A Jersey City police detective and five other people were killed, while two other officers were injured by active shooters earlier today as the result of a horrific act that turned a residential neighborhood into a war zone, paralyzed traffic throughout the city, and drew a response from the FBI and New York Police Department – among many other agencies.
— Hudson County View (@HudsonCoView) December 10, 2019
By John Heinis and Corey McDonald
Jersey City Police Det. Joseph Seals was killed by one of the assailants, who are yet to be named, while two other officers sustained non-life threatening injuries, according to Jersey City Police Chief Michael Kelly.
Seals had previously been recognized as one of two “hero cops” for preventing a woman from being sexually assaulted, The Jersey Journal reported.
“We cried with the family. It’s one of the hardest things that you ever have to see,” Mayor Steve Fulop said earlier this evening during a press conference outside of the Jersey City Medical Center.
“Everyone expected him to return home. And sometimes people don’t appreciate the tough work these officers do every single day … they’re heroes.”
Police units responded to a call of shots fired near a local bodega on 223 Martin Luther King Dr. just after noon, Kelly said, when “units were immediately engaged by high-powered rifle fire.”
At the time, the department learned Seals had engaged with the shooters on Garfield Avenue near the Bayview Cemetery, where he was shot. He was later pronounced dead at the same hospital where the presser took place.
It is unclear how or why the assailants made their way to the bodega on MLK Drive. Several people on the scene, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said they believed the shooters may have been running guns into Jersey City.
The shooters had been using a stolen U-Haul vehicle, which has since been taken from the crime scene, and is being examined by bomb squad members.
Officers established a tactical position near the bodega, where officers “continued to take gunfire for hours,” Kelly said. He added that the two shooters’ “movement was rapid and continuous for four hours within that area.”
At least five people were killed inside the bodega at the center of the shootout located on MLK Drive, Kelly said, who added authorities believe two of them were “bad guys” – found dead inside the bodega – while the other three were civilians.
Kelly, however, cautioned that all information is preliminary, and that the “investigation will take weeks, maybe months.”
“The crime scene is very extensive and is in three locations, at least,’ he added.
Social media videos show heavily armed officers in the area, and also snipers on the roofs of nearby buildings, with some proclaiming that “hundreds” of shots rang out over a two-hour period.
“I’ve been hearing non stop gunshots for about an hour now,” a resident, who gave his first name as Dez, said at around 1:30 p.m.
“Our officers were under fire for hours and two more officers were hit by gun fire. One sustained an injury to the shoulder, while another sustained an injury to his body,” Kelly said, identifying the other two officers are Mariela Fernandez and Ray Sanchez.
Both have since been released from the hospital.
Heavily armed law enforcement officials from a number of agencies, including the New York Police Department, the Bergen County and Essex County SWAT teams, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms, the FBI, the Port Authority and others were on the scene.
The Jersey City Board of Education said they would be dismissing students between 4:30 p.m. and 4:45 p.m., though parents were still picking up children at multiple school as late as 5 p.m.
President Donald Trump (R), Gov. Phil Murphy (D), U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-8) and many other officials weighed in on the tragedy.
“Just received a briefing on the horrific shootout that took place in Jersey City, NJ. Our thoughts & prayers are w/ the victims & their families during this very difficult & tragic time. We will continue to monitor the situation as we assist local & state officials on the ground,” Trump tweeted.
“I have every confidence in our law enforcement professionals to ensure the safety of the community and resolve this situation. Today reminds us of their bravery and the sacrifices they, and their families, make for our communities,” Murphy said in his own social media post.
Additionally, Sires called the situation “alarming,” thanking first responders for their courage for handling this event and ones similar to it.
“It’s a terrible situation … there were a number of actors involved and they terrorized our city essentially. I pray our police officers are safe,” said Jersey City Council President Rolando Lavarro.
State Senator (D-32)/North Bergen Mayor Nick Sacco, along with Freeholder Chair Anthony Vainieri (D-8), also offered Jersey City their “deepest condolences” in their own statements.
Additionally, West New York Mayor Gabriel Rodriguez indicated he “stands with our neighbors in Jersey City during this very difficult time.”
Just received a briefing on the horrific shootout that took place in Jersey City, NJ. Our thoughts & prayers are w/ the victims & their families during this very difficult & tragic time. We will continue to monitor the situation as we assist local & state officials on the ground.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 10, 2019
I have been briefed on the unfolding situation in Jersey City. Our thoughts and prayers are with the men and women of the Jersey City Police Department, especially with the officers shot during this standoff, and with the residents and schoolchildren currently under lockdown.
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) December 10, 2019
Correction: This story was amended to say that five people were killed in addition to Det. Joseph Seals.
Follow Corey McDonald on Twitter @cwmcdonald_