Jersey City shooting: Who are the Black Hebrew Israelites?

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Law enforcement sources in Jersey City have named the two shooters who killed Jersey City Detective Joseph Seals in the Bay View Cemetery before calmly driving to a kosher supermarket where they murdered three Hasidic Jews. They also wounded two police officers and a fourth Hasidic Jew as well.

The two shooters whose names were reported to be David Anderson and Francine Graham by various media but were not confirmed by police, however, were killed by Jersey City police officers.

There was a great deal of confusion on Tuesday about their genders with police initially reporting them to be a male and female, then two males. During Wednesday’s news conference, Public Safety Director James Shea refused to confirm the names and/or genders of the suspects and deferred all questions to the Attorney General’s Office, saying the investigation was now being handled at that level; he referred to both as “individuals.”

Multiple media reported Wednesday that Anderson was a former member of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, whose members believe they are descendants of the ancient Israelites. Officials said there were anti-police and anti-Semitic posts online linked to Anderson’s social media page; investigators are checking to see if they were written by Anderson himself.

3 Chassidic Jews Dead in Deliberate Anti-Semitic Attack on Jersey City Kosher Market

Leah Minda Ferencz, 33, who owned the JC Kosher Supermarket at 223 Martin Luther King Drive, a customer, Moshe Deutsch, 24, and a store worker, Miguel Douglas, 49, were all gunned down Tuesday afternoon. The two police officers who were wounded in the shootout were walking a patrol beat a block away when they heard the gunfire; they saved many lives by immediately racing to engage the attackers.

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Reports of a third suspect have not been confirmed and were eventually dropped.

Investigators found a brief and “rambling, manifesto-style” note inside the van driven by Anderson and Graham, according to a report by The New York Times, which quoted a law enforcement official and a second official familiar with the case.

In addition, a live pipe bomb was also found inside the vehicle, the law enforcement official said.

Few details were available about Graham, but New York News 4quoted a neighbor who said she was a former home health aide in Manhattan who met Anderson after “she got hurt at work and quit; he says Graham turned into a ‘dark person’ after they met.” The neighbor added that Graham moved away a year ago; the city told the news outlet the mortgage was assumed by the bank in November 2018.

At a morning news conference on Wednesday, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, Police Chief Michael Kelly and other city officials said examination of the CCTV footage clarifies the shooters unquestionably targeted the JC Kosher Supermarket in their attack. The store serves a budding Hasidic Jewish community of about 100 families who moved to the area from the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, where housing availability has become scarce and pricey.

“In the footage, the shooters were seen slowly driving a stolen U-Haul van down the street and then parking the van in front of the store, Fulop said. “We do feel comfortable that it was a targeted attack on the Jewish kosher deli … We could see the van moving through Jersey City streets slowly,” he added.

Shea was more blunt.

“On the video, they park the van, they exit the van with the long guns in their hands and immediately begin firing toward the location that we lost three of our citizens in yesterday,” the Public Safety director pointed out. “There were multiple other people on the streets, so there were many other targets available to them that they bypassed, to attack that place. So it was clearly — that was their target, and they intended to harm people inside.”

The police chief had already told reporters on Tuesday in the hours after the attack that officers were met with “high-powered rifle fire” when engaging the suspects. The exchange of gunfire went on for more than an hour.

“Let me just say that there were two officers on a walking post one block south and when they heard the gunshots they responded immediately,” the mayor said. “From what we could tell in the CCTV cameras, had they not responded and had they not been there in that location more than likely more people would have died.”

The reason the perpetrators likely stayed inside the kosher market rather than moving on to the synagogue next door, or into the yeshiva upstairs, the mayor said, had to do with the fact that police had already moved in and had begun to engage them.

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