Jersey City mayor: Gunmen wanted to target next door yeshiva with 50 kids inside
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'The doorway to the yeshiva was 3 feet away'

Jersey City mayor: Gunmen wanted to target next door yeshiva with 50 kids inside

If police hadn’t managed to trap shooters in kosher store where 3 killed, result would have been ‘much worse,’ says Steven Fulop; attack viewed as domestic terrorism

Police officers stand near the scene of a gun fight at a kosher supermarket and next door yeshiva in Jersey City, New Jersey, December 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Police officers stand near the scene of a gun fight at a kosher supermarket and next door yeshiva in Jersey City, New Jersey, December 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said Friday that he believes that the two gunmen who attacked a kosher store in the city, killing three people inside, 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.”

Fulop said that if police had not managed to trap attackers in store, the result would have been much worse.

“This is a horrible tragedy but even in so much darkness with lives lost there is some light in that without question had the bravery/quick response of the police not trapped them in the store this could have been much much worse,” he said.

On Thursday Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the attack was driven by hatred of Jews and law enforcement and is being investigated as an act of domestic terrorism.

The two killers were armed with a variety of weapons, including an AR-15-style rifle and a shotgun that they were wielding when they stormed into the store in an attack that left the scene littered with several hundred shell casings, broken glass and a community in mourning. A pipebomb was also found in a stolen U-Haul van.

“The outcome would have been far, far worse” if not for the Jersey City Police, Grewal said Thursday. Authorities noted that the Jewish school was next to the market, and a Catholic school is across the street.

The attackers killed three people in the store, in addition to a police officer at a cemetery about a mile away, before dying in an hourslong gun battle with police Tuesday afternoon, authorities said.

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.”

Jersey City’s mayor Steven Fulop, right, and the Director of Public Safety James Shea talk to reporters across the street from a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, N.J., Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

On Thursday Grewal said it was clear the attack was anti-Semitic.

“The evidence points toward acts of hate. I can confirm that we’re investigating this matter as potential acts of domestic terrorism fueled both by anti-Semitism and anti-law enforcement beliefs,” the attorney general said. He said social media posts, witness interviews and other evidence reflected the couple’s hatred of Jews and police.

Grewal noted that after killing three people in the store, the couple concentrated their fire on police and did not shoot at others who happened to be on the streets.

This April 24, 2011 photo provided by the Kent, Ohio Police Department shows David Anderson, one of two gunmen who killed four people in Jersey City, N.J. on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019. (Kent Police Department via AP)

Grewal said the attackers, David Anderson, 47, and Francine Graham, 50, had expressed interest in a fringe religious group called the Black Hebrew Israelites, whose members often rail against Jews and whites. But he said there was no evidence so far that they were members, and added that the two were believed to have acted alone.

The pair brought their cache of weapons in a U-Haul van they drove from Bay View Cemetery, where they shot and killed Jersey City Detective Joseph Seals, according to the attorney general.

The Tunnel2Towers organization, formed after Sept. 11 to support police officers killed in the line of duty, said Friday it would pay the mortgage of Seals, who left behind a wife and five children.

Director of Public Safety James Shea called Seals “the ultimate detective or officer we would point to to tell young officers, ‘This is how you should behave.'” He said Friday that he doubted Seals would have been ambushed by the pair. Authorities haven’t disclosed why Seals was in the cemetery or details of the confrontation that led to his death.

Anderson fired away with the AR-15-style rifle as he entered the store, while Graham brought a 12-gauge shotgun into the shop. They also had handguns with a homemade silencer and a device to catch shell casings. In all, they had five guns — four recovered in the store, one in the van — in what Grewal called a “tremendous amount of firepower.”

Serial numbers from two of the weapons showed that Graham purchased them in Ohio in 2018, the attorney general said.

Mindel Ferencz (Courtesy)

The victims killed in the store were: Mindel Ferencz, 31, who with her husband owned the grocery; 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.

Members of New York’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community gathered Wednesday night for funerals for Ferencz and Deutsch. Thousands of people, mostly men, followed Ferencz’s casket through the streets of Brooklyn, hugging and crying.

The bloodshed in the city of 270,000 people across the Hudson River from New York City spread fear through the Jewish community and weighed heavily on the minds of more than 300 people who attended a vigil Wednesday night at a synagogue about a mile from where the shootings took place.

In the deadliest attack on Jews in US history, 11 people were killed in an October 2018 shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Last April, a gunman opened fire at a synagogue near San Diego, killing a woman and wounding a rabbi and two others.

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