By: David Ben Hooren
As many as eight people are dead in a shocking midday active shooting scene in Jersey City. Among the fatalities include a police officer, two suspects and five civilians. Reports have described bloodshed as an “ambush” active shooter situation at a store in Jersey City on Tuesday afternoon, officials and law enforcement sources said.
NBC News reported that according to senior law enforcement officials, a homicide investigation was being conducted when the shoot-out began. According to an ABC News affiliate, the shooting started at Bay View Cemetery, where at least one of the injured police officers was hurt.
The police officer who was fatally shot approached suspects in that investigation. The suspects then fled into the Jersey City Kosher Supermarket on Martin Luther King Drive, where the standoff started around 12:30 p.m. ABC reported that the officer died after being transported to the hospital for treatment. Law enforcement sources identified the dead officer as Joseph Seals, a detective with the Jersey City Police Department. Seals was a 39-year-old married father of five and a 13-year veteran of the force.
According to a spokesperson from the Hatzolah ambulance service, the five civilian casualties were Jewish and under the age of forty. “It’s five of our community, so it’s really sad,” said Aaron, another volunteer with the Jewish EMS service, Hatzolah, who witnessed most of the shooting in and near the JC Grocery, a kosher mart at 223 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive. “I must have heard over 300 shots. It was all hell at that point.”
A law enforcement source said the suspects were holed up in a bodega for hours, one of whom was armed with a long gun. The Jerusalem Post reported that the officers arrived at the kosher market where suspects opened fire with long guns, according to ABC News. At least one suspect allegedly continued firing at responders as they retreated.
A person working nearby confirmed to the Huffington Post that the incident occurred at JC Kosher Supermarket.
According to the NBC News 4 report, heavily armed local and state officers in SWAT trucks swarmed the scene, ducking behind doorways and store entrances — some even crawling along sidewalks, closely pressed to the ground — as they zeroed in on the bodega. Gunshots — dozens of them, it appeared — continued to ring out throughout the afternoon, based on audio from the scene.
A source told The Jerusalem Post that one person injured in the attack was from the small Satmar and Bobov Hassidic communities in the area. There are some 100 Hassidic families which have moved into the area in the past two years; and Yiddish is a commonly spoken language in this small community.
The Forward reported that the grocery store is owned by Moishe Ferenczas and has been in operation since July of 2017, according to incorporation documents filed with the New Jersey Department of the Treasury.
The grocery store sits next to a study hall, the Greenville Beis Midrash, also known as the Grenville Shul, and near an affiliated yeshiva, according to the report in the Forward.
“At this time, reports indicate this is a criminal incident and does not appear to be a targeted attack against the Jewish community. We will continue to monitor and update,” The Secure Community Network, a Jewish security organization in North America, tweeted.
“According to senior sources I spoke to minutes ago, it feels as if the incident in Jersey City was not a terror attack or a hate crime. However, the event is not over yet, the situation is ongoing and at this stage it is only a feeling,” Consul General of Israel in New York Dani Dayan tweeted on Tuesday afternoon.
News 4 reported that Federal ATF and FBI agents in Newark also confirmed they were responding to the scene to assist as needed, as was the NYPD’s Special Ops team. About a dozen schools in the vicinity were locked down initially. By 2 p.m., the lockdown order extended to every public school in the entire city, the district’s superintendent said.
News 4 reported that the School District of Jersey City announced on Facebook that a number of schools were on lockdown. “All students and staff are safe, however a number of schools are on lockdown due to police activity. PS 12 14 29 41 40 SHS LHS Innovation Academy I and Infinity. However, the list can change as needed.”
New Jersey Turnpike exit ramps at Interchange 14B were closed because of the incident.
Jersey City Police Chief Michael Kelly said at a Tuesday night press conference that he believes that two of the deceased were “bad guys,” while the other three were innocent victims, although he stressed that the findings are preliminary. Kelly added that there’s “no inkling” yet of a motive for the shooting.
Kelly added that officials believe Seals was killed while trying to intercept the suspects at the cemetery. At least two other officers were shot during the shootout, he said, but both have been released from the hospital.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed on Twitter that the New York Police Department (NYPD) is “closely monitoring the ongoing situation in Jersey City and we are ready to assist in any way we can.”
ATF Newark tweeted, “Breaking: @ATF_Newark Agents responding to reports of an active shooter in Jersey City, NJ.”
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal tweeted after the incident:
“Our hearts break for the family of the fallen @jcpolicedept officer and for the entire law enforcement family. Today’s tragic events serve as a stark reminder of how our brave first responders stand ready to run to danger at a moment’s notice to keep us safe.”
Governor Phil Murphy said that he’d been briefed on the situation. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the men and women of the Jersey City Police Department, especially with the officers shot during this standoff, and with the residents and schoolchildren currently under lockdown,” Murphy tweeted.
“I have every confidence in our law enforcement professionals to ensure the safety of the community and resolve this situation,” he said. “Today reminds us of their bravery and the sacrifices they, and their families, make for our communities.”
“Officers have come under attack and we have several wounded. Our hearts are heavy and the violence is not over. We need prayers,” the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association said on Twitter.