JERSEY CITY, New Jersey — Tuesday’s deadly shootout in New Jersey began with a deliberate attack on people inside a kosher market, with surveillance video showing the shooters calmly exiting a van and firing into the store with long guns, city officials said Wednesday.
That attack, and a lengthy shootout with police that followed at JC Kosher Supermarket in Jersey City, left six people dead — including three people in the market, a police officer and the two shooters, authorities said.
“There were many other (potential) targets available to them that they bypassed to attack that place,” Jersey City Department of Public Safety Director James Shea told reporters.
“We do feel comfortable that it was a targeted attack on the Jewish kosher deli,” Mayor Steven Fulop said.
Investigators don’t yet know why the shooters attacked the store, and therefore they aren’t labeling the attack as anti-Semitic, Shea said.
Still, Fulop said officials would be meeting Wednesday with Jewish community leaders. And in neighboring New York, state police have increased patrols near synagogues and Jewish establishments, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
The afternoon store attack led to chaotic scenes over several hours in the city across the Hudson River from Manhattan, with heavily armed officers taking over city streets, pulling up in armored personnel vehicles amid the sounds of sirens and gunshots.
Two police officers happened to be near the store when the attack happened and rushed there immediately. They transmitted information to colleagues and were shot, but they likely saved lives, Shea said. It wasn’t immediately clear if one of them was the officer who died.
“Had they not been there in that location, more than likely more people would have died,” Fulop said.
Police haven’t released the names of the shooters.
What the video shows, according to officials
The latest account conflicts with what authorities initially said Tuesday, which was that the shootings spanned multiple locations. CNN affiliates initially reported that the gunfire began at a cemetery.
On Wednesday, Shea and Fulop tried to set the timeline straight.
Police have said the shooting began around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Surveillance video shows a van moving slowly through the city’s streets before stopping in front of the store, Fulop said.
“The perpetrator stopped in front of there, calmly opened the door with two long rifles — him and the other perpetrator — and began firing from the street into the facility,” Fulop said.
“We now know this did not begin with gunfire between police officers and the perpetrators, and then moved to the store. It began with an attack on the civilians in the store,” Shea said.
Besides those killed, three other people — two police officers and a civilian — were injured by gunfire, authorities said.
Police have said a stolen U-Haul truck also was part of the investigation, and was being examined by a bomb squad.
Officers saved lives, officials says
Chaotic scenes ensued when the shooting began. Commerce near the gunfire virtually shut down, and schools went on lockdown. Continuous gunfire could be heard in the city for one harrowing 20-second stretch before 2 p.m.
The first two responding officers “placed themselves in the line of fire” and were shot, Shea said.
“Within seconds, more Jersey City police officers responded to their calls, pulled them out of the line of fire and continue to engage the two people carrying guns inside the store,” Shea said.
“Without that response immediately from those police officers … with the amount of ammunition (the shooters) had, we have to assume they would have continued attacking human beings,” Shea said.
The slain officer was identified as Detective Joseph Seals, a 15-year veteran of the department, police said. He is believed to have been ambushed, according to a law enforcement source.
Seals was part of a statewide anti-violence unit, and Jersey City Police Chief Michael Kelly told reporters credited him with removing “dozens and dozens” of handguns from the streets in Jersey City.
Two officers and one civilian were initially reported to be in stable condition after being struck by gunfire, Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez said via Twitter. The wounded officers were identified by Kelly as Ray Sanchez and Mariela Fernandez. They were both treated and later released.
Mayor says a meeting with Jewish community leaders will come Wednesday
Though investigators haven’t concluded the attack was anti-Semitic, Fulop said officials would meet “with leadership in the Jewish community” on Wednesday.
Fulop noted on Twitter Wednesday he is “Jewish and proud to live in a community like #JerseyCity that has always welcomed everyone.”
“Hate and anti-semitism have never had a place here in JC and will never have a place in our city,” Fulop tweeted.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio added Tuesday that officers have been deployed to protect the Jewish community in his city.
“Although there is no credible or specific threat directed against New York City, I have directed the NYPD to assume a state of high alert. Tonight, NYPD assets are being redeployed to protect key locations in the Jewish community. Tomorrow, we will announce additional measures,” de Blasio tweeted Tuesday.
Cuomo, while announcing increased patrols around synagogues in his state, said Wednesday that anti-Semitism was on the rise across the country and people must “stamp out this vile disease 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,” Cuomo said.
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, who announced his office is leading the criminal investigation, said he and his staff are mourning with the city.
“We recognize the fear that communities rightfully feel after traumatic incidents such as these, and we are committed to providing all resources necessary to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our fellow residents,” Grewal said.
Jersey City Public Schools had a delayed start on Wednesday morning in the wake of the shooting.
In a brief news conference Tuesday evening, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy praised the efforts of law enforcement, who “responded to this incident not knowing what they were entering, or if they would even make it out.”
“If not for them,” Murphy said, “I shudder, we shudder to think about how much worse today could have been.”
The New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association tweeted: “We need a lot of prayers right now for Jersey City officers. Keep all those involved in your thoughts.”