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A day after a deadly shootout with police left six people dead in northern New Jersey, law enforcement and city officials are trying to understand what happened. Among the possible motives being considered: anti-Semitism. John Yang speaks to Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop about being “aggressive and deliberate” in calling out violent hate and how the community is reacting to the tragedy.
A day after a shootout with police left six people dead in Northern New Jersey, law enforcement officials say they are still trying to work out just what happened and why.
As John Yang reports, among the considerations is whether anti-Semitism motivated the shooters.
Today, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy sought to assure Jersey City residents that the danger is over.
Gov. Phil Murphy, D-N.J.:
Based on everything we know, there is no ongoing security concern related to the events of yesterday.
But officials said they are still asking why a kosher market was targeted.
Leading the investigation is state attorney general and Jersey City native Gurbir Grewal.
As we speak, right now, we are working to learn more about the shooters' motivations, and whether anyone besides the two gunmen may have been involved.
Officials say yesterday's violence began at a cemetery, where Jersey City Police Detective Joseph Seals was killed in a confrontation with two people.
The killers drove a stolen U-Haul van believed linked to a weekend homicide about a mile to the kosher market, where they immediately opened fire with two long rifles. For nearly three hours, they engaged police in a fierce gun battle, making the neighborhood look like a war zone.
SWAT officers in tactical gear swarmed the area. Schools were put on lockdown. It ended when an armored police vehicle rammed the store entrance. Inside, authorities found the bodies of the killers and three people who happened to be in the store at the time. Officials said a fourth bystander was wounded and escaped.
The victims in the store have been identified as 32-year-old Mindy Ferencz, who owned the store with her husband, Moshe Deutsh, 24, a rabbinical student from Brooklyn who was shopping at the time, and Miguel Douglas, 49, said to be a worker in the store.
The slain police officer, Joseph Seals, was 40 years old and the father of five children, the youngest just 2 years old.
Steven Fulop is mayor of Jersey City. And he joins us from the scene of yesterday's shootout.
Mr. Mayor, thank you very much for joining us.
First of all, our condolences for what the city went through and is still going through.
Officials earlier in their news conference were careful to say they don't know the motivation for this. But are you now calling this a hate crime?
So, I just want to speak for a second from the information that we have seen in Jersey City.
And, as the grandson of Holocaust survivors that emigrated to this country because it was a place of tolerance and acceptance, I think it's important that you call out anti-Semitism for what it is, and you do that quickly and aggressively.
When you look at the facts of what transpired yesterday, we know the people posted on social media a favorable sentiment towards groups that showed anti-Semitic sentiment. We know that they drove deliberately to the kosher supermarket.
We know that they bypassed a lot of targets on the way. We know that they bypassed targets right next to the kosher supermarket. We know they took out long rifles across the street and commenced to fire while advancing into the supermarket.
And when you think about all of those facts, on top of the fact that they had a pipe bomb in the truck, showing that they had sentiment to do more damage, it's difficult to argue anything other than anti-Semitic sentiment there.
And from my standpoint, it's just really important to be aggressive and deliberate in — when you call that out.
But do you have any sense yet why they targeted this particular neighborhood, this particular market?
Well, this is the area that has an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. It's a growing community in Jersey City that started to relocate here from Brooklyn about three years ago. It's grown aggressively. And that supermarket was directly next door to the yeshiva, which had 50 to 70 children in it.
Now, I will point out that, had the Jersey City Police Department not responded as quickly as they did — there was a walking post a block away, and they responded and they engaged the perpetrators and kept them inside of that store — I think it's fair to say that the tragedy could have been far worse.
So, from my standpoint, you know, the facts speak to what it is regarding a hate crime. And it's always important to call out hate aggressively and firmly.
You talk about this neighborhood, the growing population of Orthodox Jews. It was described earlier by the attorney general, this market across from a Catholic school, down the block from a Dominican bodega…
… on a street named after Martin Luther King Jr., very diverse.
Have there been tensions among the communities in this neighborhood?
No, I mean, look, the community was predominantly African-American going back some time. And it's gradually been changing. There's a growing Jewish community here. There's a growing Latino community in this part of the city.
And this city predominantly — well, the city has had — this part of the city has had a gun violence issue dating back several years. But we have made huge progress in the last two years.
I mean, coming into this year, homicides in Jersey City were down dramatically, shootings were down dramatically. There's probably not a city in this country that could point to crime reductions like we were. It's not perfect, but we were making progress.
And it's just really disheartening and sad on so many fronts to see the city going through this in such a public way at this point.
I imagine, with the holidays coming up, this has raised a lot of concerns, maybe anxieties and fears.
As you walk the streets of your city, what are you hearing and what are you telling people, Mr. Mayor?
Well, I mean, look, the community is a loving community. It's an inclusive community. And I think most people understand that.
And I don't think that the actions of yesterday represent the sentiment in the city. And everybody understands that.
So we're going to pull together. We're going to be supportive of the Jewish community here. We're going to be supportive of all communities here. And we're going to get through it.
This city has gone through hardships before. And, unfortunately, we're going to have to do it again. But we will get through it.
Mayor Steven Fulop of Jersey City, once again, our condolences, and our thanks for joining us.
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