JERSEY CITY, N.J. ― The attackers in a deadly shootout that lasted hours and spanned two locations in Jersey City, New Jersey, targeted a Jewish market, officials said Wednesday.
Officials initially said the incident on Tuesday ― which left six people dead, including a police officer ― did not appear to be a hate crime and that the shooters entered the Jewish market at random.
But Jersey City Director of Public Safety James Shea and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said during a press conference Wednesday morning that surveillance footage from the area indicated the shooters “targeted” the market.
Later in the day, Fulop went further, calling the assault a clear hate crime and attack on the Jewish community and confirming reports that at least one of the shooters had anti-Semitic posts on their social media pages.
“On the video, they parked the van, they exit the van with the long guns in their hands and immediately began firing toward the location,” Shea said, adding that the shooters “bypassed” other bystanders and shot into the market.
Officials identified the shooters as David Anderson, 47, and Francine Graham, 50, during a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
Anderson appears to have been linked to the Black Hebrew Israelites, a movement in which groups of Black Americans claim to be direct descendants of the ancient Israelites, reported The New York Times. Various sects exist within the movement with some offshoots holding anti-Semitic views. It has no connection to mainstream Judaism.
Anderson posted anti-Semitic and anti-police posts online ahead of the shooting, reported the Times, citing a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation.
Investigators found a note with apparent religious writing inside the U-Haul van the shooters drove to the market, reported NBC New York and the New York Post. They also found a live pipe bomb inside the van and recovered numerous firearms at the scene, officials said Wednesday.
Shea on Wednesday stopped short of calling the attack “anti-Semitic” and said the shooters’ motives are still being investigated.
“We have been in close contact with the Jewish community in Jersey City to help where we can,” Fulop tweeted Wednesday. “I know the entire Jersey City community stands together with the Jewish Community during these challenging times.”
Jersey City Police detective Joseph Seals was identified as the police officer killed during Tuesday’s violence. The 15-year law enforcement veteran leaves behind a wife and five children.
Before the shootout at the market, the two assailants fatally shot Seals at a cemetery about a mile away. He had approached them because they were sitting in a U-Haul van that was linked to a recent homicide, reported the Times. The shooters then drove to the market, where they opened fire.
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said Anderson and Graham were the “prime suspects” in the killing of an Uber driver in neighboring Bayonne. A 34-year-old Jersey City man identified as Michael Rumberger was found beaten to death in the trunk of a car on Saturday.
Officials on Wednesday identified the victims killed inside the market as Mindy Ferenz, the 32-year-old wife of the market’s owner and mother of three; Moshe Deutsch, a 24-year-old rabbinical student; and Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, a 49-year-old father who was believed to have worked in the market.
One bystander who was inside the market survived with a gunshot wound, officials said Wednesday. The person was able to escape when the gunfire first began.
As hundreds of rounds of gunshots rang out at the market Tuesday, 40 children were huddled inside a yeshiva located in the same building, the Anti-Defamation League told HuffPost.
“What happened to those children ― they’ll never be able to erase that,” said Evan Bernstein, ADL’s regional director for New York and New Jersey.
Roughly a dozen schools in the area were on lockdown for hours during Tuesday’s shooting spree in Jersey City, which is situated to the west of Manhattan across the Hudson River. It’s the state’s second-most-populous city with a population of about 270,000.
Oren Segal, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, told HuffPost that the Black Hebrew Israelite movement has many sects, not all of which are anti-Semitic or hateful.
“But there are offshoots,” Segal said, “whose followers believe that white people are agents of Satan, that Jews are liars and false worshippers of God, and that only the Black Israelites are the true Jews, and that they are racially superior to whites and other ethnicities.”
Segal noted that Black Hebrew Israelites are “generally not the most violent movement per se, not like white supremacists or Islamic extremists.”
Still, Segal added, there was a concerning incident in October in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, when a 66-year-old Black Israelite named Larry Greene, who identifies himself by the Hebrew name Elijah Israel, allegedly attacked two Jewish men outside a synagogue with a knife. According to police, Greene (or Israel) yelled anti-Semitic remarks, telling them to “go back to Israel” and calling them “fake Jews.”
It’s likely more people would have been killed in the shooting had it not been for two officers on patrol a block away who heard the gunfire and immediately responded, Fulop said Wednesday.
“The reason that those perpetrators seemed to be inside that deli and not able to move potentially to the school or to inflict more harm was because the police responded immediately and returned fire,” the mayor said.
Shea said the New Jersey attorney general’s office is investigating the attack and the officers’ use of force. The attorney general’s office declined to comment at this time.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio didn’t shy away from ascribing the shooters’ motives to hate on Wednesday.
“This was a premeditated violent anti-Semitic hate crime,” he said during a press conference, adding that NYPD officers have been placed on “high alert” following the shooting.
Officials warned Wednesday that several fake GoFundMe pages have been created to purportedly raise money for Seals’ family. They urged people not to donate to them.
“A reprehensible group of people are online trying to profiteer off of the misfortune of others and they’re creating fake GoFundMe donations purportedly for the families of these victims to line their pockets,” U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said at a press conference. “I can’t find the words of how disgusting this conduct is.”
This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Rodriguez’s name based on new information received from officials.
Sara Boboltz, Christopher Mathias and Carol Kuruvilla contributed reporting.