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The shooters who barricaded themselves inside a Jewish deli in Jersey City had singled out that particular business as a target.
“There were multiple other people on the street,” Public Safety Director James Shea said at a press conference Wednesday morning. “So there were many other targets available to them that they bypassed to attack that place, so it was clear that was their target, and they intended to harm people inside.”
Armed with high-powered rifles, the two shooters, a man and a woman, engaged in an hours-long gun battle with law enforcement after killing a police detective in a nearby cemetery. When police finally entered the deli, they found five more people dead — three civilians and the two individuals presumed to be the shooters.
Shea said that surveillance video showed the suspects driving slowly around the area in a U-Haul van, which they had hijacked, before stopping in front of the Kosher market and opening fire.
“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,” Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop tweeted on Wednesday morning.
Local officials, however, have stopped short of saying whether the shooters were specifically targeting Jews — and have not confirmed a hate crime investigation yet.
“I didn’t use the word anti-Semitic,” Fulop said at a press conference Wednesday. “Anything else is open for investigation.”
Law enforcement has so far divulged almost no information about the shooters and their suspected motives. At least one of the attackers published anti-Semitic and anti-police posts online, one law enforcement official told the New York Times. The official also told the Times that investigators had discovered a brief “manifesto-style note” inside the van, which was rambling and didn’t suggest a clear motive for the shooting. They also discovered a live pipe bomb inside the van.
Fulop also dispelled rumors circulating online that the shooters were Muslim. “ppl have speculated that the actors were of the Muslim faith but at this point there is zero indication to that being accurate,” he wrote on Twitter.
The shooting started around 12:30 p.m. local time on Tuesday, when Detective Joe Seals — a 15-year veteran of Jersey City Police Department, who was leading an effort to get guns off Jersey City streets — approached the two suspects. They were sitting inside a U-Haul van at Bayview cemetery, just one mile from the kosher deli. At least one of the suspects opened fire and shot Seals in the head, before driving away in the van.
A chaotic standoff ensued. Local law enforcement were reinforced by SWAT teams, snipers who were positioned on roofs, ATF, FBI, and the NYPD’s elite Special Ops team. Bursts of repeated gunfire were heard over police scanners, and all schools in the area were placed on lockdown.
Tuesday’s shooting thrust a burgeoning Orthodox Jewish community in the heart of Jersey City into the national spotlight. There’s a small but visible synagogue, which encompasses a small school, on the same block as the kosher deli.
“I’m Jewish and proud to live in a community like #JerseyCity that has always welcomed everyone,” Folup tweeted Wednesday. “It is the home of #EllisIsland and has always been the golden door to America.”
Cover image: Emergency responders work at a kosher supermarket, the site of a shooting in Jersey City, N.J., Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said gunmen targeted the market during a shooting that killed multiple people Tuesday. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)