Jersey City shooters targeted kosher market for their deadly attack, officials say

The gunfire lasted for hours in a standoff that killed four in Jersey City, New Jersey, with the city streets taken over by armed officers and the sounds of sirens and gunshots.
Originally Published: 11 DEC 19 03:16 ET
Updated: 11 DEC 19 14:08 ET

(CNN) -- Tuesday's deadly shooting in New Jersey was a deliberate attack on people inside a kosher market, with surveillance video showing the shooters calmly exiting a van and firing into the store with long guns, city officials said Wednesday.

The shooters were a male and a female, and investigators are checking into writings with anti-Semitic and anti-police sentiments, a law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation separately told CNN on condition of anonymity.

The attack, and the lengthy shootout with police that followed at JC Kosher Supermarket in Jersey City, left six people dead -- including three people in the market, a police officer and the two shooters, authorities said.

"We do feel comfortable that it was a targeted attack on the Jewish kosher deli," Mayor Steven Fulop told reporters Wednesday.

Officials there and in neighboring New York City, however, have given different answers about whether the attack was a hate crime.

New Jersey investigators don't yet know why the shooters attacked the store, and therefore aren't labeling the attack anti-Semitic, Jersey City Department of Public Safety Director James Shea told reporters.

But in New York City, where at least two of the victims have roots, Mayor Bill de Blasio had no such reservations.

"What we saw yesterday was a premeditated, violent anti-Semitic hate crime," de Blasio told reporters in his cit Wednesday.

"In other words, you can say it was an act of terror because it was premeditated, it was violent, and it was directed at the Jewish community," the mayor said.

The Tuesday afternoon store attack led to chaotic scenes over several hours in the city across the Hudson River from Manhattan, with heavily armed officers taking over city streets, pulling up in armored personnel vehicles amid the sounds of sirens and gunshots.

Officials in both states say they're reaching out to the Jewish community. Fulop said officials would be meeting Wednesday with community leaders.

In New York City, hundreds of police officers will monitor dozens of Jewish locations "for a number of days to come," de Blasio said.

Across wider New York, state police have increased patrols near synagogues and Jewish establishments, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

Police, who haven't named the shooters, have publicly said that a stolen U-Haul truck is part of the investigation and being examined by a bomb squad.

A note was found in the U-Haul, and it contained both anti-Semitic and anti-police writing, the law enforcement source told CNN.

Social media posts with similar sentiments also have been found online, the source said.

Some of the slain victims had ties to Jewish community in Brooklyn

DeBlasio named two of the three civilian victims as Moshe Deutsch and Leah Ferencz, both of whom had ties to the Jewish community in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.

The slain officer was Jersey City police Detective Joseph Seals, a 15-year veteran of the department, police said.

Three other people -- two police officers and a civilian -- were injured by gunfire, authorities said.

What the video shows, according to officials

Authorities' latest account of the shootout conflicts with what they said a day earlier. On Tuesday, officials initially said that the gunfire spanned multiple locations, and CNN affiliates reported that the shooting began at a cemetery.

On Wednesday, Fulop and Shea tried to clarify the timeline.

Police have said the shooting began around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Surveillance video shows a van moving slowly through the city's streets before stopping in front of the store, Fulop said.

"The perpetrator stopped in front of there, calmly opened the door with two long rifles -- him and the other perpetrator -- and began firing from the street into the facility," Fulop said.

"There were many other (potential) targets available to them that they bypassed to attack that place," Shea told reporters.

Officers saved lives, officials says

Chaotic scenes ensued when the shooting began. Commerce near the gunfire virtually shut down, and schools went on lockdown.

Two police officers happened to be nearby and rushed there immediately. They transmitted information to colleagues and were shot, but they likely saved lives, Shea said. It wasn't immediately clear if one of them was Seals, the officer who died.

"Within seconds, more Jersey City police officers responded to their calls, pulled them out of the line of fire and continue to engage the two people carrying guns inside the store," Shea said.

"Had (the two officers) not been there in that location, more than likely more people would have died," Fulop said.

It's not immediately clear how long the shootout lasted. Continuous gunfire could be heard in the city for one harrowing 20-second stretch before 2 p.m.

Hours after it started, officials announced the shootout was over.

Police have said a stolen U-Haul truck also was part of the investigation, and was being examined by a bomb squad.

City shudders

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, who announced his office is leading the criminal investigation, said he and his staff are mourning with the city.

"We recognize the fear that communities rightfully feel after traumatic incidents such as these, and we are committed to providing all resources necessary to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our fellow residents," Grewal said.

Jersey City Public Schools had a delayed start on Wednesday morning in the wake of the shooting.

In a brief news conference Tuesday evening, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy praised the efforts of law enforcement, who "responded to this incident not knowing what they were entering, or if they would even make it out."

"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."

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