Michael Rumberger, the 34-year-old Jersey City man whose body was found in the trunk of a Lincoln Town Car, was described by people who knew him as a family-oriented, hard-working man who was a homebody and focused on his children and friends.
The death was ruled a homicide, and it’s unsolved. He worked for a driving service. Rumberger’s daughter set up a GoFundMe page that is headlined, “Help me give my dad the proper burial.”
He led a quiet and simple life, avoiding trouble, and family and friends think he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, when his path crossed with the Jersey City shootings suspects, whom he didn’t know, because he was assigned to pick them up as a fare. Two people who were close to Rumberger told Heavy.com that they believe he was their first victim.
Rumberger’s name surfaced after a chaotic and frightening mass shooting and standoff involving two black-clad suspects in Jersey City on December 10, 2019. First, New York media outlets – like ABC7 – reported that Jersey City police detective Joseph Seals, who was shot to death in a cemetery on Tuesday, may have been investigating the weekend homicide of Rumberger, leading him to encounter the suspects.
The suspects – David Anderson and Francine Graham – murdered Seals and then ran into a kosher bodega, opening fire, and killing three civilians. They were found deceased in the supermarket, which was a beloved hub in its Jewish neighborhood. Rumberger was found dead on Saturday, several days before the mass shooting. Authorities have now declared they they believe the mass shooting was an act of domestic terrorism by suspects who had left behind a trail of anti-Semitic and anti-law enforcement writings. They were also interested in the Black Hebrew Israelite movement. Rumberger fits in none of those categories; the motive for his slaying it unclear, but the two people who spoke to Heavy.com revealed more details of how it occurred.
The attorney general of New Jersey, Attorney General Gurbir Singh Grewal, said December 11 that the circumstances of Seals’ murder also remain under investigation. However, he added: “The two suspects, Anderson and Graham, are our prime suspects in the Bayonne … killing” of Rumberger.
Rumberger leaves behind a grieving family. He was beloved to his circle of friends as well. One of his best friends and the mother of one of his daughters both spoke to Heavy.com and provided more details about his life and death.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Rumberger Had Been Working for a Driving Service for Years to Support His Family & Was Descrbed as Hard-Working; a Close Friend Says He Picked up the Suspects at Hudson Mall as a Fare
Jess Nuñez, who is the mother of Rumberger’s 17 year old daughter, told Heavy.com that Rumberger was born in Jersey City. After graduating from high school, he began working for a cab company.
“It’s been really hard on our daughter,” she said, adding that the girl was about to graduate from high school and have a high school prom, and everything high school seniors do. “We just got her graduation pictures, and he was supposed to get one,” said Nunez, breaking down into tears.
She described Rumberger as good with computers and a hard working person who cared about his family. He had worked for a cab company for more than 10 years. He was not an Uber driver, in contrast to what authorities said at a news conference. He leaves behind two children.
She said that police told her that Rumberger, while on work, was assigned to pick up two people at the Hudson Mall in Jersey City and to drop them off at a moving company in Bayonne. Police, she was told, believe those fares were the suspects in the Jersey City mass shooting. She said Rumberger didn’t know them and there is surveillance video showing the suspects beating Rumberger to death and shooting him at the moving company location outside. There was a struggle between Rumberger and the suspects.
She said it’s not clear if they “were trying to rob him, bail out of the cab fare” or something else.
“You can’t hear anything in the video,” she said. “So they don’t know why they were attacking him. He was just doing his job. You don’t know who you’re going to be picking up.” She said that they were told by police that Seals was investigating the murder because it’s believed the Jersey City shooting suspects are those in the Rumberger video.
“We don’t know what it was about,” she said of the altercation. They then took his car, with Rumberger in the trunk, but they hit a curb and had a flat tire. At that point, it’s believed that they abandoned the car with Rumberger in the trunk, she said.
Although the suspects are accused of harboring anti-Semitic and anti-law enforcement views, Nunez said that Rumberger wasn’t Jewish; he was Catholic.
Here’s what ABC7 reported: “Law enforcement sources say … Det. Seals may have been interested in the two suspects who ultimately shot and killed him because of a weekend homicide.”
The station then listed the homicide of Rumberger, who was found dead on Saturday, several days before Seals was shot.
NBC New York reported that, according to law enforcement sources, it believed that “Seals saw a U-Haul truck possibly linked to a murder from over the weekend in Bayonne. As he approached the truck, one of the suspects got out of the car and shot him.”
Added NBC: “It was not immediately known why or how the U-Haul truck that Det. Seals approached was linked to the death of livery driver Michael Rumberger.”
Authorities have been vague publicly, indicating that Seals encountered two suspicious men in a cemetery and was then shot and killed.
New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio tweeted this, “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.”
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.”
2. Rumberger, Who Was Remembered as an ‘Awesome’ Person, Was Discovered With Head Trauma in the Trunk of a Lincoln Town Car
Nestor Serrano, one of Rumberger’s best friends, told Heavy.com in an interview that he believes there is “more to the story. Something bigger.” He believes Anderson and Graham “had a bigger plan with Mike being the first victim.” He feels that Detective Seals was investigating Rumberger’s death and ended up disrupting whatever bigger plans the suspects might have had, spurring them to act in a less planned out, albeit still tragic, way.
He described Rumberger as “an amazing dude. He did nothing wrong. He loved being home with his kids.” Rumberger loved to play videogames and go out to dinner with his friends. He was a homebody who put family and friends first and wasn’t involved in street life, said Serrano.
“He was beyond great. Everyone in Jersey City knows Mike.” He said that many people also know Rumberger’s dad, who is the manager at a housing complex.
He said Rumberger was not a person who would “sit there and not try to do something” if he sensed something was wrong.
The Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez released a press release headlined, “MAN FOUND DEAD IN VEHICLE IN BAYONNE.”
She released the following information:
On December 7, 2019, at approximately 9:55 p.m., members of the Bayonne Police Department “responded to the area of 17th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard in Bayonne on a report of possible criminal activity. Upon arrival, responding Bayonne Police Officers found an unresponsive male in the trunk of a Lincoln Town Car at that location.”
She added in the release: “The male, later identified as Michael Rumberger, age 34, of Jersey City, was found to have trauma to his head. He was pronounced dead at the scene at approximately 11:00 p.m. The cause and manner of death are pending an investigation by the Regional Medical Examiner’s Office.”
The release continued, “The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide Unit and the Bayonne Police Department are actively investigating this case. No arrests have been made at this time. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Office of the Hudson County Prosecutor at 201-915-1345 or to leave an anonymous tip at http://www.hudsoncountyprosecutorsofficenj.org/homicide-tip/. All information will be kept confidential.”
Several New Jersey news sites reported on Rumberger’s death when it happened. Patch.com reported that the Jersey City man was found “beaten to death in the trunk of a car” in Bayonne, NJ.
News12 reported that Rumberger was found dead in the trunk of a Lincoln Town Car. He suffered “a massive head trauma,” the site reports.
Bayonne is a community of about 67,000 people located in Hudson County, New Jersey about 15 minutes from Jersey City. Seals was a Bayonne native.
Patch later reported that no arrests had been made. Online records show Rumberger only with past addresses in Jersey City and Bayonne.
3. Rumberger’s Daughter, Who Praised His ‘Strong Character,’ Set Up a GoFundMe Page to Help Give Him a Proper Burial
The GoFundMe by Rumberger’s daughter says, “Unfortunately my dad was taken from me. Nobody wants to see somebody die. Nobody wants to see the man that gave them life, the man that taught them everything to this day die. I wish I had just a couple more minutes with my dad to tell him how I felt. Daddy, you taught me everything I needed to know. But Daddy I wish you could stay on this earth to guide me a little ways longer. I want you to walk me down the aisle as a bride. Be there for my high school graduation. See your grandchildren. I need you back Daddy.”
His daughter added: “I’ll learn to live without your strong character, but I’ll never forget it. You’ll live on Dad. I have a piece of you in me. And while I’m still on this earth you are too. I am only wanting to help give my dad the proper burial. As a daddy’s girl I want to make sure I send him off the right way.”
4. Rumberger Was Remembered as ‘Always Funny & Kind’
People who donated to the GoFundMe account also praised Rumberger. “I worked with your father for a little while and he was always funny and kind. I am keeping you and your family in my thoughts,” wrote one.
Another woman wrote, “Your dad and I worked together when we were young adults, I am so sorry for your loss.”
On Facebook, Rumberger wrote that he was single, lived in Jersey City, and was from Jersey City. His profile reads, “When people get mad and say f*cked up sh*t listen real close cause that’s how they been feelin.” His last post was on December 5.
A candlelight vigil was being organized for him. A woman who knew Rumberger wrote, “You always had a special place in my heart. I love you Michael S Rumberger I’ll never forget our time together and how much my boys truly loved you for the person you were. Thank you for blessing us with such beautiful memories. Give Blacky a hug and a kiss for me. See you guys at the gates. ???.”
Another woman wrote on Facebook, “I’ve known mike since i was a kid. this news hits super hard. RIP Michael S Rumberger. I am at a complete loss with words and everything else at the moment. My love to his girls during this difficult time. <3 and to my bro, i am so so sorry for you. I am here for you.”
Another friend wrote, “Heartbroken to learn of Michael S Rumberger’s passing. A childhood friend from P.S. #40. Praying law enforcement catches the culprit/s. Thinking about Mike’s children and family this morning. ??”
5. The Jersey City Shootout Ended Up in a Bodega, Where Three Civilians Lost Their Lives
After Seals was shot and killed, the suspects ditched a U-Haul van and ran into a kosher bodega in Jersey City, where they holed up for hours with one periodically firing. All Jersey City schools were locked down.
Scanner transmissions indicated that the suspects were clad all in black and possibly wearing trench coats or rain coats. Authorities believe the suspects shot the three 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.
Attorney General Gurbir Singh Grewal said that, after murdering Seals, 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 onward, 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. Those killed were the wife of the store’s owner, a customer, and a worker at the store, the AG said.
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.
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.