Accused mass killer Robert Bowers appeared briefly in a wheelchair this afternoon in U.S. District Court for the first of what promises to be many court proceedings in the weeks and months to come.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Mitchell, presiding before a courtroom packed with media representatives, read the counts against him and appointed a federal public defender to represent him.

The federal prosecutors attending Mr. Bowers' court appearance included: Soo Song, who had been the acting U.S. attorney between the departure of David Hickton and the arrival of Scott Brady and was named head of national security for the office, a position she previously held in the District of Arizona; Troy Rivetti, who is in charge of the criminal division's narcotics section, having previously run the violent crimes unit; and Stephen Kaufman, former chief of the criminal division since 2010, who is now the office's first assistant U.S. attorney.

This undated Pennsylvania Department of Transportation photo shows Robert Bowers, the suspect in the deadly shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018.
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation via AP
This undated Pennsylvania Department of Transportation photo shows Robert Bowers, the suspect in the deadly shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018.

A preliminary hearing at which the U.S. attorney's office will present its evidence is set for 10 a.m. Thursday.

Mr. Bowers, who was shot multiple times in an exchange of gunfire with police, said nothing in court except to briefly answer the judge's questions. His lawyer waived a detention hearing and U.S. marshals wheeled him away to be taken back to jail.

Husband and wife Jon Pushinsky and Jean Clickner have been members of Congregation Dor Hadash (which worships at Tree of Life synagogue) for 30 years.

They attended Mr. Bowers' initial appearance on Monday to show solidarity for their congregation.

They wanted "to be a presence for people whose congregation was violated and to show we still stand and will continue to operate as a congregation."

Mr. Pushinsky, a long-time federal criminal defense and civil rights attorney, said he was underwhelmed by Mr. Bowers.

"It wasn't the face of villainy that I thought I might see." referring to when Bowers was brought in.

Prosecutors now have 30 days to present the case to a federal grand jury for indictment.

Mr. Bowers is only the fourth defendant in the history of this district to face the federal death penalty.

He is accused of gunning down 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday and wounding six other people.