Mindy Ferencz, the co-owner of JC Kosher Supermarket in Jersey City, was first named by the Jewish press as one of the civilian victims who was shot and killed in a horrific four-hour shootout that also took the lives of a police detective and two other people who were in the local bodega. She was remembered for her loyalty and a pioneer who moved to Jersey City and started her Jewish neighborhood’s only kosher store.
It was beloved for its friendly customer service.
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.
Attorney General Gurbir Singh Grewal identified the three civilian victims in the mass shooting 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.
The civilian victims are the “wife of the owner, a worker, and a customer,” said Grewal. “Our belief is they were killed almost immediately.”
Earlier, authorities confirmed the death of Jersey City Police Detective Joseph Seals, who was the first person shot and killed in the horrific sequence of events that took the lives of four people overall, not counting the two suspects, who were later found dead at the scene, 223 Martin Luther King Drive.
Jersey City’s mayor now says the kosher store location was targeted. The Times of Israel reported that Leah Ferencz was the “store owner,” along with her husband. The Jewish media reported a second civilian victim as Moshe Deutsch, and indicated that both were “members of the local Hasidic community.” He was the son of prominent Jewish Leader in New York and Ferencz’s cousin.
The third civilian victim was first named by Williams Machazek, the pastor of Iglesia Nueva Vida in Newark. He spoke to North Jersey.com and described Miguel 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.
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. According to NBC News, Anderson had made anti-Semitic and anti-police statements on social media prior to the shooting. Grewal stopped short of attributing a motive to the shooting, though. He says motive and ideology are still under investigation.
The widespread Jewish media accounts that first named the victims 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.” 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.
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.”
Jersey City Police Chief Mike Kelly described how police, when they entered the bodega in a Jewish neighborhood, discovered the three civilians and two suspects dead inside.
For hours, police had surrounded the store. They were dealing with two chaotic scenes. First came the shooting death of Detective Seals in a cemetery. Then, the suspects ditched their stolen U-Haul and ran into the bodega, Kelly said in a news conference.
The two black-clad active shooter suspects have not been identified.
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.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Ferencz’s Husband Told a Rabbi He Had Just Gone to the Synagogue When the Attack Occurred & She Was Described as ‘Very Loyal’
“She was very special and very loyal,” Meyer Ferencz, Leah’s brother-in-law, told The New York Post of Leah.
Meyer told the newspaper that the couple moved from Brooklyn three years ago to run the store.
“It was a real tough mission there they undertook when they moved over there to Jersey City,” Meyer said to The Post. “It’s very tragic to see what happened after so much effort and hustling. It’s very painful.”
Chabad Rabbi Moshe Schapiro, who shops at the store, told Times of Israel that he spoke to Leah’s husband, Moishe Ferencz, but Moishe didn’t know his wife had been killed yet. Online records show that both 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.’”
Jerusalem Post reported that another wounded person may be from “the small Satmar community in the area. There are some 100 Satmar families which have moved into the area in the past two years.”
Jersey City Police Chief Mike 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. Authorities said the day after the shooting that they found firearms and a pipebomb.
The Jersey City chief said officers were under “high-powered rifle fire.” He called the officers “brave.”
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.
2. Ferencz & Her Husband Ran the Only Kosher Grocery in the Area & New York’s Mayor Called the Attack Part of a “Growing Pattern of Violent Anti-Semitism’
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.”
After the Jersey City mayor’s tweet, New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio took to Twitter. “This tragically confirms that a growing pattern of violent anti-Semitism has now turned into a crisis for our nation. And now this threat has reached the doorstep of New York City,” he wrote.
“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.”
He added: “History teaches us how dangerous it is to ignore this kind of hateful pattern. We must stop anti-Semitism aggressively and decisively, and I call upon all New Yorkers to join in rooting out this threat.”
Jersey City Mayor Steven 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.”
New York State Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein, who represents two Brooklyn neighborhoods, demanded that Fulop explain what he meant, tweeting at him: “With all due respect, if you believe that the Jewish community was ‘TARGETED’ you must say it CLEARLY and MAKE SURE your constituents are protected.”
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.
3. Leah Ferencz Was the Mother of Five & Police Called a Jewish Rabbi to Help at the Scene
Rabbi David Niederman told CBS that Leah was a wife and mother of five.
“Mindel Ferencz, may she rest in peace, 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,’” said Rabbi Niederman. “Therefore growing the community, alleviating the pain of so many – thousands of families – who live under unbearable conditions.”
“She was a lady full of love for others,” he added. “Unfortunately, her life was cut so short.”
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.” The other victim named by Chabad was described as “Ha’bucher Moshe Hersh Deutch, z”l, 24-year-old son of R. Shulem Deutch.”
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.”
Rabbi Jack Meyer, who co-founded the Orthodox Jewish emergency relief and bereavement organization, Misaskim, was called to the crime scene “to build a bridge” between officers and victims’ family members, according to NJ.com. Meyer told the newspaper that he “spoke with the father and husband of one of the suspected victims, who was shopping at the time of the crime.”
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.
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.
4. One Wounded Jewish Survivor Escaped Out a Back Door & Customers Raved About the Grocery & Its Great Customer Service & Friendly Workers
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.”
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.”
NBC New York described what happened to Detective Seals 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.
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.
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 victims.
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