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Pittsburgh Shooting Update


We're following news today of what appears to be a mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. There are reports of multiple casualties, and a suspect is in custody. Joined in the studio now by NPR's Shannon Van Sant, who's been reporting on that shooting in Pittsburgh. Shannon, thanks for being with us. What can you tell us?

SHANNON VAN SANT, BYLINE: Well, as you just said, there are multiple casualties, which include at least three police officers. The conditions of the victims is still not known. Police say they have a suspect in custody, and reports of the shooting started coming in reportedly around 10:20 this morning.

SIMON: What do we know about the synagogue and the surrounding community of Squirrel Hill?

VAN SANT: Well, the Saturday service at this synagogue usually starts at about 9:45 a.m. It's a conservative congregation. According to the synagogue's website, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers leads at Saturday's service on most weekends. He's written about gun control before. In July, he posted an essay to the congregation's website, to the synagogue's website, where he said, despite continuous calls for sensible gun control, our elected leaders in Washington knew that it would fade away in time. He says that he was afraid that the status quo on gun control would remain unchanged and shootings would continue. He also lamented that he felt he had to include in his daily morning prayers that God should watch over his wife and daughter and teachers to keep them safe.

SIMON: President Trump has weighed in on events, hasn't he?

VAN SANT: He has. President Trump tweeted this morning that he is watching the events unfold in Pittsburgh, and he warned people to stay away from the area. And he said it looked like there would be multiple fatalities.

SIMON: Shannon, of course, we're dealing with a breaking news event. And it's the inclination of and the policy of this news organization to be conservative rather than to be inaccurate. We know that people are going to see and hear another - other numbers that are out there. We are reporting what we can confirm at the moment. There is a suspect in custody. As I understand it, the area is still not considered safe. They're asking people to remain in their homes, yes?

VAN SANT: That's right. They're warning people to stay inside their homes, stay away from the area of the synagogue. And also, reportedly, according to the synagogue's website, this was the busiest service, the most packed service of the week for the synagogue, the Saturday morning service. So we can expect that there were probably multiple people inside the synagogue at the time.

SIMON: So there's a suspect in custody. Police at the same time have to be worried that perhaps someone else could be involved, and that's why the area - why they're still telling people to shelter in place.

VAN SANT: That's right. Until, you know, fairly recently this morning, it was an active shooter situation. The details of the shooting, whether there were more than one person involved, we don't know that yet, or even a motive.

SIMON: I am getting reports on Twitter. And I'm sure other people are seeing them. People are sending reports directly to me about things that they allege were said in the synagogue, official descriptions of the man. That's nothing we have that's verifiable or has been verified yet.

VAN SANT: We have not confirmed those reports. And Twitter, I mean, it's a good source of information, but we can't report it until we confirm it.

SIMON: It's sometimes a good source of misinformation too, isn't it? Shannon, you're going to be following this story. We have people from our local stations in Pittsburgh who are on the scene. Obviously, there's a great deal of chaos. They will be reporting the story. Thanks for being with us, Shannon Van Sant.

VAN SANT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.