One of the suspected attackers in the deadly Jersey City shooting at a kosher supermarket on Tuesday railed against Jews and police officers on social media, according to a report Wednesday, as authorities indicated that the store had been targeted in the deadly incident.
A law enforcement official said police believe the shooter was motivated by the anti-Semitic and anti-police beliefs, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.
Details of the online posts were not provided in the article.
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.
Officials said a religious note was found in the vehicle allegedly used by Anderson and Graham but that they were still investigating a motive.
A neighbor of Graham’s in Jersey City told NBC she was formerly a home health aide in Manhattan who met Anderson after getting hurt and quitting her job. The neighbor said Graham became a “dark” person after meeting Anderson.
A YouTube channel reportedly belonging to Anderson had several playlists made up of videos with various conspiracy theories, some of which included anti-Semitic Black Hebrew Israelite theology.
A police officer and three bystanders were killed in the violence, as were the two suspects, Tuesday afternoon in Jersey City, just across the Hudson River from New York City. Two of the bystanders have been identified by local community members as Leah Mindel Ferencz, 33, and Moshe Deutsch, 24, both members of the local ultra-Orthodox community.
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 were later found.
Local officials earlier on Wednesday said they believe the Jewish-owned supermarket was targeted, but stopped short of laying out an anti-Semitic motive. Neither the state attorney general, who is running the investigation, nor any other law enforcement authority has confirmed the shooters targeted Jews.
“Based on our initial investigation (which is ongoing) we now believe the active shooters targeted the location they attacked,” Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said.
Fulop did not elaborate on why authorities now believe the market was targeted.
Based on our initial investigation (which is ongoing) we now believe the active shooters targeted the location they attacked. Due to an excess of caution the community may see additional police resources in the days/weeks ahead. We have no indication there are any further threats
— Steven Fulop (@StevenFulop) December 11, 2019
Fulop said that there were no signs of further threats, although earlier reports had said a third gunman may have escaped the scene, and said he had been in close contact with Jersey City’s Jewish community following the attack.
“I know the entire Jersey City community stands together with the Jewish Community during these challenging times,” Fulop said.
Next to the store, the only kosher supermarket in the area and a central fixture for the growing community, are a yeshiva and a synagogue. Around 100 Jewish families live in the area in the city’s Greenville neighborhood, with most of the families having moved there from Brooklyn in the last few years.
Chabad Rabbi Moshe Schapiro, who shops at the store and attends the synagogue next door, said he spoke with the store owner, Moishe Ferencz, before Ferencz learned that his wife had been killed in the attack.
“He told me he had just walked out of the store into the synagogue not five feet away just before this happened, and then he couldn’t get back for hours,” Schapiro said. “His wife was inside the store. He said, ‘I hope my wife is safe.’”
New York City councilman Chaim Deutsch, a member of the city’s Jewish caucus, said that New York City police were providing extra security to synagogues and other sites.
Seals 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.
The bullets started flying early in the afternoon in the city of about 270,000 people, situated across the Hudson River from New York City. Seals, who worked for a unit called Cease Fire, was shot around 12:30 p.m. The gunmen then drove a stolen rental van to another part of the city and engaged police in a lengthy shootout.
Kelly said that when police responded to the area of the kosher store, officers “were immediately engaged by high-power rifle fire.”
“Our officers were under fire for hours,” the chief said.
Inside the grocery store, police found the bodies of who they believed were the two gunmen and three other people who apparently happened to be there when the assailants rushed in, authorities said. Police said they were confident the bystanders were shot by the gunmen and not by police.
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.