Six Killed in Gunbattle Outside Jersey City Kosher Supermarket

Jersey City mayor says the kosher supermarket where two gunmen, a police officer and three Jewish bystanders were killed may have been an intended target

Danielle Ziri
Danielle Ziri
New York
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Police officers arrive to the scene where an active shooting was taking place in Jersey City, New Jersey on December 10, 2019.
Police officers arrive to the scene where an active shooting was taking place in Jersey City, New Jersey on December 10, 2019.Credit: Kena Betancur / AFP
Danielle Ziri
Danielle Ziri
New York

A kosher supermarket that was the scene of a shootout which killed six people in Jersey City on Tuesday afternoon may have been the intended target of the gunmen, according to Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop.

“After extensive review of our CCTV system it has now become clear from the cameras that these two individuals targeted the Kosher grocery,’' he wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

Fulop added that although there are no indications of further threats, “due to an excess of caution the community may see additional police resources in the days/weeks ahead.”

The revelation comes despite earlier statements, including by Jersey City's public safety director James Shea, that the incident did not appear to be a hate crime or motivated by terrorism.

Six people, including a police officer and three bystanders, died in the shootout at the JC kosher supermarket, Chief of Jersey City Police Mike Kelly confirmed in a press conference.

The officer who died was identified as Joe Seals, a married father of five who had been with the Jersey City force since 2006, Fulop told reporters. Kelly said Seals was in his 40s.

Seals was credited by his superiors with having led the department in the number of illegal guns removed from the streets in recent years. Kelly said he was trying to stop some “bad guys" near a cemetery when he was shot.

The gunmen then drove a stolen rental van to another part of the city and engaged police in a lengthy shootout from inside the kosher market. Three Jews were killed inside the store, a member of the local Jewish emergency medical services Hatzolah, Mordechai Rubin, confirmed to Haaretz.

At least two gunmen, whose identity is still unknown, were killed by police fire. They had been holed up inside the store after shooting at a police officer at the nearby Bay View Cemetery.

Another police officer was shot and injured during the hour-long shootout. A third suspect may still be at large, as a dozen public schools in the area remained on lockdown as the situation unfolded.

'This is very painful and shocking'

Police officers attend a emergency on the scene where active shooting is happening in Jersey City on December 10, 2019.
Police officers attend a emergency on the scene where active shooting is happening in Jersey City on December 10, 2019.Credit: AFP

Kelly said he believed the civilians and the detective were all struck by gunfire from the suspects, who arrived in a stolen U-Haul truck and held police at bay around the store for hours before the shooting ended.

"Their movement was rapid and continuous for four hours within that area," the chief said at an evening news conference. He described the crime scene as "very extensive," encompassing at least three locations. Hundreds of rounds were fired, he said.

Kelly said investigators believed the U-Haul vehicle contained what may have been an "incendiary device," which he said was removed and taken away for examination by police bomb squad personnel.

As families of the victims have not been notified yet, Rubin could not share information about them but said the incident “did definitely hit home the way we say it here.”

“Being that the deceased are from the local community it is very difficult,” he told Haaretz on the phone from the scene.

Rubin and the other volunteers from Hatzolah also helped escort Jewish boys from the local Jewish school that had been on lockdown this afternoon as well.

“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,” Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said. “I have every confidence in our law enforcement professionals to ensure the safety of the community and resolve this situation.”

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations made a statement expressing solidarity "for the Jewish community and all the residents of Jersey City, where it appears members of the community were wounded by gunfire, as were members of the police force."

Bystanders look on as law enforcement arrive on the scene following reports of shooting, December 10, 2019
Bystanders look on as law enforcement arrive on the scene following reports of shooting, December 10, 2019Credit: Seth Wenig,AP

Loud volleys of gunfire could be heard at regular intervals but subsided around 2 P.M. in the city, which is just across the Hudson River from Manhattan and is New Jersey’s second-largest city after Newark. Dozens of bystanders pressed against the police barrier to film the action on cellphones, some whooping when gunfire bursts filled the air.

Rubin added that although shooting incidents are not foreign to Jersey City, Tuesday afternoon’s events are “definitely nothing close to [past incidents] not for me and not for the other volunteers.”

“We have a protocol in place which this time proved to be the best and right protocol, which whenever there is an active shooting going on we pull out all the volunteers and all EMS personnel from the streets, in any neighborhood in the city, we stop responding to calls immediately,” Rubin said.

“This time it proved to literally actually save lives because everybody jumped to respond and being that they live there, they were at very short distances from the situation.”

The Jewish community in Jersey City, Rubin added, is a very “young” community. It is made mainly of people who moved out of Brooklyn, New York.

“This is very painful and this is very shocking and everybody is taking it with mixed feelings,” he said. “They came here because if they wanted to get away from the city, get away from the noise, and the tough life and this is what they’ve come to.”

Rubin also told Haaretz he was currently focused on keeping Hatzolah members safe.

“We do all have the natural instinct of jumping for help when somebody is in need,” he said. “You have to really make sure that every volunteer in the streets out there knows what’s right and how to control themselves, especially when you could be talking about their own family member.”

JTA, Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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