Jersey City shooting was a hate crime, authorities say. What we still need to know. – NJ.com
Three days after two shooters killed four people, including a veteran police officer, in Jersey City, questions still remained about the pair that carried out the crime and the circumstances that led to it.
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal shed some new light on the investigation Thursday afternoon but there are still parts of the tragic day that were unclear following the press conference.
Here are the outstanding questions in the ongoing probe into the tragic incident.
What is the shooters’ connection to the murder of a ride share service driver?
The attackers, identified as 47-year-old David Anderson and the 50-year-old Francine Graham, were also “prime suspects” in the weekend killing of a car service driver in Bayonne, Grewal confirmed this week.
The driver, identified by police as Michael Rumberger, 34, of Jersey City, was a full-time car service driver, but did not work for Uber, his family told NJ Advance Media.
He was found in the trunk of a Lincoln Town car in the area of 17th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard in Bayonne with trauma to his head and pronounced dead at the scene late Saturday.
Investigators still have not added any other details on the killing but have said the officer that was killed, Jersey Police Det. Joseph Seals, 40, was investigating the incident when he encountered the suspects.
How and when did Det. Seals encounter the shooters?
Authorities have said the day’s deadly events started early Tuesday afternoon when the detective confronted David Anderson and Francine Graham in their stolen U-Haul van in Bayview Cemetery.
The suspects shot Seals in the head at the cemetery before parking the van at 12:21 p.m. directly across the street from the JC Kosher Supermarket at 223 Martin Luther King Drive, the attorney general’s office has said.
The office has not said exactly when Seals approached the shooters, or how or why he stopped the van.
“It is believed that, at some point…before 12:21 p.m., two individuals encountered and killed Detective Joseph Seals in the Bay View Cemetery in Jersey City,” a statement from the attorney general’s office stated.
A person called 911 at 12:38 p.m. when they discovered Seals’ lifeless body in the cemetery, authorities said.
Why did the shooters target the market and what were their ties to hate groups?
After killing Seals, the pair then went on to massacre three people at a kosher grocery store — Moshe Deutsch, 24, Leah Minda Ferencz, 33, and Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, 49, of Jersey City, before they were killed following an exchange of gunfire with police that lasted more than three hours.
Deutsch was a Hasidic man who was visiting the store from Brooklyn. Ferencz was the co-owner of the store with her husband and was also Jewish, and Rodriguez was an employee and was not Jewish.
Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop has not minced words and has called the attack a hate crime since the day of the shooting, and on Thursday, Grewal confirmed that his office was investigating the shooting as a hate crime and an act of domestic terror.
“We believe the suspects held views that reflected hatred of Jewish people as well as law enforcement,” Grewal said. “The evidence points toward acts of hate. We’re investigating this as a potential act of terrorism fueled by anti-Semitic and anti-law enforcement beliefs.”
However, although Grewal said the shooters “expressed interest” in hate groups such as the Black Hebrew Israelites, investigators said they believe they acted alone and not as part of any organization.
“The motivation appeared to be clearly…a bias towards both the Jewish community and law enforcement,” U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said, adding that a surveillance video showed the suspects only engaged with the victims in the store and law enforcement and nobody else.
Anderson was reportedly a onetime follower, while Graham, became a “dark person” after meeting Anderson, according to a NBCNewYork.com report.
The New York Post also reported that Anderson wrote a note found inside the van that read “I do this because my creator makes me do this and I hate who he hates.”
The pair was also seen attending an anti-Semitic Black Hebrew Israelite church in Harlem, the building’s superintendent told the New York Post.
On Wednesday, the FBI searched the Harlem offices of a major Black Hebrew Israelite group, according to a law enforcement official, who was not authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
What’s next in the investigation as the community begins to heal?
As funeral details were being planned for Seals and the other victims, the attorney general’s office said it was continuing its probe of the shootings.
Hudson County Prosecutor Ester Suarez told residents Thursday that if they see something, to report it to authorities.
“We’ve also begun the process of reaching out to many of our community’s civic, educational and governmental partners in Jersey City, including members of the Jewish community as well as the African American community,” Suarez said.
Jersey City’s leaders also called for unity in the aftermath of the attack.
“As we try to make sense of the senseless violence and death we are often left here in Jersey City aimless and confused,” said Jersey City Council President Rolando Lavarro. “Yet we know one thing for sure: that it was hate and anger that fueled the carnage here in Jersey City.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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