Authorities Tie Killers In New Jersey Attack To Fringe Group

Associated Press
December 12, 2019 - 1:08 pm
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JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — The two killers who stormed a kosher market in Jersey City were apparently acting alone and were "fueled both by anti-Semitism and anti-law enforcement beliefs,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said Thursday.

Grewal said the attackers expressed interest in the Black Hebrew Israelites — a fringe group whose members have been known to rail against white people and Jews. He told a news conference that authorities are investigating the shooting as an act of domestic terrorism.

While there have been fears since the shooting Tuesday that a hatred of Jews was behind the attack, Grewal and some others had been cautious in describing the motive, noting it was still under investigation.

The FBI on Wednesday searched the Harlem headquarters of the Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ, which is the formal name of the Black Hebrew group, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation, who was not authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

“The evidence points toward acts of hate,”Grewal told reporters. "I can confirm that we're investigating this matter as potential acts of domestic terrorism fueled both by anti-Semitism and anti-law enforcement beliefs."

Previously, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop said surveillance video made it clear that the attackers targeted the Jewish market, slowly and deliberately driving up to the grocery in a stolen rental van and immediately opening fire.

The attackers were identified as David N. Anderson, 47, and Francine Graham, 50 — both of them also prime suspects in the slaying of a livery driver found dead in a car trunk in nearby Bayonne over the weekend, according to Grewal.

Four weapons were recovered from the store and another from the van they drove.

The victims killed in the store were: Mindel Ferencz, 31, who with her husband owned the grocery; 24-year-old Moshe Deutsch, a rabbinical student from Brooklyn who was shopping there; and store employee Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, 49.

Members of New York's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community gathered Wednesday night for funerals for Ferencz and Deutsch. Thousands of people, mostly men, followed Ferencz's casket through the streets of Brooklyn, hugging and crying.

The bloodshed in the city of 270,000 people across the Hudson River from New York City began at a graveyard, where Detective Joseph Seals, a 40-year-old member of a unit devoted to taking illegal weapons off the street, was gunned down by the assailants, authorities said. They then drove the van about a mile to the kosher market.

The drawn-out gunbattle with police filled the streets with the sound of high-powered rifle fire, as SWAT officers in full tactical gear swarmed the neighborhood. During the shootout, police used an armored vehicle to ram the store entrance.

The attacks against weighed heavily on the more than 300 people who attended a vigil Wednesday night at a synagogue about a mile from where the shootings took place.

In the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history, 11 people were killed in an October 2018 shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Last April, a gunman opened fire at a synagogue near San Diego, killing a woman and wounding a rabbi and two others.

The kosher grocery is a central fixture in a growing community of Orthodox Jews who have been moving to Jersey City in recent years and settling in what was a mostly black section of Jersey City, causing some resentment.

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Sisak reported from New York. Associated Press writers Jim Mustian in New York and Mike Catalini in Trenton, New Jersey, contributed.

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