Police in New Jersey say a Jewish supermarket was the target of a gun attack which left six people dead on Tuesday, including the two suspects.
No motive has yet been given, but the mayor of Jersey City tweeted on Wednesday morning that “hate and anti-Semitism” had no place in the city.
The gun battle began when the suspects killed a detective across town, then drove a rental van to the market.
Security video shows them firing on the market before going inside.
Investigators believe that the three people found dead inside the kosher market were killed by the attackers, who were also found dead inside the building following a four-hour standoff with police.
On Wednesday morning the mayor of Jersey City, Steven Fulop, told reporters that street cameras showed the suspects “slowly” drive towards the market, then “calmly open the door with two long rifles and begin firing from the street” into the shop.
Public Safety Director James Shea added that video shows they parked their van “and immediately began firing on the location”. Asked how police are certain the shop was targeted, he said that they “bypassed” many other people walking on the street to attack the store.
The attackers have not yet been publicly identified, but New York media has identified them as David Anderson and Francine Graham.
Sources tell NBC that Anderson was a follower of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, whose believers say they are the true descendents of ancient Israelites.
A neighbour told NBC that Graham was a former home carer in Manhattan and met Anderson after she got hurt at work. The source added that she became a “dark person” after they met.
The New York Times and New York Post reported on Wednesday that one of the suspects had made anti-Semitic and anti-police social media posts online before the attack.
Jersey City Police Chief Mike Kelly said on Tuesday that violence first erupted at a cemetery about one mile (1.6km) from the grocery store just after 12:00 local time (17:00 GMT) on Tuesday. Local media reported that confrontation between police and the suspects was linked to a murder investigation, but this has not been confirmed by authorities.
It is believed that Detective Joseph Seals, 39, who was part of a state-wide programme to confiscate illegal guns, was killed when he approached the two suspects who were driving a van that was suspected to have played a role in a recent homicide.
The pair fled the scene in the van and drove to the kosher supermarket where they held off armed police and federal officials for four hours, shooting off hundreds of rounds of ammunition.
The attackers opened fire on the shop before entering, alerting two officers on foot patrol who began firing on the suspects until they were injured by the attackers’ gunfire.
On Wednesday, the mayor said that “had they not been there and not responded, more people would have died”.
Mr Kelly said investigators also believe the suspects’ van contained an “incendiary device” which was removed and taken away for examination by police disposal specialists.
“It was like a warzone,” one witness told CBS News. Authorities say it could take weeks, or even months, to fully investigate the extensive crime scene.
“This is one of the biggest gunfights I’ve seen in a while,” Willy McDonald, 67, told the New York Times. “And I’ve been in Vietnam.”
The attack put approximately 30,000 students on lockdown, unable to leave their classrooms for hours after the school day had ended. Class start times were delayed on Wednesday due to the attack.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called the attack a “hate crime” and an “act of terror” and ordered police on high alert, especially in Jewish communities. Jersey City is part of the New York metropolitan area.
“This confirms a sad truth. There is a crisis of anti-Semitism gripping this nation. There is a crisis of anti-Semitism in this city,” he said in a Wednesday news conference.
He added: “History tells us to take these warning signs seriously.”
New York Police Department commissioner Dermot Shea added that hate crimes in New York City were up 22% this year.
You see a swastika being drawn, you see a brick being thrown through a window, you see a woman walking down the street with her kids and having her wig ripped off,” he said. (BBC)
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