The wife of the only kosher supermarket in its thriving Jewish neighborhood, known for its friendly customer service. The son of a prominent Jewish rabbi in New York who was a customer in the store. An immigrant from Ecuador who was working in the store to provide for his family. A veteran cop known for his success in getting guns off the streets. Those are the biographies that are emerging of the four victims who lost their lives in the Jersey City standoff and mass shooting.
You can read bios for each later in this article.
Authorities said in a December 12, 2019 press conference that they are 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.
Mindy Ferencz, the co-owner of the JC Kosher Supermarket in Jersey City, and Moshe Deutsch, the son of a prominent Jewish leader in New York, were first named by the Jewish press as two of the three civilian victims who lost their lives in the four-hour shootout that also took the life of a dedicated cop, Detective Joseph Seals.
The third civilian victim was named as Miguel Jason Rodriguez by Williams Machazek, the pastor of Iglesia Nueva Vida in Newark. He spoke to North Jersey.com and described Rodriguez as an immigrant from Ecuador working at the store to support his family. Moshe Deutsch’s name is spelled by some sites as Deutch, but most Jewish publications are using Deutsch. Leah Minda Ferencz’s name was alternatively given as Mindel Ferencz.
Detective Seals was a veteran police detective assigned to a high-volume district, who had taken more guns off the streets than anyone on the force, and who was a married father of five children. His heroism was widely praised.
Attorney General Gurbir Singh Grewal said the state saw the “very worst of humanity.” But we also “saw the very best. Yesterday could have been far deadlier. The reason it was not was due to the heroism of the Jersey City police department” and cooperation with other agencies.
Those killed were named by Grewal 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. Mindy was also known as Leah Mindel Ferencz and Leah Minda Ferencz, and the AG and pastor differed on Miguel’s last name.
David Anderson was named as one of the two active shooters. The other suspect has been named as Francine Graham. Anderson and Graham were first named in a report from NBC New York but authorities later confirmed those names in a news conference. According to NBC News, Anderson had made anti-Semitic and anti-police statements on social media prior to the shooting.
Jersey City’s mayor now says the victims were targeted. And The New York Times also reported that “a suspect had published anti-Semitic and anti-police posts online.” Grewal, though, said that authorities are still investigating the suspects’ ideologies and motivations. However, he said that, after murdering Seals for reasons still under investigation, the suspects parked outside the kosher bodega before Anderson exited the stolen U-Haul and immediately opened fire. Graham then followed suit.
The civilian victims are the “wife of the owner, a worker, and a customer,” said Grewal. “Our belief is they were killed almost immediately.”
Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop tweeted, “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 added: “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.”
That was a turnabout from comments officials gave in two press conferences earlier in the day on December 10, in which they stated that they had no indication that terrorism or a hate crime was involved. He explained more in a news conference the day after the shooting.
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.
NBC New York reports that 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.” Authorities haven’t confirmed that information.
The JC Kosher Supermarket was the only Kosher grocery in its thriving Jewish neighborhood. New York television stations also reported that the slain police officer may have been investigating the weekend homicide of a Jersey City man named Michael Rumberger when he came across the suspects in a stolen U-Haul van in a cemetery. Grewal confirmed they are the prime suspects in that death. The black-clad suspects shot and killed the cop, shooting him in the back of the head according to NJ.com, and then ditched the van, which may have incendiary devices in it, and ran into the bodega. Jersey City Police Chief Michael Kelly confirmed that police think the suspects killed the three civilians inside the store. You can read about his death here.
Here’s what’s known about the victims so far:
Detective Joseph Seals
Joseph ‘Joe’ Seals, the Jersey City police detective who was shot and killed in what was described as an “ambush,” was remembered as a veteran officer who leaves behind a large family and was a “great cop” with previous heroism on the force. He took many guns off the streets.
His top post on Facebook showcased a makeshift way to stop active shooters. He often posted memorial tributes to other fallen officers.
Seals was described as a “long-time veteran” who joined the Jersey City force in 2006. He worked for a Ceasefire Unit, and the chief, Mike Kelly, said in a news conference that Seals was “our leading police officer in moving guns from the street. Dozens and dozens of handguns he’s responsible for removing from the street.” He also once saved a woman from a rapist and tracked down a robbery ring.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Joe’s family during this Christmas season and beyond,” Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop wrote in a statement. “We take for granted sometimes the selfless work a police officer does when they wear that uniform. In the end they are people that volunteered to keep everyone else safe regardless of the circumstance. 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. 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.”
“Our hearts go out to him. We believe he was killed while trying to interdict these bad guys. This is all being investigated,” Kelly said. The chief indicated that the officer was looking for “guns” and was killed in the cemetery. However, the exact circumstances remain fuzzy.
The slain police officer leaves a large grieving family. Seals was described by Kelly as a “married father of five.” Although four children are pictured in the above photo, Seals’ Facebook page indicates he also had an older daughter. His wife filled her Facebook page with photos showing a large, loving family. Joe Seals wrote on Facebook that he graduated from Bayonne High School, which is located in Bayonne, NJ.
Joe Vuotolo, a neighbor, described Seals as a family man to NJ.com.
“For Halloween, he would climb up on the house, on the roof and put up these crazy decorations for the kids,” he said. “A really great guy. It’s a shame. It’s a tough thing when you lose somebody. Then when you lose them during the holidays and you’ve got young kids, they’re going to be waiting for Santa Claus.”
Joseph Seals was promoted to detective in 2017.
Seals was known to turn out for community events with his family. Former Jersey City Police Chief Robert Cowan told NJ.com: “He was a really good street cop. When I was out on the street…I would see him and his partner always out there. They were always working. They were aggressive cops. They made the city safer.”
Chabad Rabbi Moshe Schapiro, who shops at the JC Kosher Supermarket store, told Times of Israel that he spoke to Ferencz’s husband, Moishe Ferencz, but Moishe didn’t know his wife had been killed yet. Online records show that both Mindy (also known as Leah) and Moishe are in their early 30s; they also tie Moishe to the business. Online records indicate she sometimes went by Mindy Ferencz.
“He told me he had just walked out of the store into the synagogue not five feet away just before this happened, and then he couldn’t get back for hours,” Schapiro said, according to Times of Israel and The Associated Press. “His wife was inside the store. He said, ‘I hope my wife is safe.’”
The Times of Israel reported that Leah Ferencz was the “store owner,” along with her husband.
The business was incorporated in 2017, according to New Jersey state records. Her husband’s name is Moishe Ferencz, and online records show she was sometimes called Mindy Ferencz.
According to the Times of Israel, the Ferencz store is the “only kosher supermarket in the area and a central fixture for the growing community.” A yeshiva and a synagogue are close by. The newspaper said that about 100 Jewish families live in that area, mostly moving there from Brooklyn.
Chabad described the store as “a focal point of the Greenville neighborhood’s growing Jewish community.”
According to Chabad, the Ferenczes are parents of three. BoroPark24 described her as “Mrs. Leah Mindel Ferencz, a”h, 33-year-old wife of R. Moshe Duvid Ferencz, and daughter of R. Benyumin Hersh Greenfeld.”
NJ.com reported that “Members of the Jewish community were among the dead, and Fulop said he was in contact with the Jewish community in the city.”
The reviews of the grocery on Google rave about it. “Kosher supermarket. Come every Thursday to get delicious kosher cholent & kugel,” wrote one man. Here are some other comments:
“Great place for basic kosher food and a nice little sandwich bar.”
“Great the best kosher store in this area.”
“Good selection for a small spot been waiting a long time for a kosher place to open.”
“Decent selection. Great service.”
“Run by nice people.”
You can read more about Leah Ferencz here.
Rabbi David Niederman told CBS that Leah, who he called Mindel Ferencz, “was a pioneer. She and her husband were from the first people who moved to Jersey City, who could not afford a home for their growing family and figured, ‘let’s go to places where it’s cheaper, and I’ll make an example and go there. I’ll open a grocery store so that families can go and shop locally. Therefore growing the community, alleviating the pain of so many – thousands of families – who live under unbearable conditions.”
The Jewish media reported a second civilian victim as Moshe Deutsch, and indicated that both he and Ferencz were “members of the local Hasidic community.”
North Jersey.com reported that Moshe was Ferencz’s cousin. His full name was Moshe Hirsch Deutsch, and he was “visiting from the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.” Another cousin was also in the store and was injured but survived.
According to the news site, he is the son of Abe Deutsch, described as “a well known community leader in Williamsburg.” Rabbi Niederman also discussed Moshe to CBS, saying, “Moshe himself studied, found his time to help not only his peers from his yeshiva but other kids, and he was one of the major organizers in the major food drive that 2,000 families get every year. The network described Moshe’s dad Abe as a “prominent Jewish leader.”
Williams Machazek, the pastor of Iglesia Nueva Vida in Newark, who identified Miguel Rodriguez as a victim to North Jersey.com said that Miguel was “a congregant at his church who emigrated from Ecuador three years ago..”
He was working at the JC Kosher Supermarket so he could support his wife and 11 year old daughter, Machazek said to the news site, adding that Miguel had worked there for a year.
“He was an excellent person,” he said to North Jersey.com. “He really looked out for his family, and they were inseparable. He was very active in the church.”
A relative wrote: “How are you going to go like this uncle? You are an icon and a reference in the family … a role model … you do not know the pain and emptiness I feel at the moment … but I will remember you like this with a GREAT SMILE !! As you always were! An inseparable kiss and hug over there in heaven. I love you Miguel!?
Surviving Jewish Witness
The widespread Jewish media accounts stem from Chabad.org, which reported that a witness had confirmed that Leah and Moshe were among the victims, writing, “An eyewitness confirmed that two of the civilians are members of the Chassidic community, Leah Minda Ferencz, of Jersey City, who owned the store with her husband, and Moshe Hirsch Deutsch, 24, of Brooklyn.”
Chabad.org described a horrific scene in which “one Chassidic Jew was evacuated to an area hospital with multiple gunshot wounds and is recovering in good condition.” According to the site, that person, who was not named, had “slipped out the back door of the store when the shooting began and was struck multiple times.”
Chabad also detailed the chilling account of a surviving victim, quoting him as saying: “I was standing by the salad bar in the grocery and I heard three shots, bullets shattered the glass of the grocery. 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.”
Grewal confirmed that one person survived the attack.
Surviving Police Who Were Shot: Ray Sanchez & Mariela Fernandez
Kelly said in a news conference that police received a call of shots fired on the afternoon of December 10, 2019. When police responded, they were “immediately engaged by high-power rifle fire.” At the same time, they learned an officer, later identified as 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.
According to Kelly, “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.