After reviewing surveillance footage from Tuesday’s attack in Jersey City, the Attorney General’s Office on Thursday confirmed the incident is being investigated as a potential act of domestic terrorism fueled by anti-Semitism and anti-law enforcement beliefs.
“Based on what we have collected so far, however, including based on recent witness interviews, we believe the suspects held views that reflected hatred of the Jewish people, as well as a hatred of law enforcement,” said New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.
“You can see clearly from the video that the individuals that engaged, the cowards that took down those innocent victims, engaged only the folks in that store and in the law enforcement community. You can see people walking by they didn’t engage anyone,” said United States Attorney Craig Carpenito.
Law enforcement agents Thursday said the motive remains under investigation. What is clear was the intent to kill.
“They had a tremendous amount of fire power,” said Grewal. “They had a pipe bomb in the van. And but for the actions of Chief Kelly and his officers, they could have done more”
Police recovered five firearms from the scene, including assault rifles, a semiautomatic handgun and a homemade silencer. The U-Haul van was outfitted with bulletproof panels.
“We also have recovered several hundred shell casings at the scene. We are processing all of this evidence as we speak,” Grewal said.
In total six people died Tuesday, including Jersey City Police Det. Joseph Seals, who first confronted the suspects at a cemetery before they attacked the grocery store. Both gunmen were found dead inside the kosher grocery store, killed by law enforcement. Three civilians were also killed — Moshe Deutsch, Mindy Ferencz and Miguel Rodriguez. Funerals for the two members of the Orthodox community were held Wednesday night.
“There has been considerable reporting that these two suspects are linked to the Black Hebrew Israelite movement. We have evidence that both suspects expressed interest in this group, but we have not definitively established any formal links to that organization or to any other group,” Grewal said.
With ramped up police presence, residents of all faiths attended a community vigil at Temple Beth-El in Jersey City Wednesday night.
“Everybody felt part of it, whether it was the community that was attacked, the police force that suffered a loss, or even the people who were impacted by it,” said Jersey City resident John Burkhart.
“This is the world that we’re living in, and what’s here now is horrible, and sad and devastating. But in a very sick way, it’s not surprising because it’s anywhere and everywhere,” said Temple Beth-El Rabbi Leana Moritt.
“We’ve seen those acts of anti-Semitism on the rise based on our audit in other parts of the country as well, not just in New York. We’ve seen an increase in Los Angeles, an increase in assaults overall last year. We’ve seen an increase in K-12 schools across the country. This is becoming a national problem,” said Anti-Defamation League Regional Director Evan Bernstein.
Late Thursday afternoon, interfaith leaders and members of the Jersey City Chapter of the NAACP held a meeting to unite the community, standing together against the hate crime to say it’s not representative of the diverse city. They also emphasized the need to keep open lines of communication between faith groups, law enforcement and government agencies.
And while two of the civilians have already been laid to rest, the funeral arrangements for Det. Seals are set for next Tuesday.