The two suspects in the Jersey City shooting, which left six people dead during an hours-long gunfight on Tuesday, were specifically targeting a Jewish grocery store as part of an apparent anti-Semitic attack, law enforcement and elected officials said today. Three civilians, one police officer, and both assailants were killed in the rampage.
Authorities and witnesses said that the two shooters, armed with high-powered rifles, entered a Kosher deli in the Greenville neighborhood and opened fire on Tuesday afternoon. Officials initially described the attack as random, noting there was "no indication" of terrorism. But that narrative had changed by Wednesday morning.
"They clearly went to that place and parked directly in front of it," Mayor Steven Fulop said on the Brian Lehrer Show Wednesday morning. "They targeted those victims, is what it appears from the CCTV cameras."
"The intent of the perpetrators was to have this be far, far worse of a tragedy than this already is," he added. The Kosher supermarket is directly adjacent to a Jewish school and synagogue—both of which were locked down for several hours on Tuesday.
Surveillance footage circulating appears to show the lead-up to the killing. Two people can be seen exiting a U-Haul with guns drawn, then entering the market as bystanders scatter.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio described the attack as a pre-mediated anti-Semitic hate crime and an "act of terror." While there is no specific or credible threat in New York City, he said, hundreds of NYPD officers have been deployed to strategic community locations as a precaution.
Multiple law enforcement sources identified the alleged shooters to NBC and the NY Times as David Anderson and Francine Graham. Anderson reportedly posted anti-Semitic and anti-police posts online ahead of the shooting, and is believed to be a former follower of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement.
Members of the fringe group are frequently found in Times Square, sporting Star of David emblems and proclaiming that black people are the true descendants of the lost tribes of Israel. The Southern Poverty Law defines the Black Hebrew Israelites a "hate group," and previously warned that they are "becoming more militant."
Mayor Fulop has so far declined to share any details about the shooters' identity, aside from the fact that they appear to be Jersey City residents. He urged people not to "jump to conclusions" about any one community or faith. New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal is handling the investigation.
Prior to arriving at the grocery store, the two suspects were in a nearby cemetery, when they were approached by Detective Joe Seal, police said. A confrontation soon followed, and Seal, a 15-year veteran of the department, was fatally shot, according to authorities.
The two attackers then drove their U-Haul "calmly" to the grocery store, Fulop said, and entered with long guns. The ensuing stand-off lasted several hours, and ended with five more people dead.
“I was outside cleaning up and I heard all this gunfire," said Anita Stuckey, a 59-year-old retired paratrooper and friend of deli owner, who was a block from the Kosher supermarket when the shooting erupted. "We could see the the shots coming out…there was just exchanging fire shots back and forth, back and forth."
Stuckey said she saw one officer injured who "dropped" to the floor. Authorities have not said how many people were injured in total. At least three additional officers were among the wounded, police said. One of the officers who entered the store is Joseph Kerik, the son of the former NYC Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik. His father said that he was not hurt.
Toya Daniels, 39, told Gothamist/WNYC that her daughter was in the Catholic school across the street from the shooting. She lives around the corner, and ran toward the shooting when she heard the gunfire. Daniels says she saw one man jump out of the U-Haul truck and open fire in all directions.
“That shit just was ricocheting hitting everything," Daniels said. "It hit the car right here outside the Salvation Army where I was standing."
Rabbi David Niederman, president of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn, said in a statement that two of the victims were members of the Satmar ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. He identified the victims as Moshe Deutsch, a Yeshiva student and son of a well-known community volunteer, and Mindel Ferencz, a mother of five who owned the grocery store with her husband.
Ferencz was among "the first to relocate from Williamsburg due to the sky-rocketing prices of housing, to settle in Jersey City," Niederman said. The section of Greenville where the shooting occurred has seen a steady stream of ultra-Orthodox Jews who have decamped from Brooklyn in recent years.
"I’m Jewish, I’m the descendent of Holocaust survivors, and my family immigrated to this country," Fulop said. "I feel lucky to live in a place like Jersey City that is diverse and has so many warm and welcoming communities.
UPDATE 1:00 p.m.: The third victim has been identified by NorthJersey.com as Miguel Jason Rodriguez, an Ecuadorian immigrant and congregant at Iglesia Nueva Vida church in Newark. “He was an excellent person,’’ Pastor Williams Machazek told the outlet. “He really looked out for his family, and they were inseparable. He was very active in the church.”
Machazek confirmed to Gothamist/WNYC that Rodriguez was among his congregants.
UPDATE 2:55 p.m.: The U-Haul used by the two attackers contained an improvised explosive device capable of detonation, according to FBI Agent Greg Ehrie. "It was a viable device, meaning it could’ve exploded," Ehrie told reporters during a press conference on Wednesday afternoon. "Not complicated, but sophisticated in the sense that time and effort went into it."
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, who is leading the investigation, also confirmed the names of the victims and attackers, but said it was too early to speculate about the killers' motives. He added that the investigation is active and ongoing. Grewal, a Jersey City native, also emphasized the community's multicultural diversity.
"This is a city where a Kosher supermarket stands proudly across the street from a Catholic school, down the block from a Dominican bodega, on a street named after Martin Luther King Jr.," he said. "It’s a street of Chinese grocers and Indian shopkeepers and recent college graduates all striving for a better life in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty.”
We'll update this post as we learn more.