Six people are dead – including a Jersey City police detective and three civilians – after a chaotic standoff with two black-clad active shooter suspects that spanned three scenes and ended with the suspects holed up in a kosher bodega where the civilians were later found deceased.
The Jersey City mayor now says the JC Kosher Supermarket, a Jewish grocery, was targeted. The New York Times is reporting that one of the suspects “had published anti-Semitic and anti-police posts online and investigators believe the attack was motivated by those sentiments.” However, a host of officials, including New Jersey’s attorney general, said in a December 12, 2019 press conference that they are now investigating the case as a domestic terrorism incident with a hate crime bent. They say that the shooters appear motivated by, in the words of the U.S. Attorney, “a bias toward both the Jewish community and law enforcement.”
They “had a tremendous amount of firepower. They had a pipe bomb in their van,” the New Jersey Attorney General said.
Heavy.com has reviewed multiple posts made online by an identity that shooter David Anderson is believed to have used on the Internet; he made numerous extremely anti-police comments on various obscure social media and online video pages, glorified Baton Rouge police shooter Gavin Long, unleashed anti-Semitic and anti-Christian vitriol, and called non-black Jewish people “imposters.” NBC News first reported that law enforcement sources believe the identity – Dawad Maqabath and two others – were used by the shooter. The network explained that the same identity made a series of comments on the Internet. You can see screenshots of the posts located by Heavy.com here.
The suspects were named as David Anderson and Francine Graham. NBC New York reports that the 47-year-old David Anderson was once associated with the Black Hebrew Israelite movement. The station says that an online presence associated with Anderson contained anti-Semitic and anti-police sentiments. A note with religious writings was found inside of the U-Haul. The New York Times said that a law enforcement source referred to those writings as “rambling.”
The Times also confirmed with an official that Anderson had ties to the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, writing, “The extent of Mr. Anderson’s involvement in that group remains unclear, the official said. The Black Hebrew Israelites have no connection with mainstream Judaism.”
Attorney General Gurbir Singh Grewal said that, after murdering Detective Joe Seals in a cemetery, at 12:21 p.m., a white U-Haul driven by Anderson parked directly across the street from the store about a mile from the cemetery. Within seconds of arriving, Anderson exited the door “with a rifle in his hand,” said the AG. He walked toward the JC Kosher supermarket and “immediately began shooting.” Graham, the passenger, followed him into the store. From that point on ward, the suspects remained in the store. They encountered four civilians in the store. Three were killed. One survived a gunshot wound. Those killed were named as Mindy Ferencz, 32; Miguel Douglas, 49; and Moshe Deutsch, 24. The survivor’s name was not released. “One person escaped with a gunshot wound,” the AG confirmed. He described the victims as the wife of the store’s owner, a customer who was the son of a prominent rabbi, and an immigrant from Ecuador who was working at the kosher grocery to provide for his family.
You can read more about each of the victims here.
Chabad.org talked to a survivor who was in the store. “I was standing by the salad bar in the grocery and I heard three shots, bullets shattered the glass of the grocery,” he told Chabad. “Suddenly I saw two people come in, with long black raincoats and long guns. They tried to point the gun at me, I pushed it away and ran away.” Read more about Leah and the JC Kosher Supermarket where the standoff occurred here.
According to The New York Times, police found guns, ammunition and a live pipe bomb in a stolen U-Haul truck Anderson and Graham were driving at the time of the shootings. Investigators also found a “brief and rambling” manifesto-style note in the van, but it did not include a clear motive.
Jersey City Chief Michael Kelly said in a news conference that police received a call of shots fired on the afternoon of December 10, 2019. When they responded, they were “immediately engaged by high-power rifle fire.” At the same time, they learned an officer, later identified as Detective Joseph Seals, a Cease Fire unit officer known for removing guns off the streets, “was down in another part of the city.”
Kelly described the crime scene as “very extensive and is at three locations at least. We have one stolen U-Haul vehicle that may contain an incendiary device. It’s being examined by the bomb squad. We have five people DOA inside the store. We believe two of them are bad guys, and we believe three of them are not and may be civilians who were inside the store,” he said. That brings the death toll to six.
The Jersey City chief said officers were under “high-powered rifle fire.” He called the officers “brave.”
According to Kelly, the deceased Seals was a married father of five. “We called for mutual aid from our partners – FBI, Port Authority, all surrounding municipalities, ATF. At that time, we set up a tactical advantage. Continued to take gunfire for hours. Two more police officers were hit by gunfire. One sustained an injury to the shoulder. One sustained an injury to the body,” he said.
Those officers were named as Ray Sanchez and Mariela Fernandez. They’ve been treated and released from the hospital.
According to NBC New York, Anderson “pushed anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and praised past attacks on Jewish people in New York and killings of police officers,” in part using the social media handle “Dawada Maqabath.” Heavy has reviewed the Facebook page in that name, which is still up. What’s visible shows Biblical references, a cover photo of a lion, and selfies. NBC reports that the handle appears on other social platforms criticizing police in high-profile shootings, like those of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Michael Brown in Ferguson.
NBC also reports that the handle “describes growing up in a religious home and joining the army, before ‘years of dabbling with petty drug dealing and dead-end jobs, brief stints in jail and prison.’”
The only page “like” on the Maqabath Facebook page: A page selling “Hebrew garments.” The page reads, “Tool of TMH,” meaning “The Most High,” a reference to supposedly properly reading the Bible.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Chief Said There Was No Evidence Pointing in the Direction of Terrorism or a Hate Crime But the Mayor Later Said that Authorities Now Believe the Suspects Targeted the Location They Attacked
Mayor Steve Fulop said at a December 11 press conference, “Yesterday it was difficult to understand intent and there are still a lot of questions around that. After reviewing CCTV cameras on the Jersey City side, we do feel comfortable that it was a targeted attack on the Jewish kosher deli. We can see the van moving through Jersey City streets slowly, the perpetrators stop in front of there and calmly open the door with two long rifles and … began firing from the street into the facility. There were two officers on a walking post one block south and when they heard the gunshots they responded immediately and from what we can tell on the CCTV cameras, had they not responded and had they not been there in that location, more than likely more people would have died.”
Jersey City Public Safety Director James Shea added, “They parked the van, they exited the van with the long guns in their hands and they immediately began firing toward the location where we lost three of our citizens yesterday. There were multiple other people on the streets. There were many other targets available to them that they bypassed to attack that place. So it was, clearly, that was their target, and they intended to harm people inside there,” referencing the kosher market.
In the news conference, Kelly was asked whether the motive was terrorism or a hate crime. He said: "I can tell you we have no evidence that’s pointing in that direction at this time," but he said it was under investigation.
Hundreds of shots were fired in the incident, he said. He said he didn't yet know if the suspects have any gang affiliations.
However, Jersey City Mayor Fulop later tweeted this without offering further explanation: "Based on our initial investigation (which is ongoing) we now believe the active shooters targeted the location they attacked. Due to an excess of caution the community may see additional police resources in the days/weeks ahead. We have no indication there are any further threats."
The mayor added, "We have been in close contact with the Jewish community in #JerseyCity to help where we can. While we work through details/investigation of today’s incident I know the entire Jersey City community stands together with the Jewish Community during these challenging times."
In the morning of December 11, Mayor Fulop gave more information. “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 on MLK Dr – the 2 JCPD officers that were on a foot post one block away immediately responded/engaged and prevented the perpetrators from leaving that location and harming any further civilians. At this time we have no credible further threats from this incident but out of an abundance of caution we will be increasing our police presence in the community,” he said.
“I’m Jewish and proud to live in a community like #JerseyCity that has always welcomed everyone. It is the home of #EllisIsland and has always been the golden door to America. Hate and anti-semitism have never had a place here in JC and will never have a place in our city.” He said more details would have to come from the Attorney General’s Office.
The bodega was in a Jewish neighborhood. It was a hub of its community and the only kosher store in the area.
“The why and the ideologies and motivations, that’s what we’re investigating,” Grewal said, declining to reveal a motive.
US attorney Craig Carpenito said Seals “paid the ultimate price.”
Greg Ehrie, special agent in charge of the FBI’s field office in Newark, said the FBI did a forensic analysis of the suspect van.
“They did locate in that, amongst other items that I won’t be discussing, a pipe bomb — an improvised explosive device,” he said. “What I will say is that it was examined, it’s in the FBI laboratory right now. It was a viable device, meaning that it could be a device that would have exploded. It was not complicated but sophisticated in the sense that time and effort went into creating it.”
He also said that officials are still investigating the motive.
2. The Slain Detective Was a Veteran Officer Working in One of the Highest Volume Districts in the City & Took More Guns Off the Street Than Any Other Active Officer
Chief Kelly said Seals was a “veteran police officer of more than 15 years.” He was in one of the highest volume districts in the city. He was promoted to detective. The mayor added in a later written statement: “Today we tragically lost Joe as he was serving the ppl of Jersey City that he volunteered to serve. I know I speak for all the residents that we are grateful for all he has done for our city. Rest In Peace.”
You can read about his life here. Seals filled his Facebook page with memorials to other slain police officers and his top visible post was a graphic about how to outwit an active shooter. He was remembered by the mayor as “somebody who was involved in the city. Officers in other precincts knew who he was because he was a good cop.”
“He was our leading police officer in moving guns from the street. Dozens and dozens of handguns he’s responsible for removing from the street,” Kelly said. “Our hearts go out to him. We believe he was killed while trying to interdict these bad guys. This is all being investigated.” The chief indicated that the officer was looking for “guns” and was killed in the cemetery. However, the exact circumstances remain fuzzy.
NBC New York reported later, through law enforcement sources, that Seals may have been killed when he approached the two suspects in a “homicide investigation.”
ABC7 is reporting that, according to law enforcement sources, the suspects might have drawn Seals’ interest because of the weekend homicide of a man named Michael Rumberger, of Jersey City, whose body was found in the trunk of a Lincoln Town car. Rumberger was beaten to death, and his murder remains unsolved.
As to whether the officer was investigating a homicide, Kelly said “those are all potentialities that are being looked into.” Seals was on duty. “Detective Seals was working. He came upon bad guys, and I don’t know how he got there just yet,” he said, adding that Seals was a plain clothes detective.
3. The Two Shooters Moved Rapidly & Continuously for Four Hours, Shooting Civilians
NBC New York reported, through sources, that surveillance video shows two suspects “shoot a Hasidic man on the street and then run into the store, where they began firing at the victims inside.” The suspects “had…bomb-making materials inside the truck,” the station reported. The bodega was in a Jewish neighborhood.
There were early reports on the scanner that the suspects were a male and a female. In the news conference, Kelly said police believe they were both males “preliminarily.” He said they believe there were only two shooters. However, it was later revealed they were actually a man and a woman.
The shooters’ movement was “rapid and continuous for four hours,” said the chief.
When it was over, the three civilians lay dead inside the bodega. The chief indicated that police think the suspects shot the civilians as opposed to fire from police. “We think this was all bad guy fire,” he said.
Asked why the suspects went on the rampage, Kelly said: “We have no inkling what the motive was yet.”
“This is a neighborhood that’s up-and-coming. It has challenges,” he added. He said it’s becoming safer over recent years. “Folks who live in the neighborhood are supportive of the Police Department.”
“There were two incidents today at two different locations, one at Bayview Cemetery and one at a corner store at Bayview and Martin Luther King,” Fulop said. “The Jersey City police department did a phenomenal job, and it’s a very tough day for them.”
It made for a frightening day in Jersey City, as all schools were locked down and one report, on NJ.com, said gunmen were firing randomly throughout the city before the scene solidified around JC Kosher Supermarket.
The New York Daily News reported that “Once inside (the grocery store), the shooters began firing randomly through the windows at anyone on the street.”
At one point, one of the active shooters was firing at police from the grocery store. “He’s shooting again. He’s shooting again,” an officer said on the police scanner early on. Tactical officers responded. “Keep your people safe,” one officer said on the dispatch audio.
The ATF confirmed: “Breaking: @ATF_Newark Agents responding to reports of an active shooter in Jersey City, NJ.” NJ.com reported that Seals was shot in Bayview Cemetery, and the other was believed to have been shot near Martin Luther King Drive and Bidwell Avenue.
4. The Shooting of Detective Seals Was Described as an ‘Ambush’ & the Suspects Are Also the Prime Suspects in an Earlier Homicide He May Have Been Investigating
NBC New York described what happened to one officer as an “ambush,” and said the officer was shot in the head. The FBI told CBS New York early on that more than one officer was shot. Every Jersey City school was locked down.
Local news reports say that Seals may have been investigating the weekend death of Uber driver Michael Rumberger when he was shot and killed. Grewal confirmed the two suspects are now the prime suspects in Rumberger’s death. Rumberger was found beaten to death in the trunk of a Lincoln Town Car over the weekend before the mass shooting.
The scanner transmissions gave a sense of the frightening scene.
Scanner traffic indicated that multiple people might be in the bodega. “We’ve got movement in the store,” an officer said on the scanner at 2:41 p.m. Officers said a male had “popped out” of the store and then went back in. “Use caution. The U-Haul nearby is hot,” an officer said, referring to the vehicle the suspects arrived at the store in.
Police described the scene as “chaotic.” The two suspects jumped out of a U-Haul van and ran into the corner store, according to scanner transmissions. A man was down inside the store, and someone had put a glass coffee pot in view. Police worried that it could be a “device.” The window in the back was garbage bag taped, police said. The bodega in question was located at Wilkinson Avenue and Martin Luther King Dr. in Jersey City. The specific address was 223 MLK Drive, according to NJ.com. Online records say that’s the address of JC Kosher Supermarket.
Police were surrounding the store. They wanted to make sure that police had a “line of fire.” The New Jersey State Police wrote, “State Police assets from T.E.A.M.S., Canine Unit, Bomb Unit, Marine Services, Aviation, Field Ops, Tactical Patrol, Central Security, Trafficking, and Emergency Response Bureau are assisting @JCPoliceDept with the active shooter investigation.”
5. Live Dispatch Audio Showed the Suspects Were Dressed in Black, Possibly Wearing Trench Coats
Police suspected two shooters early on, Heavy.com has learned from scanner dispatch audio. “We saw two shooters get out of the van. We saw two jump out of that van and go in,” said an officer. The description was “black male and a black female” wearing all black clothing, possibly with rain or trench coats. That officer told the dispatcher it wasn’t clear whether both shooters were still inside the store, but police didn’t see either come out. However, as noted, later reports indicated they were likely two males, not a male and female. Both died in the store.
The New Jersey transit police wrote, “NJ Transit Police are assisting Jersey City with an active shooting incident within the area of the west side branch. Stay clear of the area until further notice. HBLR service is suspended. ALL bus service on the West Side Branch is suspended updates to follow.”
The governor wrote, “I have been briefed on the unfolding situation in Jersey City. Our thoughts and prayers are with the men and women of the Jersey City Police Department, especially with the officers shot during this standoff, and with the residents and schoolchildren currently under lockdown.”
NJ.com reported that, at one point, “the gunmen are shooting at anyone they see on the street and… fired at the Sacred Heart School.”
The situation was still going on more than two hours after it erupted around 12:20 p.m. Responding police were wearing ballistic body armor and kevlar.
This post is being updated as more is learned about the Jersey City active shooter situation.
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