Jewish hospital staff treated synagogue shooting suspect as he spewed hate, administrator says

When the man charged with killing 11 people Saturday at a Pittsburgh synagogue arrived with injuries at Alle...

Posted: Nov. 1, 2018 4:00 PM
Updated: Nov. 1, 2018 4:00 PM

When the man charged with killing 11 people Saturday at a Pittsburgh synagogue arrived with injuries at Allegheny General Hospital, the staff -- some of whom are Jewish -- stepped up and did their jobs, even as he continued to spew hate, their boss said.

"Isn't it ironic that somebody who's yelling in the ambulance and 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," Dr. Jeffrey Cohen, the facility's top administrator, told CNN's Alex Marquardt a day after the massacre.

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Cohen is a member of the Tree of Life synagogue, where the shooting unfolded. He lives nearby and even heard the shootout between police and Robert Bowers, who pleaded not guilty Thursday to 44 federal charges, including 32 that may be punishable by death.

Cohen this week has praised the professionalism that his staff showed in treating Bowers, 46, who had a history of posting anti-Semitic rhetoric online and told police Jews were "committing genocide to my people," according to an FBI affidavit.

'To us, they're patients'

When Bowers arrived at the hospital to be treated for multiple gunshot wounds, he was still screaming that he wanted to kill Jews, Cohen told CNN affiliate WTAE.

"And the first three people who are taking care of him are Jewish," Cohen said. "I said, 'Well yeah, ain't that a kick in the pants?'"

One of Bowers' nurses was a rabbi's son, Cohen said. "He took care of this guy. He did everything he could. He was extremely professional."

Cohen said he wanted to try to understand the accused shooter's motive. But in the end, Cohen simply checked on Bowers like he might any other patient, he said.

"I asked him, 'How are you feeling?' And he was sort of groggy. He said, 'I'm feeling OK.' And I introduced myself as Dr. Cohen, the president of Allegheny General. And I left," Cohen said.

"The FBI agent in charge looked at me and says, 'I don't know how you did that 'cause I'm not sure I could have,'" Cohen recalled.

Cohen acknowledged that some on his staff had "conflicting emotions" about Bowers but said ultimately Allegheny General has one mission: to take care of sick people, regardless of who they are or their circumstances.

"We don't ask questions (about) who they are. We don't ask questions about their insurance status or whether they can pay," he told CNN. "To us, they're patients."

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