NEW YORK – Investigators are not sure why two people launched a deadly attack at a New Jersey kosher grocery store, state officials said on Wednesday, but a federal law enforcement source said the incident did not appear to be an act of organized terrorism.
Six people, including the two shooters, three civilians and a police officer, died in a series of events that ended in a police shootout on Tuesday in Jersey City, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from New York City.
The four-hour gun battle at the Jewish JC Kosher Supermarket erupted after the pair shot the police officer at a nearby cemetery and then fled in a white van. It ended after police crashed an armored vehicle through the wall of the market.
“We are not in the position at this time to say definitively why the suspects stopped in front of the supermarket and began firing,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal told a news conference.
The federal law enforcement source said investigators believe mental illness and drug use may have been the primary factors in the attack. He said investigators now view an anti-Semitic message posted online by one of the shooters as a secondary factor.
Officials identified the shooters as David Anderson, 47, and Francine Graham, 50. The three civilian victims inside the market were Mindy Ferenz, 32, Miguel Douglas, 49, and Moshe Deutsch, 24, they said.
Anderson has ties to the Black Hebrew Israelites, The New York Times reported.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Black Hebrew Israelites contain an extremist “black supremacist” wing.
The Black Hebrew Israelites were also a little-discussed part of the Covington incident: a Black Hebrew Israelite member hurled vile epithets at the Covington Catholic High School students who would become ensnared in controversy.
A fourth person who was in the market when the shooters entered escaped. Officials declined to identify that person.
Police found a homemade pipe bomb in the rented van that the shooters drove to the market.
Some local media reported the initial confrontation between the suspects and police near the Jersey City cemetery, about a mile (1.6 km) from the supermarket, was linked to a previous homicide investigation. The two shooters also are suspects in that earlier murder, officials said.
The dead police officer, identified as Joseph Seals, a 15-year veteran of the force and father of five, was shot at the cemetery shortly before the shootout around the grocery began.
“We are deeply shocked and saddened by the antisemitic attack in #JerseyCity yesterday,” the Israeli embassy in Washington said on Twitter.
“This remains a very fluid and fast-moving investigation,” said New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. “Based on everything we know, there is no ongoing security concern related to the events of yesterday.”
(Reporting by Maria Caspani in New York and Mark Hosenball in Washington, additional reporting by Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas, Barbara Goldberg in New York and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Scott Malone, David Gregorio and Bill Bekrot. Pluralist contributed to this report.)