The shooting and standoff at a kosher market in Jersey City that left a police officer, three bystanders, and two suspects dead is being investigated as domestic terrorism, authorities said on Thursday. “We believe the suspects held views that reflected hatred of the Jewish people as well as law enforcement,” Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said at a press conference.
The FBI is investigating Tuesday’s attack as “domestic terrorism with a hate crime bias slant to it,” said Gregory W. Ehrie, special agent in charge for the bureau’s office in Newark.
The shooting began when Detective Joseph Seals approached a man and woman sitting in a U-Haul van near Bay View Cemetery, according to Jersey City police chief Michael Kelly. The van was reportedly linked to a homicide that happened over the weekend. Seals, who Kelly said is the city’s “leading police officer in removing guns from the street,” was shot by one of the suspects, who then fled to the Jersey City Kosher Supermarket. Shots broke out there around 12:30 p.m. When officers arrived at the grocery, suspects fired on them with rifles, holing up in the store in a small Orthodox Jewish neighborhood.
Law enforcement called the attack an “ambush” and confirmed that the casualties include three victims from inside the store and the two suspects. Two police officers, Ray Sanchez and Mariela Fernandez, were injured in the gunfight but both were released from the hospital Tuesday night. The police and the suspects exchanged gunfire for over an hour, the chilling scenes taking place in the city just across the Hudson River from lower Manhattan.
Though officials initially stated that there was no evidence that the choice of a kosher market was intentional and that they are not investigating the act as a hate crime, on Tuesday night, Jersey City mayor Steven Fulop reversed that assessment.
At a press conference Wednesday Morning, Fulop said “We do feel comfortable that it was a targeted attack on the Jewish kosher deli. We could see the van moving through Jersey City streets slowly, the perpetrator stopped in front of there, calmly opened the door with two long rifles — him and the other perpetrator — and began firing from the street into the facility.”
Also Wednesday morning, the New York Times reported that one of the suspects in the shooting was found to have “published anti-Semitic and anti-police posts online and investigators believe the attack was motivated by those sentiments.” A “manifesto-style note” was also found inside the van the suspects were driving, according to the Times.
Law enforcement officials identified the shooters as 47-year-old David N. Anderson and 50-year-old Francine Graham, claiming that the two had a connection to the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, a diffusive group that “mostly trade[s] in anti-Semitism,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Heidi Beirich, who spoke with the Times. “They view Jews as imposters.”
Officials also state that the shooters were involved in the Saturday homicide of a 34-year-old Jersey City resident who was found in the trunk of a car with massive head trauma.
This post has been updated throughout.