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Paramedics describe rescuing survivors in Pittsburgh synagogue shooting trial

Keith Srakocic

Pittsburgh paramedics embedded with the SWAT team that entered the Tree of Life Synagogue on Oct. 27, 2018 testified Monday about their efforts to save survivors of the attack on three congregations worshiping there.

Defendant Robert Bowers is accused of walking into the synagogue that day, shooting and killing 11 Jewish worshipers and injuring six others, including four police officers. He is charged with 63 federal counts, including 11 counts of a hate crime that resulted in death, and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Eric Barazotoo and Justin Sypolt are assigned to the city’s tactical emergency services, a group of paramedics that responds to SWAT calls. “TEMS” paramedics receive SWAT training and go into active crime scenes to provide immediate medical care.

On the stand Monday, they described entering the synagogue and almost immediately encountering deceased victims. Prosecutors showed graphic photos of the crime scene while the paramedics testified and walked the jury through their path that day.

While checking one of the rooms in the synagogue, Sypolt found Dan Leger, a worshiper, on a set of stairs, alive but in critical condition with a gunshot wound to his abdomen and internal bleeding.

Sypolt said he was shocked when he realized Leger was alive. Sypolt radioed to colleagues outside and said, “I’ve got one alive.”

Sypolt and Barazotoo carried Leger out of the building to a waiting ambulance before going back inside.

When they reentered the synagogue, they said they found another TEMS paramedic helping Andrea Wedner, who was shot in the arm and appeared to be in shock. Paramedics helped her out to an armored vehicle, which took her to the hospital.

Wedner had been attending services with her 97-year-old mother, Rose Mallinger. Mallinger was killed in the attack.

Sypolt, Barazotoo and other medics also offered medical attention to two police officers who were wounded in a firefight with the gunman.

They told the jury some of the survivors could have died without immediate medical attention.

Defense attorneys did not cross-examine Barazotoo or Sypolt.

Julia Zenkevich reports on Allegheny County government for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at