Jersey City shooters apparently fueled by hatred of Jews and law enforcement, attorney general says

Photo of suspect in 12/10/19 Jersey city shooting David Anderson

Investigators believe that the shooters in this week’s deadly kosher market attack in New Jersey held views of hatred for the Jewish people as well as hatred of law enforcement, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said Thursday, citing investigations and interviews.

Evidence points to the attack being “acts of hate,” Grewal said.

Authorities are investigating this as a potential act of domestic terrorism, fueled apparently by anti-Semitism and anti-police beliefs, Grewal said.

The FBI is investigating this as “domestic terrorism with a hate crime bias slant to it,” said Gregory W. Ehrie, special agent in charge for the FBI in Newark.

Investigators currently think they acted by themselves, Ehrie said.

While both shooters have expressed interest in the Black Hebrew Israelites group, it does not appear that either established any formal links to the movement, Grewal said.

“We continue to gather evidence about the motives of the shooters. We have identified a number of social media accounts that we believe were used by the suspects and purport to espouse certain viewpoints,” Grewal said.

“Based on what we have collected so far however, including based on recent witness interviews, we believe the suspects held views that reflected hatred of the Jewish people, as well as a hatred of law enforcement.”

Investigators have recovered five firearms linked to the attackers, including four inside the market and one inside a U-Haul van they’d been using, Grewal said.

Several hundred shell casings have been recovered from the scene, Grewal said.

[Original story, published at 12:10 p.m. ET]

The shooters in this week’s deadly kosher market attack in New Jersey were suspects in a previous, weekend slaying and were driving a vehicle containing anti-Semitic and anti-police writings, sources say.

And one of the attackers appears to have a connection to the Black Hebrew Israelites movement, The New York Times reported. Those are just some of the emerging details about the suspects as investigators try to determine their motive.

David N. Anderson, 47, and Francine Graham, 50, are believed to have killed a police detective near a Jersey City cemetery and then attacked a Jewish market a mile away Tuesday, kicking off an hourslong police standoff that left them and three other people in the market dead, authorities said.

But the pair also were prime suspects in the recent killing of a man near the neighboring New Jersey city of Bayonne, state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said Wednesday. That man died Saturday, local media outlets, including NJ.com, reported.

Authorities haven’t said what, if anything, links the weekend killing to Tuesday’s shootings, other than investigators believe Anderson and Graham were behind them all.

While the mayors of Jersey City and neighboring New York City have called Tuesday’s attack deliberately anti-Semitic, Grewal has stressed that investigators can’t yet say why Anderson and Graham chose the kosher market, or even what led them to kill the detective.

The attack led to chaotic scenes over several hours in the city across the Hudson River from Manhattan, with heavily armed officers taking over city streets, pulling up in armored personnel vehicles amid the sounds of sirens and gunshots.

Killed Tuesday were Jersey City police Detective Joseph Seals and three people in the market: Mindy Ferencz, 31, the store’s co-owner; Moshe Deutsch, 24, a customer; and Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, 49, a store employee, Grewal said.

Tracking the shooters from a cemetery to the market

Before Anderson and Graham made their way to the kosher market, they are believed to have killed Jersey City Detective Joseph Seals near a city cemetery, authorities said.

Police have said Seals was trying to stop Anderson and Graham — but they haven’t said why he tried, or why Anderson and Graham killed him.

A bystander called 911 to report Seals’ body at the cemetery at 12:38 p.m., authorities said.

By that time, Anderson and Graham already were attacking the market.

Surveillance video shows Anderson parking a stolen U-Haul across the street from the Jersey City Kosher Supermarket, about a mile from the cemetery, city officials say.

The pair get out, and a man — Anderson, police say — walks directly toward the store, apparently ignoring several people on the sidewalk nearby, and starts firing a gun into it before entering. Graham follows, police said.

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop has cited this video — appearing to show Anderson ignoring pedestrians and other businesses — as evidence that he attacked the kosher store for specific reasons.

“My sentiment is that it should be viewed as a hate crime,” Fulop said Wednesday afternoon. “There’s no question it was an attack on the Jewish community.”

One person who was inside the market was shot when Anderson and Graham opened fire, but fled the store and survived, officials said.

Police arrived at the supermarket around 20 minutes after the attack began, starting a long shootout that left two police officers injured.

Around 3:25 p.m., a police armored vehicle broke into the supermarket’s entryway, and law enforcement soon found the bodies of the three victims and two attackers inside the store, Grewal said.

Investigators checking shooter’s connection to Black Hebrew Israelites and anti-Semitic notes

A law enforcement official told the New York Times Wednesday that Anderson appears to have a connection with the Black Hebrew Israelites movement, but the extent is unclear.

The Black Hebrew Israelite movement is best known for its confrontational brand of street preaching in urban areas but it has a complex history in the United States, with sects and branches splintering over theological and leadership disputes. Scholars say what unites most Black Israelites is the belief that African-Americans are the true descendants of biblical Jews.

Some members have expressed anti-Semitic sentiments in the past.

Authorities also are checking a note found in the stolen U-Haul truck — one that contained both anti-Semitic and anti-police writing, a law enforcement source told CNN.

Posts with similar sentiments also have been found on social media linked to the shooters, the source said. Law enforcement officers found a pipe bomb in the back of the U-Haul, Newark FBI Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie said.

“It’s down at the FBI laboratory right now. It was a viable device, meaning it could be a device that would have exploded,” Ehrie told reporters Wednesday.

Anderson served in the US Army Reserve from September 1999 to September 2003, the Army said, as a fuel and electrical system repairer.

Funerals guarded by police and volunteers

Two of the four victims were laid to rest Wednesday night.

In Jersey City, crowds of men in black hats surrounded Ferencz’s casket in the Jersey City neighborhood of Greenville at the site of a synagogue under construction. Hundreds of women, separated from the men as per Orthodox Jewish tradition, were standing in the bitter cold sobbing.

Ferencz owned the store with her husband, who was next door at the small synagogue at the time of the attack, according to Yossi Steinmetz who was there as well.

When shots broke out, her husband desperately tried to call her and tell her to lock the doors to take cover, Steinmetz said. She didn’t answer.

At Deutsch’s Brooklyn funeral, mourners spoke in Hebrew through tears as at least a dozen NYPD counterterrorism officers and nearly 100 “Shomrim” members — Hebrew for guardians — stood watch.

Deutsch and Ferencz both had ties to the Jewish community in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

“This is just an atrocity. Of course, we accept everything but this is more than we can handle,” Deutsch’s cousin, also named Moshe Deutsch, told CNN. “The question is, is it a sign of hatred? Is it a sign that we are not safe in New York anymore?”

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