Jersey City Shooting: Suspect Published Anti-Semitic and Anti-Police Posts, Official Says – The New York Times

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Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

A suspect involved in a prolonged firefight in Jersey City, N.J., that left six people dead, including one police officer, had published anti-Semitic and anti-police posts online and investigators believe the attack was motivated by those sentiments, a law enforcement official familiar with the case said on Wednesday.

The Jersey City mayor said surveillance footage indicated that the two shooters had targeted a kosher supermarket where most of the carnage unfolded.

On Twitter Wednesday, Mayor Steven Fulop wrote that an “extensive review” of the city’s closed-circuit cameras made it clear “that these two individuals targeted the kosher grocery location” where they opened fire and sparked a gun battle with police officers.

Mr. Fulop has not said whether the violence was related to anti-Semitism, though in a follow-up post on Twitter, he said that “hate and anti-Semitism have never had a place” in Jersey City.

So far, the authorities have not identified the shooters, who were killed in the firefight. None of the three victims inside the store have been publicly identified by officials. The Jersey City police officer who was killed was identified on Tuesday as Detective Joe Seals.

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Detective Seals approached the two suspects, a man and a woman, who were inside a U-Haul van at a cemetery near the kosher market because the van had been linked to a homicide over the weekend, according to the law enforcement official. The official did not have any more details on the homicide.

Video surveillance footage shows the suspects shooting the detective and then driving away and ending up in front of the kosher market where they park and enter the store guns firing, the official said.

For much of at least the next hour, residents nearby — and blocks away — could hear rapid bursts of gunfire coming from the area around the market. Investigators later found a live pipe bomb inside the van, the official said.

Initially, investigators said they believed that market was a random choice by the shooters and that the episode was not a hate crime. The city’s director of public safety said at an afternoon news conference that there was “no indication” of terrorism.”

By Tuesday night, however, Mr. Fulop, said on Twitter that officials now believed that the shooters had “targeted the location they attacked.”

On Wednesday morning, detectives were at the Jersey City Kosher Supermarket, canvassing the crime scene as a number of uniformed police officers stood watch outside.

Officials said that five people, including the two shooters, were killed in the battle at the market on Tuesday.

The authorities were alerted about a shooting at the market around 12:30 p.m., according to Jersey City’s police chief, Michael Kelly. The officers who responded were met with “high-powered rifle fire,” he said on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Mr. Fulop, the mayor, said that two police officers who were on a foot post near the grocery store were able to immediately respond to the call.

For more than an hour, loud bursts of gunfire rang out in the blocks surrounding the market in Jersey City, which is across the Hudson River from Lower Manhattan.

Helicopters circled overhead as police officers swarmed the streets. They aimed handguns and long guns in every direction as they traveled down the street in formations, knocking on doors and ushering residents and business owners to safety.

The shootout and police siege overtook the Greenville neighborhood of gentrifying Jersey City — the second most-populous city in New Jersey, with a quarter of a million residents. As helicopters circled overhead and bursts of gunfire rang out for more than hour, neighbors said their city felt like a war zone.

The center of the chaotic scene, the Jersey City Kosher Supermarket, caters to a small but steadily community of about 100 Hasidic families who have moved to Jersey City in recent years from the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.

These families, many of whom belong to the ultra-Orthodox Satmar sect, have created a budding community in Greenville, a residential area with a historically African-American population and dense blocks that include a Catholic school, a Pentecostal church and a Dominican restaurant.

The opening of the kosher market three years ago signaled to some that the burgeoning Jewish population was putting down roots in the area.

Rabbi Moshe Schapiro, of the Chabad of Hoboken and Jersey City, said the store was “a grocery that is very popular with the local Jewish community” and had “a deli counter that has nice sandwiches.”

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Detective Seals had been a police officer for 15 years, said Chief Kelly. He rose through the ranks of the Jersey City Police Department, coming to work in the city’s busy South District.

After being promoted to detective in 2017, he was most recently assigned to a citywide Cease Fire unit, which is tasked with reducing shootings and making gun arrests in Jersey City.

“He was our leading police officer in removing guns from the street,” Chief Kelly said on Tuesday. “Dozens of dozens of handguns he is responsible for removing from the street.”

Detective Seals lived in North Arlington, N.J., a suburb about eight miles northwest of Jersey City, with his wife and five children.

Joe Buocolo 74, a retired lieutenant from Bergen County, N.J., who lives on the same block as the Seals family, said he was not surprised that Detective Seals confronted the shooters.

“He’s that kind of guy,” Mr. Buocolo said. “I’m not surprised he ran toward danger. I don’t think he’d back down from anything, to be honest with you.”

Edgar Sandoval contributed reporting.

Source: nytimes.com

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