JERSEY CITY – Precisely what led to Tuesday’s shootout that killed a police officer and three civilians remains unknown – at least publicly. Gov. Phil Murphy and state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal joined federal officials Wednesday afternoon for a press briefing in the Hudson County administration building.
It was an appropriately tense gathering, considering the subject at hand.
It was revealed that the now-deceased shooters – a man and a woman – were suspects in a homicide last weekend in Bayonne and that their vehicle contained what authorities said was a functioning pipe bomb.
Grewal quickly recited the facts, beginning with the fatal shooting of Detective Joseph Seals in a cemetery a short distance away from a kosher grocery store where the perpetrators and the civilians were killed. The Attorney General declined extensive comment on how Seals’ fatal encounter with the killers unfolded.
He gave a bit more information on what happened at the grocery store, saying that a man identified as David N. Anderson got out of his vehicle, entered the store and immediately started shooting. Three people inside the store were killed – one of the owners, an employee and a customer. A fourth person in the store escaped.
It took almost three hours and a protracted gun battle before police were able to enter the store. They found five dead bodies, the three civilians and the two criminals.
As the press event ensued, reports already had circulated that the man involved in the shooting, Anderson, had a connection to the Black Hebrew Israelite movement.
Grewal tried hard to minimize those reports, asking the press to report only the known facts and stressing that the shooters’ motivation was still being investigated.
“We’re on it,” said Craig Carpenito, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey. “We’ve been on it for the last 24 hours.”
Still, it is impossible not to take a quick look at the Black Hebrew Israelite movement.
Broadly speaking, the group essentially believes that God’s “chosen people” of the Old Testament are not the ancient Jewish community of Abraham, Moses and David, but African-Americans. The evidence for this contention is, of course, a bit sketchy. Still, this prompts some in the sect to consider contemporary Jews as “impostors.”
On the face of it, such beliefs in themselves do no harm. But there are always exceptions.
Regardless of the belief, those who are delusional, paranoid, or in more simple terms, just plain nuts, are always capable of doing great harm. If an unbalanced person thinks today’s Jews are “impostors,” violence is certainly possible.
We are getting ahead of ourselves here. Authorities stressed that all aspects of Tuesday’s events are being investigated. And they refused to label the shootings a terrorist attack or even a “hate crime.”
However, as we have seen in just the last year or so, violent attacks against Jewish institutions and people are no longer uncommon, which is something police statistics confirm. So until we get more facts in this case, rumors are going to inevitably proliferate.