers said that the Jewish refugee organization, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, “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,” Reuters and CNN report.
Cohen, however, believes that it’s time to hold leaders accountable for the political climate across the country.
“It’s time for leaders to lead,” he told CNN. “And the words mean things. And the words are leading to people doing things like this, and I find it appalling.”
–With files from the Associated Press.