Updated at 1:15 p.m. ET
The shootings that left at least three civilians and one police officer dead Tuesday in Jersey City, N.J., was a targeted attack, according to local authorities. At a news conference Wednesday, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop explained that the pair of shooters, who were also killed, had clearly singled out the kosher market on which they opened fire.
“At the time of the incident yesterday, it was difficult to understand intent, and there’s still a lot of questions around that. But 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,” Fulop told reporters during a snowstorm Wednesday, gesturing at a storefront crowded with emergency personnel.
“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.”
Prior to the shootout, Detective Joseph Seals was killed when he approached the suspects’ van near Bayview Cemetery. The three bystanders and the two suspects were all found dead inside the store after the shootout.
Authorities have not officially released the names of the other victims or the suspects, noting that those details were part of an ongoing investigation. However, in statement released Wednesday, Rabbi David Niederman identified two of the victims as Mindel Ferencz and Moshe Deutsch.
“Of course, we’ll collect ourselves and go on with our lives. At the same time, we can’t let the horrible hate go on and threaten us. It’s too late already. The hate that springs up all over now cut short lives so close to home,” said Niederman, the president of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn.
“But we have to act now so that we don’t have to mourn precious lives in the future.”
At his news conference, Fulop said there likely would have been more victims if two police officers nearby had not responded quickly after hearing the gunshots while they were on patrol one block away.
“From what we can tell on the CCTV 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 that those perpetrators seemed to be inside of 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.”
Both officers sustained gunshot wounds in the exchange of fire, according to James Shea, the public safety director in Jersey City, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan.
Jersey City Police Officers Benevolent Association set up an official GoFundMe fundraiser to support Seals’ wife and five children.
Local officials on Wednesday called it a targeted attack on the kosher deli, but they did not describe shooting specifically as an anti-Semitic attack.
“I didn’t use the words ‘anti-Semitic.’ The motives are still part of the investigation,” Shea told a reporter. “They exited the van, and they proceeded to attack this location in a targeted manner. Anything else is open for investigation.”
Bill de Blasio, mayor of neighboring New York City, has demonstrated no such reluctance to assign a motive. In a series of tweets overnight, the mayor said the shooting “tragically confirms that a growing pattern of violent anti-Semitism has now turned into a crisis for our nation.”
Though there was “no credible threat,” he said he had directed the New York Police Department to “assume a state of high alert” and protect “key locations in the Jewish community.” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also announced Wednesday that “out of an abundance of caution,” he was also directing state police to increase security around synagogues and other Jewish community buildings.
“We have to understand, as I’ve heard from so many members of Jewish community, that people are now living in constant fear,” de Blasio said at a news conference Wednesday.
“Members of the Jewish community have told me they no longer feel comfortable wearing anything that is a symbol of their faith for fear of an attack. It is absolutely unacceptable in a free society that anyone should have to feel that way — from any faith, any background.”
The attack in Jersey City comes just over 13 months since a gunmen killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. The suspected attacker was charged last year in a 44-count indictment, which alleges that during the massacre, he ranted about his desire to “kill Jews.”
Due largely to the attack, anti-Semitic homicides reached the highest level ever recorded in the FBI’s annual statistics on hate crimes, released last month.
President Trump on Wednesday is expected to sign an executive order to make clear that anti-Semitic acts are also barred under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bans discrimination based on race, color or national origin in programs that receive federal funding.
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