Jersey City, NJ – Officials said Wednesday morning that they believed the shooters who opened fire on police and civilians in Jersey City on Tuesday had targeted the kosher supermarket from which they were shooting.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop told reporters at a press conference that security video showed the shooters driving slowly in a U-Haul van before they stopped at the corner store and went inside with long guns, NBC News reported.
“So, there were multiple other people on the streets,” Jersey City Public Safety Director James Shea said. “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 there.”
Director Shea, who is the brother of newly-installed New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Dermot Shea, said investigators had not yet determined a motive for the incident, which shut down Jersey City for hours and left one police officer and three innocent civilians dead and two more officers wounded by gunfire, NBC News reported.
Law enforcement sources have identified the shooters as David Anderson and Francine Graham, WNBC reported.
Three sources told WNBC that Anderson was a one-time follower of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, a black supremacist hate group which believes that they are the descendants of a lost tribe of Israelites and that Jews are imposters.
The hate group previously made headlines after harassing students from Covington Catholic High School, when news media spread false reports that the students were the ones harassing a a group of black people and Native American drummer Nathan Phillips.
Officials said there was a note with religious writings left in the U-Haul the shooters drove to the corner store.
Investigators found anti-Semitic and anti-police postings on Anderson’s social media and were working to determine if those had actually been posted by the shooter, WNBC reported.
Police said it all began when Jersey City Police Detective Joseph Seals, a 15-year veteran of the police force, was fatally shot during a homicide investigation after he approached two suspects in the Bayview Cemetery.
The shooters – a man and a woman dressed entirely in black – fled the cemetery.
At about 12:20 p.m., the suspects arrived at the JC Kosher Supermarket on Martin Luther King Drive and Bayview Avenue in a U-Haul van, the New York Daily News reported.
NJ.com reported that nearby surveillance video showed the shooters parked the truck at the corner store and then each carried one gun inside.
The suspects opened fire on anyone who got near the front of the store, including police and civilians.
The hours-long gun battle ended when Newark Police Department SWAT officers in an armored vehicle smashed through the front of the store, WNYW reported.
Former NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik’s son, 35-year-old Newark Police Detective Joseph Kerik, was inside the armored vehicle that breached the supermarket with two other detectives.
“He got banged up,” the elder Kerik told WNYW. “When they hit the front of the building where the two suspects were, they rammed the building. He was in the back of the armored Humvee. He hurt his back. The opened fired from within the pit.”
Det. Kerik has been a member of his department’s SWAT team for nine years.
“His ears were ringing. He was humming but he’s ok,” his father said. “He’s going to be out for a couple of days, at least. He’ll go back to his normal duties.”
“Without him and the others and the response from Jersey City, I think a lot more people would have been killed,” the former NYPD commissioner told WNYW. “These guys were loaded for bear. They were bad, bad guys. We’ll see where the investigation goes.”
“I am extremely proud of him and the two detectives that were with him that opened fire on the suspects killing them and the rest of the Jersey City Police Department that responded,” Bernard Kerik said.
The Jersey City mayor credited law enforcement for keeping the loss of life to a minimum during the incident, according to the Hudson Daily Voice.
Fulop and Director Shea both said that fast action by police had prevented even more people from being killed.
Director Shea said the first shots were heard by a pair of foot beat officers patrolling a block south of the kosher corner store, the Hudson Daily Voice reported.
He said those officers immediately responded to the scene.
Police have not yet identified the two officers who were shot during the incident, NBC News reported.
One was hit in the shoulder and the other was struck in the torso, according to WNBC.
Both were treated for their wounds and later released from the hospital.
The victims inside the store have been identified as 24-year-old Moshe Hersh Deutsch and 33-year-old Leah Mindel Ferencz, who owned the store with her husband, the Hudson Daily Voice reported.
The third victim was a 48-year-old customer whose name has not yet been released.
Investigators have determined that the three innocent civilians found dead inside the kosher supermarket were killed by the suspects and not by police gunfire, NBC News reported.