The deadly shootout that occurred Tuesday in a Jersey City neighborhood started with a targeted attack on a Jewish deli near the corner of Bayview Avenue and Martin Luther King Drive. Public safety authorities reviewing surveillance cameras say the shooters calmly pulled up in a U-Haul van before taking aim.
“On the video, they parked the van, they exit the van with the long guns in their hand, and immediately begin firing toward the location that we lost three of our citizens in yesterday. So there were multiple other people on the street, so there were many other targets available to them that they bypassed to attack that place. It was clear that was their target and they intended to harm people inside there,” said Jersey City Director of Public Safety James Shea.
What followed was an hours-long shootout between Jersey City police and two suspects. The exchange left two officers wounded and six people dead. The causalities include Jersey City Police Det. Joseph Seals.
“It’s believed that at some point yesterday, two individuals encounter and killed Jersey City Police Det. Joseph Seals in the Bayview Cemetary in Jersey City,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said at a news conference on Wednesday.
At a Wednesday morning press conference, Shea and Fulop looked to set the timeline straight. The first shots rang out at approximately 12:30 p.m. At that time schools were ordered to lock down.
“This did not begin with gunfire between the police officers and the perpetrators and then moved to the store. It began with an attack on the civilians in the store and then our officers that were posted a block away immediately responded to the sound of the gunfire heroically and placed themselves in the line of fire attempting to get the information. And both of them received gunshot wounds,” said Shea.
“The two officers were on a walking post one block south. And when they heard the gun shots they responded immediately,” said Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop. “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.”
“For that first 30 minutes I would say it was more than 200 rounds. You could tell whatever they had was semi-automatic or fully automatic. A few shots you heard it was like ‘boom, boom, boom’ then you had ‘babababa bababab’ and that wasn’t the cops,” said Jersey City resident Timothy Kennedy.
“The streets were filled with people and the schools surrounding were filled with people. With the amount of ammunition they had, we have to assume they would have continued attacking human beings,” Shea said.
“Following the event, the vehicle that the two individuals arrived to the location in was searched by our state police professionals forensically. They did locate in that, amongst other items that I won’t be discussing, a pipe bomb-improvised explosive device, ” said Newark Field Office FBI Special Agent in Charge Greg Ehrie. “It was a viable device, meaning it could be a device that would have exploded. It was, again, of a pipe bomb design. Not complicated, but sophisticated in the sense that time and effort went into creating it.”
Wednesday, yellow tape and a school window peppered with gun shots remain.
“People in this neighborhood don’t have any animosity toward the Jewish people in this neighborhood. We speak, and walk by and everything, and once and a while we go in and patronize their business. It had to be somebody outside this neighborhood,” said Jersey City resident Will J.
“Some people are genuinely afraid, and then some people are not surprised. I just go to work and I go home, so for me it was a shock,” said resident Gina Sims.
There’s still uncertainty about how to classify the attack, as an act of terror or as a hate crime. State officials aren’t going so far yet, but Fulop is convinced it is. Wednesday afternoon he elaborated.
“From my standpoint, and I think most people’s standpoint, it was 100% a hate crime. As the grandson of Holocaust survivors, I know that it’s important to call out anti-Semitism quickly, and aggressively and anytime there’s hate. And you can’t wait on something like that,” he said.