A police officer and three civilians are dead after two shooters went on a four-hour rampage in Jersey City, N.J., on Tuesday in what authorities say was a “targeted attack” on a kosher grocery store.
“It was a targeted attack on the Jewish kosher deli,” Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said at a press conference Wednesday, citing an “extensive review” of city security cameras.
“We could see the van moving through Jersey City streets slowly, the perpetrators stopped in front of there, calmly opened the door with two long rifles,” he said, “and began firing from the street into the facility.”
Authorities have not publicly identified the suspects or revealed a motive for the attack, but Fulop said in a tweet on Wednesday that “hate and anti-semitism have never had a place here in [Jersey City] and will never have a place in our city.”
Police had initially said the incident began with the suspects fatally shooting a police officer at a cemetery near the kosher market. But Jersey City Public Safety Director James Shea said Wednesday that was not the case.
“This did not begin with gunfire between police officers and the perpetrators and then move to the store. It began with an attack on the civilians in the store,” Shea said. “Then our officers, who were posted a block away, immediately responded to the sound of the gunfire, heroically placed themselves in the line of fire.”
Those two officers sustained gunshot wounds, he said, and “within seconds,” more Jersey City police officers also responded and prevented the perpetrators from leaving the location.
“The streets were filled with people, and the schools surrounding were filled with people,” Shea said. “With the amount of ammunition they had, we have to assume they would’ve continued attacking human beings if we hadn’t been there.”
Throughout the day, police exchanged “hundreds” of rounds of bullets with the suspects. In the end, five people were found dead inside the supermarket.
“We believe two of them are bad guys, we believe three of them are not,” Jersey City Police Chief Michael Kelly said of the people found dead in the supermarket at a press conference Tuesday night. Two other police officers were shot, one in the shoulder and one in the body during the incident. Both have since been released from the hospital, Kelly said.
A stolen U-Haul is considered part of the crime scene. A suspected “incendiary device” inside it had been removed from the scene and is being examined by the bomb squad, Kelly said.
The police officer who was killed has been identified as Detective Joseph Seals, a father of five. Kelly said that Seals, a member of the police force since 2006, was part of the department’s CeaseFire Unit, which is dedicated to stopping gun violence.
“He was our leading police officer in removing guns from the street,” Kelly said. “Dozens and dozens of guns, he removed from the street. We believe that he was killed while trying to interdict with the bad guys.”
Fulop said that he and Kelly had been to see Seals’ family.
“We cried with the family, it’s one of the hardest things you have to see in your entire life,” Fulop said. “Every single day we get reports of guns being taken off the street and that’s part of the work that these people do and they’re heroes.”
Dozens of bystanders watched the action unfold along a major thoroughfare as they pressed against a police barrier, with many filming the chaotic scene with their cameras and some whooping as shots filled the air.
Rabbi Shmuel Levitin of Chabad Young Professionals Hoboken and Jersey City told TIME on Tuesday evening that he was at the hospital with a Hasidic man who was injured in the incident.
As the shooting unfolded, area schools went on lockdown. Andy Patel, who works at a liquor store about three blocks from the scene of the shooting, told the AP the prolonged gunfire sounded like “firecrackers going off.”
“They were shooting like crazy about an hour ago. Then it stopped for like 20 or 30 minutes,” he said. “The cops were clearing everyone off the streets.”
Jersey City is located across the Hudson River from Manhattan. President Donald Trump has also been briefed on the shooting and is monitoring the situation.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said he spoke with President Trump on Tuesday and thanked him for offering “continued assistance on this case.”
“This is still an active investigation. We will leave it to law enforcement do their jobs and fill in the answers. Based on everything we know now, there are no ongoing threats to public safety that have any connections to today’s events,” Murphy tweeted Tuesday night.
“Jersey City is a strong and resilient community. Tomorrow is a new day. It is a day when we will think to those lost, and in their names, we will think of how we can ensure that this doesn’t ever happen again — in Jersey City, or in any community in our proud state.”
This is a developing story and will be updated.
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