Jewish market targeted — but officials not calling attack ‘anti-Semitic’ yet
JERSEY CITY — Mayor Steven Fulop said Wednesday morning that closed circuit camera footage reviewed after Tuesday's shootings that left six people dead showed a van purposely stopping in front of a Jewish market, two individuals stepping out with long guns and opening on the store.
The incident involved a shooting at a cemetery where Jersey City police Detective Joseph Seals was killed, before the shooters moved on to the store, prompting a massive confrontation with police where the shooters were ultimately killed as well, authorities have said.
Public Safety Director James Shea and Fulop met with the media outdoors as snow fell heavily Wednesday to clarify the mayor's earlier tweet that said that Hodanni's Grocery was targeted, and discuss what the video showed.
Fulop said a van was seen driving "slowly" on the streets of Jersey City before coming to a stop in front of Hodanni's. The shooters got out holding long guns and fired at the store before going inside, he said.
Two officers patrolling on foot a block south of the store heard the gunshots and responded "immediately" and returned fire, according to Fulop.
Fulop credited their action for preventing the gunmen from leaving the store and possibly heading toward nearby schools. Thirty-thousand public school students were on lockdown for several hours across the city.
“With the amount of ammunition they had, we have to assume they would have continued attacking human beings had we not been there," Shea said.
Authorities have also said an explosive device was removed from the van used by the shooters.
Fulop and Shea would not answer several specific questions about the investigation, including whether the shooting is being considered a hate crime, as the state attorney general's office has taken over the investigation per state law.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio more explicitly tied the incident to anti-Semitism in a Tweet Tuesday, but the Jersey City and New Jersey state officials have not as of yet made the same allegation.
State law requires the office to conduct an investigation of a person’s death that occurs during an encounter with a law enforcement officer acting in the officer’s official capacity or while the decedent is in custody.
Fulop and Shea also would only refer to the shooters as "individuals" when asked if they were a man and a woman, as suggested in some police radio transmissions during the chaotic event.
Although Shea and Fulop would also not identify any of the other victims. Several Jewish publications identified two of the victims as 24-year-old Moshe Hersh Deutch and 33-year-old Leah Mindel Ferentz.
Fulop on his Twitter account said he is Jewish and "proud to live in a community like Jersey City that has always welcomed everyone."
He also said that mental health counseling for students would be made available on Wednesday.
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ