New York, Dec 12 (IANS) The two suspects who died in a shootout after allegedly killing a police detective and three civilians in Jersey City, New Jersey, specifically targeted the Jewish supermarket where a long-running gun battle occurred, city authorities have said.
Jersey City’s mayor, Steven Fulop, and public safety director, James Shea, made their remarks to reporters in a Wednesday morning press conference across the street from the kosher grocery store, Efe news reported.
“After reviewing the (closed-circuit TV) cameras on the Jersey City side, we do feel comfortable that it was a targeted attack on the Jewish kosher deli across the street here. 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,” Fulop said.
He added that two police officers were walking one block away when they heard gunshots and responded to Tuesday’s incident immediately.
“From what we can tell on the CC TV cameras, had they not responded and had they not been there in that location, more than likely more people would have died,” Fulop said. “The reason why those perpetrators seemed to be inside that deli and not able to move potentially to the school or to inflict more harm was because the police responded immediately and returned fire.”
Shea also said the cameras showed the incident began with the perpetrators opening fire at people inside the deli, adding that the two police posted a block away responded to the sound of gunfire, placed themselves in the line of fire and were wounded as a result.
“And within seconds, more Jersey Police officers responded to their calls, pulled them out of the line of fire and continued to engage the two people carrying guns inside the store,” he said.
“Without that response … with the amount of ammunition (the perpetrators) had, we have to assume they would have continued attacking human beings if we hadn’t been there,” Shea added.
Neither Fulop nor Shea would comment on the investigation, saying that was the purview of the New Jersey state Attorney General’s Office and the local prosecutor.
Jersey City Police Commissioner Michael Kelly said at a Tuesday evening press conference that the suspects first killed Joseph Seals, a Jersey City police detective and married father of five who belonged to a unit responsible for removing illegal guns from the streets. They then fled the scene in a van and holed themselves up inside the kosher supermarket.
Seals was killed at a cemetery while approaching the suspects as part of a murder investigation, authorities said.
Two of the civilian victims have been identified as Moshe Deutsch, 24, and Mindel Ferencz, 33, both of whom were Orthodox Jews, local media reported, citing Rabbi David Niederman, president of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn.
The identity of the third civilian victim and the two perpetrators remains unknown, although Fulop told reporters that the state AG’s office would provide details from its investigation soon.
The sound of gunshots was heard for more than an hour from the kosher supermarket, located in the mainly Jewish Greenville neighborhood of Jersey City.
The ferocious battle prompted authorities to clear nearby streets and shut down public schools in the city, located just across the Hudson River from Manhattan.
During the press conference, Shea emphasized that he at no time did he use the words “anti-semitic” to describe the attack, adding that “the motives are still part of the investigation.”
Fulop, who is Jewish, said for his part Wednesday on Twitter that people have “speculated that the actors were of the Muslim faith, but at this point there is zero indication to that being accurate.”
Jersey City “and I don’t want anyone jumping to conclusions that aren’t accurate. I want to be sure the Muslim community knows we are thankful they are here,” the mayor added.