Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop on Tuesday said two suspects targeted the JC Kosher Supermarket they attacked, but didn't provide further information on whether the episode was being labeled a hate crime.
Six people were killed, including one police officer, in the shooting at JC Kosher. Three Jewish people inside the store, members of a small Jewish community, were killed, along with the two suspected shooters.
"Based on our initial investigation (which is ongoing) we now believe the active shooters targeted the location they attacked. Due to an excess of caution the community may see additional police resources in the days/weeks ahead. We have no indication there are any further threats," said Fulop.
Investigators initially said there was “no indication” of terrorism.
The slain officer, Detective Joseph Seals, 40, was credited by his superiors with having led the department in the number of illegal guns removed from the streets in recent years, and might have been trying to stop an incident involving such weapons when he was cut down by gunfire that erupted near a cemetery, authorities said.
The shooting then continued at a kosher supermarket about a mile away, where five more bodies were found, Kelly said.
“It's a really tough day for the city of Jersey City,” Mayor Steven Fulop said. Seals “was one of the best officers for getting the most guns off the streets. He was a good cop.”
Two other officers were wounded but were later released from the hospital, authorities said.
The bullets started flying early in the afternoon in the city of about 270,000 people, situated across the Hudson River from New York City. Seals, who worked for a unit called Cease Fire, was shot around 12:30 p.m. The gunmen then drove a stolen rental van to another part of the city and engaged police in a lengthy shootout.
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.
JC Kosher is located in a Hasidic neighborhood where dozens of young ultra-Orthodox families have relocated to in recent years.
The kosher grocery is a central fixture in a growing community of Orthodox Jews who have been moving to Jersey City in recent years. Authorities were unable to say why the gunmen went there.
Rabbi Moshe Shapiro, 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 not five feet away just before this happened, and then he couldn't get back for hours,” Shapiro said. “His wife was inside the store. He said, ‘I hope my wife is safe.’"
The nearby Sacred Heart School was put on lockdown, but all staff and students were safe, according to a statement from the Archdiocese of Newark.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the men and women of the Jersey City Police Department, especially with the officers shot during this standoff, and with the residents and schoolchildren currently under lockdown,” Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said. “I have every confidence in our law enforcement professionals to ensure the safety of the community and resolve this situation.”
Andy Patel works at a liquor store about three blocks away from the site of the shooting site and said there had been consistent gunfire fire about an hour Tuesday afternoon.
“I can hear the gunshots. It’s like firecrackers going off. They were shooting like crazy about an hour ago. Then it stopped for like 20 or 30 minutes. The cops were clearing everyone off the streets,” said Patel.
Jersey City Police said they had no information to provide over the phone on the shooting.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said it was responding. The New York Police Department sent emergency services personnel, and the forces counterterrorism unit was monitoring the situation.
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