The deadly attack at a kosher supermarket here that left six people, including the two suspects, dead this week is being investigated as domestic terrorism, officials announced Thursday.
“We believe the suspects held views that reflected hatred of the Jewish people, as well as the hatred of law enforcement,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said at a news conference.
Officials said surveillance video indicated the market had been deliberately marked, raising the specter that the shooting was another in a growing national pattern of anti-Semitic attacks.
“This confirms a sad truth; there is a crisis of anti-Semitism gripping this nation,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, said of the attack, which claimed the lives of two New York natives. At a press conference with the Orthodox Jewish community on Thursday, De Blasio referred to hate as “a larger danger, and it’s growing.”
Police say the attackers began Tuesday’s killings at a cemetery, fatally shooting veteran Jersey City detective Joseph Seals – a father of five – who had approached a U-Haul van that had been reported stolen and linked to a weekend homicide. The assailants then drove the van to the JC Kosher Supermarket on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, where two people got out of the truck with guns.
Within minutes of entering the market, the shooters killed three civilians, Grewal said, an attack that set off a lengthy gun battle with police. The bodies of the attackers – David Anderson, 47, and an accomplice, identified by police as Francine Graham, 50 – were recovered amid the wreckage of the store, which was littered with shattered glass and hundreds of ammunition casings.
Authorities initially portrayed the Tuesday afternoon shooting as a horrific, if seemingly random, crime. But that picture changed Wednesday with surveillance video that officials said indicated the market had been deliberately marked for violence, raising the specter that the shooting was another in a growing national pattern of anti-Semitic attacks.
Tuesday’s shooting followed a pair of deadly attacks at U.S. synagogues within the past 14 months: one near San Diego that left one person dead in April, and one in October 2018 at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh that claimed 11 lives.
Reports of anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York City rose 63 percent this year compared to 2018, according to the New York Police Department, with a wave of violent crimes against Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn neighborhoods. The Anti-Defamation League said this fall that the United States was on pace for a record number of anti-Semitic incidents this year.
Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s chief executive, said Wednesday that while more investigation into the Jersey City attack was needed, “This hatred is a disease, and right now, we are experiencing an epidemic.”
Adding to the trepidation was the discovery Thursday of “666,” a symbol for the devil, scrawled on the wall of a synagogue in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood, an act of vandalism to which New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, pledged to devote state investigative resources.
While lamenting the rise in hatred, Grewal praised two officers who rushed to the scene. He said the outcome would have been far worse if they had not approached the market, where they were immediately met with shots from a high-powered rifle.
Police said they recovered five firearms linked to the two deceased shooters – four inside the supermarket and one inside the U-Haul van – as well as a pipe bomb capable of exploding in the truck.
Evidence indicates that within minutes of entering the market, the shooters killed three civilians – Mindy Ferencz, a 31-year-old mother of three who owned the market with her husband; a store employee identified as Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, 49; and Moshe Deutsch, 24, a deli customer.
Hours after the shooting on Wednesday evening, hundreds of mourners bundled in black coats gathered in New Jersey’s second-largest city in memory of Ferencz.
Before the service, men shuffled in and out of the synagogue, hastily setting up an oblong folding table on which the casket would rest; the women shivered in the bitter cold, huddled on the far side of the avenue across from the house of worship, a nondescript corner building.
In the frigid night, the streets surrounding the funeral were mostly bare. An occasional passerby would stop to assess a scene unfamiliar to many outside of the insular ultra-Orthodox community. The intersection was blocked off by police tape, marked Jersey City police vehicles and Hatzolah ambulance buses and other large vehicles brought in by Orthodox organizations. Floodlights were raised from high perches, illuminating the mass of people in attendance.
Over the course of the hour-long service, several men spoke in Yiddish, their pain piercing the recited prayers, which were carried through the streets via loudspeaker.
Ferencz and her husband were known to their neighbors as the “pioneers” who relocated from Williamsburg in Brooklyn to this former manufacturing town and opened their market to cater to the growing Jewish community, which includes many Hasidic families like theirs in search of cheaper living.
Jersey City is more affordable than nearby New York City and has easy access to the city via public transportation. A subway ride to New York across the Hudson is typically a 20-minute commute. Jersey City was historically a manufacturing town and did not have a significant ultra-Orthodox community. But that has changed over the past decade, as Brooklyn-based Hasidic families, priced out of gentrifying neighborhoods like Williamsburg, moved to the other side of the river.
“I moved here from Borough Park because it was affordable and not too far from my family,” Usher Levy, 24, said in front of the boarded-up kosher market. “This is very tragic. We never had an incident before where Jews were targeted. We felt safe and comfortable. Now we have second thoughts about it.”
Fulop, who is Jewish, called Jersey City “the golden door to America” and said that “hate and anti-Semitism have never had a place” here.
At a news conference Wednesday, Grewal called the attack an affront to America’s multicultural values – especially Jersey City’s.
“It’s a city of Chinese grocers and Indian shopkeepers and recent college graduates, all striving for a better life in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty,” he said.
Rabbi David Niederman, executive director of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, said the shooting left him in “shock and disbelief.” He thought the Jersey City Jewish community, which includes many individuals from his Williamsburg congregation, was living in peace with the rest of the community there.
Tuesday’s murderous rampage made him rethink.
“This is something that is killing everyone,” Niederman said. “The guy who hates the Jew, hates everyone who is not the same as he thinks he has to be.”