Although state and federal authorities said it was too early to determine the motive for why two shooters opened fire on a kosher market in Jersey City yesterday, Mayor Steven Fulop doubled down on his belief that this was a clear example of a hate crime.
“Others may have incomplete or inaccurate information which can not only cause unnecessary panic in the community, but also undermine the integrity of an ongoing criminal investigation,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said at a separate presser today that included Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito.
Fulop, who did not attend the aforementioned media event, remained adamant that yesterday’s rampage was specifically directed at the city’s Jewish community.
“There’s no question this was an attack on the Jewish community. There’s no other way to interpret it,” Fulop said at a press conference outside of the storefront, located at 223 Martin Luther King Dr., that was attacked yesterday.
“From our standpoint, there was no question that this was a hate crime: anti-Semitism should be called out immediately, aggressively for what it is.”
Why I call this a hate crime. We shouldn’t parse words on whether this is a hate crime at this point. This was a hate crime against Jewish ppl + hate has no place. The video is clear that the drivers drove to that location, the video is clear that the shooters
— Steven Fulop (@StevenFulop) December 11, 2019
When asked if state or county officials had asked him to stop referring to the incident as a hate crime, Fulop didn’t give a definitive yes or no, but indicated he was not going to change his mind about what caused these fatalities.
“We had conversations earlier on what type of information could be shared and when it could be shared and my sentiment is that is should be viewed as a hate crime and called out aggressively and called out quickly,” he said.
“In my view, look at all of their actions during the day, it’s very clear what they tried to do where they went, why they went, and how they acted: I don’t know how it can be interpreted in any other way. We live in a time where it’s important to call hate for what it is.”
The mayor also noted that the two attackers had a great deal of familiarity with Jersey City, since they used to live there, further stating that it was easy to find the location of Yeshivas and other Jewish landmarks.
The two attackers, David Anderson, 47, and Francine Graham, 50, were near Bayview Cemetery around noon on Tuesday when they shot and killed Jersey City Police Det. Joseph Seals.
It remains unclear as to why Seals approached the two, but Grewal said today that they are “prime suspects” in the case where an Uber driver found dead in the trunk of a car in Bayonne.
Just before yesterday’s chaos erupted, the duo drove a U-Haul vehicle, which was later confirmed to have contained a pipe bomb, to Martin Luther King Drive.
Video posted on social media shows them parking the van, exiting the vehicle and entering the store while civilians flee the scene.
Hours of gunfire proceeded, turning a largely residential neighborhood into a battle zone. Snipers sat atop buildings and helicopters circled the city as local schools remained on lock down for the day.
“Our officers were under fire for hours,” Jersey City police Chief Michael Kelly said. Two officers were injured in the crossfire, but were released from the hospital later that day.
At the end of the day, six people were dead: Detective Seals, the two shooters, and Mindel Ferencz, 33, Moshe Deutch, 24 and Miguel Douglas, 49.
A community solidarity vigil is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Temple Beth El in Jersey City.
“One thing must be made perfectly clear: an attack on our Jewish community, or any community, is an attack against all nine million of us who are proud to call ourselves New Jerseyans,” Murphy said at today’s press conference.
State officials will hold another press conference tomorrow, with an investigation underway. However, the investigation may take weeks, maybe months to complete, Kelly said on Tuesday.
Chief News Correspondent John Heinis contributed to this report.
Follow Corey McDonald on Twitter @cwmcdonald_