Jersey City shooting that left 6 dead was 'targeted' at Jewish deli: Officials

Among those killed was a Jersey City detective.

December 11, 2019, 6:22 PM

Security video confirms that a police shootout in Jersey City, New Jersey, with a pair of rifle-wielding suspects who allegedly killed a detective and three others was part of a rapid series of crimes, including a deliberate attack on a Jewish deli, authorities said.

Rabbi David Niederman, president of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn, a Satmar Hasidic group, said that two of the victims killed in the Jersey City Kosher Supermarket were Orthodox Jewish. He identified them as 33-year-old Mindel Ferencz, the wife of the deli owner and mother of five, and 24-year-old Moshe Deutsch, a Yeshiva student.

Deutsch's father, Abe Deutsch, is a member of the United Jewish Organization's board of directors, Niederman said in a statement.

The third victim was Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, 49, according to New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and family members.

Emergency responders work at a kosher supermarket, the day after a shooting in Jersey City, N.J., Dec. 11, 2019.
Seth Wenig/AP

"Based on everything ... we know, there is no ongoing security concern," New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon.

During a White House Hanukkah ceremony on Wednesday in which he signed an executive order combating anti-Semitism, President Donald Trump called the suspects in the Jersey City shooting "two wicked murderers."

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and James Shea, the city's director of public safety, said security footage "clearly" shows the perpetrators, who were shot to death by police after an hours-long gunfight, were out to kill people inside the market.

While Grewel and other authorities were hesitant to call the attack on the supermarket a hate crime, Fulop said on Wednesday that "there is no question this is a hate crime."

Explosive discovered in van

An operable explosive was found in the back of a stolen U-Haul van the suspects parked in front of the store, said Gregory Ehrie, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Newark, New Jersey, field office. It remains unclear what the suspects intended to do with the device, which was taken to an FBI laboratory for analysis.

"It was a viable device, meaning it could be a device that would have exploded," Ehrie said. "It was a pipe bomb design, not complicated but sophisticated in the sense that time and effort went into creating it."

Notes and religious writings also were discovered in the van, the officials told ABC News.

Grewel, whose office is leading the investigation, added that digital and documentary evidence was discovered in the van, which is being reviewed by investigators "for indications about the suspects' possible motives."

A law enforcement official briefed on the probe told ABC News at least one of the suspects had recently posted anti-Semitic statements online.

Suspects identified

The suspects were identified as David Anderson, 47, and Francine Graham, 50, Grewel said.

Both Anderson and Graham are believed to be followers of the Black Israelites, a group that espouses hatred toward Jews and is known for anti-government and anti-police sentiments, sources told ABC News.

Authorities are preliminarily investigating the incident as a case of domestic terrorism, sources said.

Anderson had a prior criminal record for weapons offenses, stemming from incidents in 2004, 2007 and 2011, according to the New Jersey Department of Corrections.

Graham has been described as a former home-health aide who met Anderson after she got hurt at work and left her job, sources told ABC News. Neighbors of the pair claimed that Anderson turned Graham into a "dark person."

Video shows attack on deli

The terrifying episode began to unfold about 12:38 p.m. on Tuesday, when the Jersey City Police Department received a 911 call from an individual who discovered the body of Jersey City Det. Joseph Seals in the Bayview Cemetery, about a mile from the kosher market, Grewel said.

Detective Joe Seals in a photo posted by the Jersey City Police Officers Benevolent Association.
Jersey City POBA

He said investigators believe Seals was shot to death when he confronted the suspects in the cemetery. He said Anderson and Graham were prime suspects in the murder this past weekend of an Uber driver officials identified as Michael Rumberger.

Rumberger's body was found in the trunk of a Lincoln Town car around 10 p.m. Saturday, sources told ABC News.

Seals, a plainclothes undercover detective, had been investigating the homicide, according to law enforcement sources.

After allegedly killing Seals in the cemetery, the suspects got into the stolen U-Haul van and drove to the kosher market, arriving about 12:43 p.m., Grewel said.

He said security video captured the suspects parking directly across the street from the supermarket on Martin Luther King Drive.

"Within seconds of arriving, Mr. Anderson exited the driver's side door of the U-Haul with a rifle in his hand," Grewel said. "He walked toward the JC Kosher Supermarket and immediately began shooting. Ms. Graham, the passenger in the van, followed Mr. Anderson into the store. From that point on until the conclusion of the event, the two suspects remained inside the store."

Grewel said four people, including the three slain victims, were inside the store when the suspects stormed through the front door. A fourth who was shot and wounded managed to escape, Grewel said.

Moshe Hersh Deutch, pictured in an undated handout photo, was one of the victims of a shooting in Jersey City, N.J., on Dec. 10, 2019.
Chai Lifeline

Fulop, who viewed the security video, said the footage showed the van the suspects were in moving slowly through the streets of Jersey City before it reached the supermarket.

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

Shea added, "With the amount of ammunition they had, we have to assume they would have continued attacking human beings if we hadn't been there."

Jersey City's mayor Steven Fulop, right, and the Director of Public Safety James Shea talk to reporters across the street from a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, N.J., Dec. 11, 2019.
Seth Wenig/AP

2 patrol officers likely saved lives

Two foot-patrol officers were about a block from the deli, Shea said, and responded as soon as they heard the gunfire.

They "heroically placed themselves in the line of fire attempting to give the information, and both of them received gunshot wounds," Shea said. "Having had an opportunity to go through the video overnight, we now know this did not begin with gunfire between police officers and the perpetrators and then move to the store. It began with an attack on civilians in the store."

Numerous shots were fired at the store, and Shea noted it occurred at a time the streets of downtown Jersey City were packed with people and nearby schools, which were placed on lockdown, were full of students.

During the shootout, at least one bullet pierced a window at the Sacred Heart School across the street from the kosher market, but no one at the school was injured.

"There were multiple other people on the streets, so there were many other targets available to them that they bypassed to attack that place," Shea said of the suspects. "That was their target and they intended to harm people inside there."

PHOTO: Police secure and investigate the scene of a shooting in Jersey City, N.J., Dec. 10, 2019.
Police secure and investigate the scene of a shooting in Jersey City, N.J., Dec. 10, 2019. Six people were killed, including the two shooters and a police officer, when two men shot a police officer in an area cemetery and then had a shootout with police from inside a kosher supermarket.
Justin Lane/EPA via Shutterstock

Shea said that within seconds, more Jersey City police officers responded, pulled their two wounded colleagues out of the line of fire and continued to engage the armed suspects inside the store. Both were killed in the shootout, police said.

Emergency responders work near a kosher supermarket and a synagogue near the site of shooting in Jersey City, N.J., Dec. 11, 2019.
Seth Wenig/AP

Grewel said the gunbattle lasted until about 3:47 p.m., when a police armored vehicle broke through the entryway of the supermarket and police found the bodies of the suspects and the three victims inside.

"We're not in a position at this time to say definitively why the suspects decided to stop at the market and begin firing immediately," Grewel said.

In addition to the two other officers wounded in the shootout, a third was hurt by shrapnel, officials said. The officers were all treated at a hospital and released.

Praise for fallen detective

Seals was the department's "leading police officer for removing guns from the street," Jersey City Police Chief Michael Kelly said Tuesday night.

He's survived by a wife and five children, Fulop told reporters. Seals had been with the department since 2006 and recently had been promoted to detective.

'Disgusting conduct'

Craig Carpenito, U.S. attorney for the district of New Jersey, warned that just hours after the shooting, scam artists attempted to capitalize on the tragedy.

"I can't believe what I'm about to say, but on top of the tragedy yesterday, we found out last night that a reprehensible group of people are online trying to profiteer off the misfortune of others and they are creating fake GoFundMe pages to try to solicit donations purportedly for the families of these victims," Carpenito said

"I can't find the words of how disgusting this conduct is. What I can tell you is we're looking at it, we're investigating it," he said, asking anyone with information about the scam or who donated to the bogus pages to contact the FBI immediately.

Police secure and investigate the scene of a shooting in Jersey City, N.J., Dec. 10, 2019.
Justin Lane/EPA via Shutterstock

Other reactions

The shooting prompted New York Gov. Andrew Coumo to direct state police to boost patrols near synagogues and Jewish establishments in the state.

"We now know that this disgusting act of violence was a deliberate attack on the Jewish community in Jersey City," Cuomo said in a statement. "Anti-Semitism and violence against the Jewish community are on the rise both in our state and across the nation. We must stand united, be vigilant and stamp out this vile disease of hate wherever we see it. New York is a proud home to the Jewish community and we will continue to reject hateful acts whenever and wherever we see them."

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio echoed the governor's statement at a City Hall news conference with Rabbi Niederman and other Jewish leaders.

"The violence has reached the doorstep of New York City," de Blasio said, "and we have to take that as a warning sign."

ABC News' Ben Gittleson and Rachel Katz contributed to this report.

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