Jersey City Shooting Live Updates: 6 Killed, Including an Officer

By Michael Gold, Nick Corasaniti and William K. Rashbaum

Two shooters opened fire on Tuesday afternoon at a kosher market.

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Jersey City’s mayor said officials now believe that the shooters had “targeted the location they attacked.”

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A firefight between police officers and two suspected gunmen in a Jersey City, N.J., neighborhood broke out on Tuesday. At least six people were killed, including an officer, the suspects and three people in a store.CreditCredit...Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

Six people, including one police officer, were killed in Jersey City, N.J., on Tuesday in a series of gunfights that brought destruction to a kosher market and made a residential area feel like a war zone.

The dead included three people in the market as well as two suspected shooters, officials said. The slain police officer, Detective Joseph Seals, 40, was a longtime veteran with the Jersey City Police Department, according to Chief Mike Kelly.

Officials believe the shooting began when the detective approached one of the gunmen at a nearby cemetery in connection with a homicide investigation and was shot dead, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

The gunmen then fled in a truck and eventually ended up at the kosher market, where they opened fire on police officers and civilians, officials said. For much of the next hour, residents nearby — and blocks away — could hear rapid bursts of gunfire echoing off the low buildings.

Investigators initially believed that the store was chosen randomly and that the incident was not a hate crime. There was “no indication” of terrorism, said Jersey City’s director of public safety, James Shea, at a news conference.

But by late Tuesday, the city’s mayor, Steven Fulop, said on Twitter that officials now believed that the gunmen had “targeted the location they attacked.” He did not provide further explanation or provide any indication that the attack was related to anti-Semitism.

Mr. Fulop also said that the authorities had no indication of further threats in Jersey City.

ImagePolice officers took cover from gunfire on Tuesday afternoon as they responded to reports of an active shooter in Jersey City, N.J.
Police officers took cover from gunfire on Tuesday afternoon as they responded to reports of an active shooter in Jersey City, N.J.Credit...Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

Officials received calls about a shooting at the market around 12:30 p.m., according to Chief Kelly. At the same time, the police learned that Detective Seals had been shot at Bay View Cemetery, roughly a mile away.

Chief Kelly said the officers who responded at the kosher market were met with “high-powered rifle fire. The loud exchanges of gunfire rang out in the nearby area of Jersey City, which is across the Hudson River from Lower Manhattan.

Helicopters circled overhead as police officers swarmed the streets. They aimed handguns and long guns in every direction as they traveled down the street in formations, knocking on doors and ushering residents and business owners to safety.

Two officers, Ray Sanchez and Mariela Fernandez, were hit in the gun battle, one in the shoulder and the other in the body, Chief Kelly said. Both of them had been released from the hospital by Tuesday night.

Officers were also investigating a stolen U-Haul vehicle that they believed was connected to the shooters, Chief Kelly said. Bomb squads examined the vehicle.

The New York Times

The shootout and police siege plunged the Greenville neighborhood of gentrifying Jersey City — the second most-populous city in New Jersey, with a quarter of a million residents — into chaos, fear and confusion.

The victims of the shooting had not yet been identified on Tuesday night.

At the time of the shooting, the owner of the market, Moishe Ferencz, had gone to a nearby synagogue, according to his mother, Victoria Ferencz.

After a couple minutes, shots rang out. The synagogue was put on lockdown, and Mr. Ferencz’s thoughts turned to his wife, Mindy, who had been left tending to the market, his mother said.

“I called my son, he says, ‘I’m locked here, I have no idea where she is,’” said Victoria Ferencz, who said she hadn’t yet heard whether her daughter-in-law was safe.

“I’m still hoping against hope,” she said.

Chesky Deutsch, a Hasidic Jew and a community activist, spoke with a shooting victim by phone. He said the victim was a man in his 20s who suffered three gunshot wounds.

Mr. Deutsch said the man did not have a clear memory of what had happened. He lives in Brooklyn and had been shopping at the store when the gunfight broke out.

Next door to the supermarket is a small synagogue and yeshiva, Mr. Deutsch said, adding that up to 100 children, ranging in age from about seven to 12, had been trapped at the yeshiva.

Detective Joseph Seals

Detective Seals had been a police officer for 15 years, rising through the ranks in Jersey City’s busy South District, according to Chief Kelly.

His most recent assignment was to a citywide Cease Fire unit, which concentrates on reducing shootings and making gun arrests in Jersey City.

“He was our leading police officer in removing guns from the street,” Chief Kelly said. “Dozens of dozens of handguns he is responsible for removing from the street.”

Detective Seals lived in North Arlington, N.J., a suburb about eight miles northwest of Jersey City, with his wife and five children.

He was promoted to detective in November 2017 and had been previously commended with his partner for saving a woman from a sexual assault on Christmas Eve in 2008.

The two officers climbed a fire escape and surprised the 23-year-old attacker, who was arrested and charged with criminal sexual contact and burglary.

The authorities believe Detective Seals was working to investigate a gun crime when he came across the shooters at the cemetery.

Chief Kelly said it was thought the detective “was killed while trying to interdict these bad guys.”

On Tuesday night, more than a dozen, somber police officers stood guard outside Jersey City Medical Center. At one point, three plainclothes officers hugged a woman who stood sobbing amid the glow of red and blue police lights.

At around 5 p.m., dozens of officers saluted outside the emergency room as a body covered in a white sheet was carried to a hearse and a small group of Hasidic Jews followed behind.

“There are days that require us to stop and think what it means to put on a uniform,” said Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey. “And God knows this is one of those days.”

He added that if it were not for the police who confronted the gunmen “we shudder to think how much worse it could have been.”

Residents who had been cleared from their homes and stores watched anxiously from behind a barricade as SWAT teams, bomb squads and heavily armed officers overtook their neighborhoods.

As they stood at street corners, waiting for word that it would be safe to return, they described a tense standoff punctuated with exchanges of gunfire that did not stop until just before 2 p.m.

“I heard this constant shooting, and it kept going on for about 15 minutes,” said Willy McDonald, 67.

By the time he came outside, there were cops everywhere. “There had to be at least 8 of them.”

“This is one of the biggest gunfights I’ve seen in a while,” Mr. McDonald said. “And I’ve been in Vietnam.”

One frustrated resident, Corey McCloed, 39, said it was like the city was under siege.

The center of the chaotic scene, the Jersey City Kosher Supermarket, caters to a small, but growing, number of about 100 Hasidic families who have moved to Jersey City in recent years from the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.

The families, many of whom belong to the ultra-Orthodox Satmar sect, have created a budding community in the Greenville neighborhood, a residential area with dense blocks that include a Catholic school, a Pentecostal church and a Dominican restaurant.

The kosher market’s opening three years ago signaled that the community was putting down roots in what remains a largely African-American part of Jersey City.

Rabbi Moshe Schapiro, of the Chabad of Hoboken and Jersey City, said the store was “a grocery that is very popular with the local Jewish community” and had “a deli counter that has nice sandwiches.”

Sacred Heart School, a Catholic elementary school across the street from the scene of the shooting, was placed on lockdown during the attack, a spokeswoman said. The students there were not harmed.

Twelve public schools in the vicinity of the shooting were also shut down and on lockdown, according to the superintendent of Jersey City Public Schools, Frank Walker. Mr. Fulop said that the schools began to release students at 4:15 p.m.

Sherrod Davis, who lives about a block and half from the kosher market, said he wasn’t allowed to leave his street until after 5 p.m.

Speaking of the children inside Sacred Heart School, across from the store, Mr. Davis said: “I can imagine the terror those children felt. The shots were so loud. And your teachers can’t tell you it’s only a drill.”

Public schools in neighboring Bayonne, N.J., were ordered to shelter in place Tuesday as a result of the police activity.

On Tuesday night, police in Bayonne were also investigating threats of similar violence at Bayonne High School, according to a letter from the superintendent of Bayonne Public Schools posted on the district’s website.

“This evening some individual(s) have posted on social media that the same type of crime will occur in Bayonne High School tomorrow,” the superintendent, John J. Neisz, wrote.

He promised a full investigation and said that security would be present at the schools on Wednesday.

Corey Kilgannon, Corina Knoll, Kwame Opam, Sharon Otterman, Edgar Sandoval, Ed Shanahan, Ashley Southall and Tracey Tully contributed reporting. Susan C. Beachy contributed research.