The family of one of the 11 people killed at a Pittsburgh synagogue said they declined a meeting with President Trump because of his “inappropriate” response to the Saturday attack.
Daniel Stein, 71, was fatally shot inside the Tree of Life synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood in Pittsburgh on Saturday.
His nephew, Stephen Halle, told The Washington Post Tuesday that the family turned down an offer from the president to meet with them on Tuesday.
Halle said the family rejected the offer after Trump said an armed guard inside the place of worship would have been able to stop the gunman “immediately.”
“Well, again, this has little to do with it, if you take a look — if they had protection inside [The Tree of Life Synagogue], the results would have been far better,” Trump said hours after the attack. “This is a dispute that will always exist, I suspect, but if they had some kind of a protection inside the temple, maybe it could have been a very much different situation. They didn’t. And unfortunately [the alleged shooter] was able to do things he shouldn’t have been able to do.”
“They might’ve been able to stop him immediately if there was an armed guard,” Trump added. “Maybe there would’ve been nobody killed except for him, frankly.”
“Everybody feels that they were inappropriate,” Halle said of Trump’s insensitive comments. “He was blaming the community.”
“A church, a synagogue, should not be a fortress. It should be an open, welcoming place to feel safe,” he continued.
Stein’s funeral will take place around the same time the president and first lady Melania Trump are scheduled to visit Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh’s Democratic Mayor Bill Peduto suggested on Monday that Trump should reschedule his visit on a different day so it doesn’t overlap with the funerals.
“I do believe that it would be best to put the attention on the families this week and if he were to visit choose a different time to be able to do it,” Peduto said on CNN. “Our focus as a city will be on the families and the outreach they will need this week and the support they’ll need to get through it.”
Nearly 76,000 people as of Tuesday have signed a petition telling the president that he is not welcome in Pittsburgh until he denounces white nationalism.
“For the past three years your words and your policies have emboldened a growing white nationalist movement,” Bend the Arc wrote in the letter.
Eleven congregants were killed on Saturday after the suspected gunman, Robert Bowers, opened fire, allegedly yelling, “All Jews must die.”