Federal law enforcement officers arrested a New Jersey man on Saturday linked to one of the shooters in the terror attack Tuesday that targeted a Jewish grocery in the town of Jersey City.
The man was identified by officials as Ahmed A-Hady, 35, of Keyport, New Jersey.
A-Hady’s connection to the December 10 killing spree by David Anderson and accomplice Francine Graham is not clear. A Saturday statement from the US Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey said A-Hady was arrested for illegal firearms possession, not for charges linked to the mass shooting.
Attackers Anderson and Graham shot and killed Jersey City Detective Joseph Seals in Bay View Cemetery on Tuesday, then drove to the city’s only kosher supermarket, stormed in with guns firing, and killed Leah Mindel Ferencz, 31, who owned the grocery with her husband; 24-year-old Moshe Deutsch, a rabbinical student from Brooklyn who was shopping there; and store employee Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, 49. A fourth person in the store was shot and wounded but managed to escape, authorities said.
New Jersey’s Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said Thursday that the attackers were driven by hatred of Jews and law enforcement. The two were armed with a variety of weapons, including an AR-15-style rifle and a shotgun. A pipe bomb was also found in a stolen U-Haul van that they used to drive to the grocery.
The shooters were themselves killed in an hours-long shootout with police.
A-Hady was charged with “one count of being a previously convicted felon in possession of a firearm,” the US Attorney’s Office said in the Saturday statement.
The charge involves A-Hady’s continued possession of a firearm despite his April 2012 conviction for drug offenses, which is illegal.
According to the criminal complaint, investigators found A-Hady’s phone number and the Keyport address of a pawn shop where he was either employee or owner scrawled on a note in shooter David Anderson’s back right pants pocket.
They visited the pawn shop on Friday, finding A-Hady and two relatives on the premises.
According to the charge sheet, A-Hady admitted to FBI officers who questioned him to still owning two Smith & Wesson handguns he had purchased in 2007, but claimed they were not at the pawn shop.
Officials searched the shop, finding one of the aforementioned guns in a safe, alongside two others, a PK 380 and a Ruger 9mm.
Further searches uncovered “six rifles (including three AR-15-style assault rifles)” and a shotgun at the pawnshop, as well as over 400 rounds of ammunition, including hollow point bullets, at A-Hady’s home.
A-Hady is slated to appear before a federal judge in Newark on Monday. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
The arrest of A-Hady came the same day that the FBI announced it had recovered a van that may have been connected to the shootings.
The white van, recovered Saturday morning in Orange, New Jersey, about 11 miles (17 kilometers) northwest of Jersey City, was being examined for any evidence related to the attack, the FBI said in a news release Saturday.
It was not clear how the van may be linked to the attack, and authorities did not release further details.
According to reports, Anderson and Graham may have lived in the van after being evicted from their Elizabeth, New Jersey, home.
Anderson and Graham are also prime suspects in the slaying of an Uber driver found dead in a car trunk in nearby Bayonne the previous weekend, authorities have said.
The killings in the city of 270,000 people across the Hudson River from New York City spread concern in the Jewish community.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said Friday that he believes the two gunmen were actually planning to target a yeshiva next door that had 50 children inside at the time of the assault.
“My opinion is that as more info comes out it’ll become increasingly clear that the target was the 50 children at the Yeshiva attached to that store.” Fulop, who is Jewish, tweeted: “We will never know 100% but the doorway to the yeshiva was 3 feet away + it seems he goes in that direction 1st.”
You can see the turn in this new video as well.
The massacre – while horrific – could have been so much worse. The 50 children upstairs had their lives spared only through an act of G-d. pic.twitter.com/uSIkdRIu7d
— The Meturgeman (@DraftRyan2016) December 13, 2019
Fulop later clarified his views to the New York Jewish Week, saying: “My job is different than the people that are doing the investigation. I do my best to say it how I see it.”
He cited the locations of the store and yeshiva and the large cache of weapons that the shooters brought in their vehicle.
“It’s very, very clear that the perpetrator first doesn’t go directly to the deli, he goes toward the door adjacent to it, the building and the doors adjacent to it are the yeshiva…he brought a pipe bomb and he brought 5 guns and hundreds of bullets…we know that he drove deliberately to that location,” said Fulop. “You put all things together, it’s hard to come to any other conclusion.”
Anderson, 47, and Graham, 50, had expressed interest in a fringe religious group called the Black Hebrew Israelites, whose members often rail against Jews and whites, but there was no evidence so far that they were members and they are believed to have acted alone, Attorney General Grewal said on Thursday.