JERSEY CITY, New Jersey (AP) — At least six people were killed in a gun battle involving a kosher supermarket in Jersey City on Tuesday that authorities say is not believed to have been a terrorist attack.
The dead included a police officer, two suspected gunmen, and three bystanders, police said.
The shooting took place at multiple locations, starting at a cemetery, where the officer was gunned down, and continuing at the kosher supermarket about a mile away, where five more bodies were found, Jersey City Police Chief Michael Kelly said.
The slain officer, Detective Joseph Seals, 40, was credited by his superiors with having led the department in the number of illegal guns removed from the streets in recent years, and might have been trying to stop an incident involving such weapons when he was cut down by gunfire that erupted near the cemetery, authorities said.
“Our officers were under fire for hours,” the chief said, adding that bomb squad officers were examining a stolen U-Haul vehicle “that may contain an incendiary device.”
He described the crime scene as “very extensive, three locations at least.”
He would not say exactly what set off the shooting but that he believes the officer who was killed was trying to stop some “bad guys.”
Hundreds of rounds were reportedly fired during the confrontation.
Kelly said the suspects’ “movement was rapid and continuous for four hours” during the drama which saw the deployment of hundreds of police from New Jersey and New York, including tactical officers armed with rifles and wearing olive-green fatigues and helmets.
City Public Safety Director James Shea said that authorities believe the bloodshed was not an act of terrorism but that it was still under investigation.
The officer was pronounced dead at a hospital, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said. A second officer was struck in the shoulder by gunfire, and two others were injured by shrapnel, Fulop said.
The nearby Sacred Heart School was put on lockdown, but all staff and students were safe, according to a statement from the Archdiocese of Newark.
The city of 270,000 is the state’s second-largest, after Newark, and is situated across the Hudson River from the Statue of Liberty.
Police blocked off the area of the shooting, which, in addition to the school, has some stores, the kosher supermarket and a hair stylist.
US President Donald Trump said he had been briefed on the incident, which he called a “horrific shootout,” adding that the White House would be monitoring the situation and assisting local officials.
“Our thoughts & prayers are w/ the victims & their families during this very difficult & tragic time,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the men and women of the Jersey City Police Department, especially with the officers shot during this standoff, and with the residents and schoolchildren currently under lockdown.”
“I have every confidence in our law enforcement professionals to ensure the safety of the community and resolve this situation,” Murphy said.
— News flash (@BRNewsFlash) December 10, 2019
One umbrella US Jewish group, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, released a statement Tuesday expressing “solidarity for the Jewish community and all the residents of Jersey City, where it appears members of the community were wounded by gunfire, as were members of the police force responding to gunfire from active shooters. We do not know at this point if the kosher supermarket from which they were firing was an intended target. We pray for the safety of all those involved.”
Dozens of bystanders pressed against the police barrier to film the action on cellphones, some whooping when gunfire bursts filled the air.
Andy Patel works at a liquor store about three blocks away from the site of the shooting site and said there had been consistent gunfire fire about an hour Tuesday afternoon.
“I can hear the gunshots. It’s like firecrackers going off. They were shooting like crazy about an hour ago. Then it stopped for like 20 or 30 minutes. The cops were clearing everyone off the streets,” said Patel.