The shooting attack at a kosher grocery in Jersey City on Tuesday was a “premeditated violent antisemitic hate crime” and “an act of terror,” said the New York City Mayor at a press conference on Wednesday.
One of the suspects involved in the attack posted antisemitic and anti-police content online, leading investigators to believe that the attack was motivated by those sentiments, according to NBC News 4.
The attack that left six people dead, including two hassidic Jews, on Tuesday is being investigated as an antisemitic hate crime, as new information is released about the attack and the suspects involved. At first, officials had believed that the attack was criminally motivated, not hate or terror related.
“We feel a lot of pain, but we have to understand why this is a moment of urgency,” said de Blasio. “This confirms a sad truth. There’s a crisis of antisemitism gripping the nation. There’s a crisis of antisemitism in this city. It has continued to take on a more and more violent form all over this country. Now we have seen this extraordinarily extreme form of violence reach the doorstep of New York City and we have to take that as a warning sign. We have to understand that people are now living in constant fear. We’ve entered a new reality.”
The shooters have been identified as David Anderson and Francine Graham, according to law enforcement officials familiar with the case, NBC News 4 reported.
Anderson was at one time a follower of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement who believe that they are descendants of the ancient Israelites and adhere to both Judaic and Christian beliefs. In the U-Haul used in the attack, a note with religious writings was found, although the motive of the attack is still under investigation.
A neighbor of Graham told News 4 that Graham turned into a “dark person” after meeting Anderson when she got hurt at work and quit. The neighbor claimed Graham was coerced into a militant religion. Graham left her home a year ago.
Antisemitic and anti-police posts have been connected to Anderson’s social page, but investigators are still checking to see if Anderson wrote the content himself.
According to Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, the kosher grocer was targeted by two suspects who “calmly opened the door with two long rifles…and began firing from the street into the facility,” CNN reported.
The scene remained chaotic for several hours as heavily armed officers arrived at the scene amid an exchange of fire between the suspects and police. Schools in the area were put on lockdown until the incident ended and had a delayed start on Wednesday.
Jersey City Department of Public Safety Director James Shea stated on Wednesday that the shooters passed by many other potential targets before settling on the kosher grocery.
“We now know this did not begin with gunfire between police officers and the perpetrators, and then moved to the store. It began with an attack on the civilians in the store,” said Shea.
“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 on MLK Dr – the 2 JCPD officers that were on a foot post one block away immediately responded/engaged and prevented the perpetrators from leaving that location and harming any further civilians,” tweeted Fulop on Wednesday. “At this time we have no credible further threats from this incident but out of an abundance of caution we will be increasing our police presence in the community.”
Fulop announced that city officials will meet with Jewish community leaders on Wednesday. “I’m Jewish and proud to live in a community like #JerseyCity that has always welcomed everyone,” the mayor tweeted on Wednesday. “It is the home of #EllisIsland and has always been the golden door to America. Hate and anti-semitism have never had a place here in JC and will never have a place in our city.”
Two of the civilian victims were named Wednesday morning as members of the local hassidic community: Leah Minda Ferencz, who owned the store with her husband, and Moshe Deutsch, 24.
A third victim was identified Tuesday as veteran police officer Joe Seals, a father of five. Two other police officers and a civilian were injured in the attack as well, according to CNN. In a press conference, Fulop confirmed that the two wounded officers – identified as Ray Sanchez and Ferenella Fernandez – have been discharged from the hospital.
Seals approached the suspects who were inside a U-Haul van at a cemetery near the grocery because the van had been linked to a homicide over the weekend, according to a law enforcement official. The official did not have more details about the homicide, according to The New York Times.
Surveillance footage shows the suspects shooting Seals and then driving away and ending up in front of the kosher grocery where they parked and entered the store as they began firing, according to the official.
Seals has been part of the Jersey City Police Department for 15 years and was described as the department’s “leading police officer in removing guns from the street,” by Jersey City Police Chief Michael Kelly.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy praised local law enforcement who responded to the incident, at a news conference on Tuesday evening.”If not for them,” Murphy said, “I shudder, we shudder to think about how much worse today could have been.”Fulop said that the Attorney-General’s office and the and the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office will handle the formal investigation.
A source told The Jerusalem Post that one person injured in the attack was from the small Satmar community in the area. There are some 100 Satmar families which have moved in to the area in the past two years.
President Donald Trump responded on Twitter, saying that “[I] Just received a briefing on the horrific shootout that took place in Jersey City, NJ. Our thoughts & prayers are w/ the victims & their families during this very difficult & tragic time. We will continue to monitor the situation as we assist local & state officials on the ground.”The Israeli Foreign Ministry said that one hassidic person was shot in his hand while running away and that two more were reportedly injured inside the store during the shooting. The ministry reported that the injured persons are not Israeli citizens.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed on Twitter that “although there is no credible or specific threat directed against New York City, the New York Police Department (NYPD) has been directed to assume a “high state of alert,” with NYPD assets being redeployed to protect “key locations in the Jewish community.” Additional measures will be announced on Wednesday, added de Blasio.
The New York City mayor offered his deepest condolences to those who lost their loved ones in the shooting. “To my friend Mayor @StevenFulop and the people of his great city: we stand with you tonight.”
A Chabad.org report confirmed that the wounded hassidic Jew was shot several times while trying to sneak out of the store’s back door when the shooting began. However, he is said to be in good condition.”
According to senior sources I spoke to minutes ago, it feels as if the incident in Jersey City was not a terror attack or a hate crime. However, the event is not over yet, the situation is ongoing and at this stage it is only a feeling,” Consul General of Israel in New York Dani Dayan tweeted on Tuesday.
One Jersey City resident told CBS News that it is “a very high crime area. We’re used to gunshots, but nothing like this that’s happening now.”
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy praised local law enforcement who responded to the incident, at a news conference on Tuesday evening.”If not for them,” Murphy said, “I shudder, we shudder to think about how much worse today could have been.”The New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association tweeted: “We need a lot of prayers right now for Jersey City officers. Keep all those involved in your thoughts.”