One of the two people suspected of firing on police and civilians in a deadly shootout in Jersey City, New Jersey, on Tuesday had published anti-Semitic posts online, the New York Times reported Wednesday. Authorities said they believe the suspects had “targeted” the kosher market where the shootout occurred.
The suspects, who were both killed, fatally shot three civilians in the market. Earlier in the day, they killed a police officer. Investigators said they have not identified a motive, and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop refused on Wednesday to describe it as an anti-Semitic attack, according to the Associated Press. But the Times reported that officials believe the suspect was motivated in part by hateful beliefs.
In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal identified the two suspects as David Anderson, 47, and Francine Graham, 50. The Times reported that Anderson had a connection to the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, which is unrelated to mainstream Judaism and which the Southern Poverty Law Center has described as a racist and militant group. Grewal reiterated that the authorities could not yet say what the suspects’ motive was.
According to Grewal, authorities believe the suspects may also have been involved in the murder of a man whose body was found in Bayonne, New Jersey, on Saturday.
The events began Tuesday afternoon outside a cemetery when a detective attempted to approach two people in a rental van that was reported stolen and connected to a homicide committed over the weekend. The suspects fired on the officer, killing him, and fled. They then drove a little over a mile at a slow and calm pace, stopping in front of a kosher supermarket in a Hasidic neighborhood.
Fulop said at a press conference that a surveillance video showed the assailants passing bystanders on the street as they headed for the market, making it clear the people inside had been targeted. “We now know this did not begin with gunfire between police officers and perpetrators and then moved to the store,” Jersey City Public Safety Director James Shea said Wednesday. “It began with an attack on the civilians inside the store.”
At the supermarket, police and the suspects engaged in an hourslong battle. According to Fulop, as other officers responded to the reports from the shooting at the cemetery, two officers a block from the market engaged the suspects, trapping them inside the store. “[H]ad they not run TOWARDS the gun fire I’m 100% certain that this situation would have been far more tragic than what it already is,” Fulop said in a tweet Wednesday. “There is enough info to know this could have been far worse.” More officers arrived at the scene, and the suspects fired back with high-powered rifles, according to the AP. Witnesses described the resulting scene as something from a war zone. Police have said at least 100 bullets were fired, according to NBC New York.
In the end, three civilians were killed in the market. Police said the civilians had been shot by the suspects and not the police. Two other officers were shot, but they have already been released from the hospital. Another civilian was also injured but is expected to survive.
According to the Times, which cited a law enforcement officer and an official familiar with the investigation, authorities found a pipe bomb and a rambling “manifesto-style note” inside the suspects’ van. The suspect who had made anti-Semitic posts online had also allegedly written anti-police posts. The officials did not say where those posts had been published.
The Jersey City police officer who was killed was identified as a father of five. The three victims in the store have been identified as the 32-year-old woman who ran the market with her husband, a 24-year-old rabbinical student, and a 49-year-old man who is thought to have worked at the market. The two men were both residents of Brooklyn, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed Wednesday.
De Blasio went on to describe the attack as an act of hate and terror. In a press conference, he acknowledged that the investigation was in its early stages but pointed to what he saw as the clear targeting of a Jewish business. “This confirms a sad truth,” he said. “There is a crisis of anti-Semitism gripping this nation.”
New York officials said that they would deploy extra security measures to protect Jewish communities, even though there have been no credible threats. New Jersey officials also said they would increase police activity out of an abundance of caution.
Update, Dec. 11, 2019 at 4 p.m.: This post has been updated with information, including the identities of the victims and suspects, from an afternoon press office.