Days before kosher market attack, shooters killed driver in struggle
BAYONNE — The first victim of a gun-toting couple that killed a cop and then three victims at a kosher market in Jersey City on Tuesday may have been a cab driver who gave the duo a ride from the mall on Saturday night, authorities have said.
The ex-girlfriend of 34-year-old Jersey City resident Michael Rumberger, a father of two whose body was found stuffed in the trunk of his cab on Saturday night, says detectives have video showing Rumberger in a violent struggle with the suspects before one of them shoots him in the head.
David Anderson, 47, and Francine Graham, 50, were the "prime suspects" in the case, state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal revealed a day after the shooting spree. The two were killed in a shootout with police on Tuesday, which is being investigated as a potential act of domestic terror.
Mayor Steven Fulop, citing social media posts by Anderson and the way the two behaved on Tuesday, believes the kosher market and the Jewish school next door were targeted as an anti-Semitic act of violence. State and federal authorities have declined to announce a clear motive.
U.S. Army Corporal Yiesena Nunez, the mother of Rumberger's 17-year-old daughter, said she spoke with a detective in the case on Thursday. She said he told her that Rumberger picked up the couple at the Hudson Mall on Route 440 and then took them to White Glove Moving Co. in Bayonne, a ride of approximately 17 minutes.
There is a video showing a "struggle" when they arrive at White Glove just off Route 440 but there is no audio so it's not known what started it, Nunez said.
"They shot him in the head, put him in the trunk. They then stole the vehicle and drove off," she said in an interview with New Jersey 101.5. "I think the male was driving and hit a curb and caused a flat tire to the right rear tire."
The body was found in the back of the Lincoln Town Car on Saturday night in the area of 17th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard, according to Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez. Prosecutors have said only that that Rumberger suffered head trauma.
Nunez said that the detective told her that the .22 Ruger Mark IV that was found inside the U-Haul after Tuesday's shooting was the same weapon used to shoot Rumberger in the head. The gun had a homemade silencer and a homemade device to catch shell casings, police said.
Grewal said that Anderson and Graham's social media activity indicates a hatred of Jews and law enforcement. The two are black and authorities have said that Anderson was once tied to the Black Hebrew Israelites, which has been described as a hate group but not known for violence.
Nunez said that the detective told her that Anderson also had a hatred of white people.
"Michael is Catholic. He believed in God but he wasn't a religious man. I don't know if it was because of his last name but he wasn't Jewish," Nunez said.
She noted that both Rumberger and Seals are white "so they got pretty much everyone that they were targeting."
Nunez said that Rumberger had been looking after their daughter Dynasia while she was deployed in Africa. She returned earlier this month.
"She was a daddy's girl," Nunez said of their daughter who set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for Rumberger's funeral.
The last time Rumberger spoke to his daughter was on Saturday morning. Rumberger was supposed to pick her up in the evening. When he didn't show up, Nunez said Dynasia knew something was wrong because he was never late.
Nunez said her daughter has been working with counselors at her school while coping with her father's death. She is a senior and heartbroken that her dad won't get to see her graduate.
Nunez described Rumberger as a "jokester" who made everyone laugh and a hard worker. He was employed at Bergen Taxi.
"When I first found out I was pregnant, that's when Michael just became a hard working man. He just worked non-stop," Nunez said. "I was 15 at the time; he was 16. Michael would go to work. He wasn't a street guy. He would come home, play video games with his friends, work with his dad on projects."
Nunez feels that Rumberger's story is getting lost in the news coverage.
"They keep referring him to him as a cab driver. He wasn't just a cab driver. He was a man. A man with two kids and it's messed up that he was the first victim in all this. They don't talk about it and instead everyone just make assumptions as to what they think they know," Nunez said through tears.
Rumberger's best friend, Nestor Serrao, 36, described him as a "homebody" who liked to play video games and spend time with his children.
"He wasn't affiliated with anyone. The kid wouldn't hurt a fly. He was humble, harmless," Serrao said, adding that he did not think Rumberger knew Anderson and Graham.
"He doesn't know who he picks up on a day-to-day basis. He gets a call from the station to go pick up whoever," he said.
Serrao said that his friend didn't deserve to die.
"Wrong place, wrong time, wrong customers. He put up a struggle and do what he could do and unfortunately they got the better of him. It sucks," Serrao said.
Services for Rumberger will be 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday at Michalski Funeral Home on Monmouth Street in Jersey City.