A Jewish group on Wednesday demanded answers from New Jersey authorities on the motive of a shooting spree in a kosher supermarket, after the Jersey City mayor said the site was deliberately targeted and footage emerged showing the gunmen exiting their van and heading directly for the Jewish-owned business.
Mayor Steven Fulop refused to call it an anti-Semitic attack but said surveillance video showed the gunmen driving slowly through the city’s streets and then stopping outside a kosher grocery store, where they calmly got out of their van and immediately opened fire.
That security camera footage was posted online on Wednesday.
“The report from the Jersey City mayor saying it was a targeted attack makes us incredibly concerned in the Jewish community,” said ADL regional director Evan Bernstein. “They want answers. They demand answers. If this was truly a targeted killing of Jews, then we need to know that right away, and there needs to be the pushing back on this at the highest levels possible.”
Neither the state attorney general, who is running the investigation, nor any other law enforcement authority has confirmed the shooters targeted Jews. City Public Safety Director James Shea said Tuesday there was no indication it was terrorism.
But authorities are investigating potential connections between the attackers and the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, some of whose members are known to rail against whites and Jews, a law enforcement official familiar with the case said.
Investigators also are scouring social media postings of at least one of the gunmen in search of a motive, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still going on.
Others have said the attack was motivated by anti-Semitism.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said on MSNBC that the attack was “clearly a hate crime,” while New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pronounced it a “deliberate attack on the Jewish community.” They announced tighter police protection of synagogues and other Jewish establishments in New York as a precaution.
The World Jewish Congress said it was “profoundly concerned by reports that the perpetrators in the past allegedly posted antisemitic comments on social media and that this attack may have deliberately targeted the kosher market.”
A police officer, three bystanders and the killers all died in the violence Tuesday afternoon in the city of 270,000 people across the Hudson River from New York City.
Two of the victims at the store were identified by members of the Orthodox Jewish community as Mindel Ferencz, who with her husband owned the grocery, and 24-year-old Moshe Deutsch, a rabbinical student from Brooklyn who was shopping there. The Ferencz family had moved to Jersey City from Brooklyn.
The third civilian victim was named by local media as an employee of the store, Miguel Jason Rodriguez, an immigrant from Ecuador.
The 40-year-old slain officer, Detective Joseph Seals, who led the department in the number of illegal guns removed from the streets in recent years, was cut down by gunfire that erupted near a cemetery. The gunmen then drove a stolen rental van to another part of the city and engaged police in a lengthy shootout from inside the kosher market, where the five other bodies — including what is believed to be the remains of the two killers — were later found.
The two suspects, who were both killed in a shootout with police, were identified as David Anderson and Francine Graham, NBC New York quoted law enforcement sources saying.
According to the network, Anderson was once a follower of the Black Hebrew Israelites, who believe they are descendants of the ancient Israelites and may practice elements of both Judaism and Christianity. Some Black Hebrew Israelite groups have been accused of racism and anti-Semitism.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the Hebrew Israelites a black supremacist group.
Fulop said a review of security camera footage has led to the conclusion that the gunmen targeted the market.
“Last night after extensive review of our CCTV system it has now become clear from the cameras that these two individuals targeted the Kosher grocery location,” Fulop tweeted.
Police also removed what they described as a possible “incendiary device” from the van.
At a later news conference, Fulop said the surveillance video shows the van moving slowly and then stopping in front of the store.
“There were multiple other people on the street so there were many other targets available to them that they bypassed to attack that place, so it was clear that was their target and they intended to harm people inside,” he said.
But Fulop cautioned: “I didn’t use the word `anti-Semitic.’ Anything else is open for investigation.”