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Mayor Steven Fulop refused to call it an anti-Semitic attack but said surveillance video shows the gunmen driving slowly through the city’s streets, and then stopping outside a kosher grocery store where they calmly got out of their van and immediately opened fire.
Neither the state attorney general, who is running the investigation, nor any other law enforcement authority has confirmed the shooters targeted Jews. City Public Safety Director James Shea said Tuesday that terrorism wasn’t suspected.
A police officer, three bystanders and two suspects all died in the violence Tuesday afternoon in Jersey City, just across the Hudson River from New York City.
Officials said that the shooting began near a cemetery, where Detective Joseph Seals, 40, who led the department in the number of illegal guns removed from the streets in recent years, was cut down by gunfire. Officials said the gunmen then drove a stolen rental van to another part of the city and engaged police in a lengthy shootout from inside the kosher market, where the five other bodies were later found.
Fulop later said a review of security camera footage has led to the conclusion that the gunmen targeted the market.
“Last night after extensive review of our CCTV system it has now become clear from the cameras that these two individuals targeted the Kosher grocery location,” Fulop said in tweet. He said two officers one block away immediately responded when they heard shots. Both were wounded in the subsequent gun battle and were later released from the hospital, authorities said.
At a news conference, Fulop said the surveillance video shows the van driven by the suspects moving slowly and then stopping in front of the grocery store.
“There were multiple other people on the street so there were many other targets available to them that they bypassed to attack that place, so it was clearly that was their target and they intended to harm people inside,” he said.
But Fulop sought to qualify his remarks, saying, “I didn’t use the word anti-Semitic. Anything else is open for investigation.”
NBC News reported that four law enforcement sources familiar with the case identified the suspects as David Anderson and Francine Graham.
According to three sources, Anderson was a one-time follower of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement and his social media pages include anti-police and anti-Jewish writings. Investigators are looking to see if it was Anderson himself who posted that material.
Inside the van used by Anderson and Graham was a note with religious writings, the three sources said, NBC reported.
The bullets started flying early in the afternoon in the city of about 270,000. Seals, who worked for a unit called Cease Fire, was shot around 12:30 p.m.
Police Chief Michael Kelly said the officer was trying to stop some “bad guys” near the cemetery. Further details were unclear.
“It’s a really tough day for the city of Jersey City,” Fulop said Tuesday. Seals “was one of the best officers for getting the most guns off the streets. He was a good cop.”
Kelly said when police responded to the area of the kosher store, officers “were immediately engaged by high-power rifle fire.”
A video shot by a witness shows a police officer on the ground by a car, apparently wounded. Another officer goes to him, helps him up and the two run around a corner as gunshots ring out. Seconds later, as a police cruiser pulls up in front of the store, about a dozen shots are heard in rapid succession.
“Our officers were under fire for hours,” the chief said.
Inside the grocery store, police found the bodies of who they believed were the two gunmen and three other people who apparently happened to be there when the assailants rushed in, authorities said. Police said they were confident the bystanders were shot by the gunmen and not by police.
The kosher grocery is a central fixture in a growing community of Orthodox Jews who have been moving to Jersey City in recent years.
Chabad Rabbi Moshe Schapiro, who shops at the kosher store and attends a synagogue next door, said he spoke with the store owner, Moishe Ferencz.
“He told me he had just walked out of the store into the synagogue [for Minchah] not five feet away just before this happened, and then he couldn’t get back for hours,” Rabbi Schapiro said. “His wife was inside the store.” She was one of those shot and killed.
The identities of two victims of the shooting were released late Tuesday:
Mrs. Leah Mindel Ferencz, Hy”d, a resident of Jersey City who worked in the store, the wife of, lhbch”l, Reb Moshe Dovid Ferencz. She was 33 years old.
The second Jewish victim was identified as habachur Moshe Hirsch Deutsch, Hy”d, son of, lhbch”l, Reb Sholom Deutsch. He lived in Brooklyn, NY, and was a cousin of Mrs. Ferencz. He was 24 years old.
Anti-Semitic incidents in the United States are at near record levels, the Anti-Defamation League said earlier this year. It counted 780 anti-Semitic incidents in the first six months of 2019, compared to 785 during the same period in 2018.
Updated Wednesday, December 11, 2019 at 1:29 pm