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Shootout in Jersey City leaves 6 dead, including one police officer

Dramatic footage shows authorities responding to an active shooter situation that left at least one dead on Dec. 10 in Jersey City. (Video: Khalid McClenton via Storyful)

An hours-long shootout in Jersey City left six people dead, including one police officer, after two men fired at authorities Tuesday afternoon and began a gun battle that spanned several blocks and shut down a neighborhood, the city’s police chief said.

The standoff began when the two men shot and killed a police officer who approached them at Bayview Cemetery in the city’s Greenville neighborhood, said Jersey City Police Chief Michael Kelly. The gunmen fled to a kosher supermarket, where they exchanged more fire with authorities and were killed. Three other people, believed to be bystanders, were also among the dead in the store, Kelly said.

The slain police officer was identified as Detective Joseph Seals, a 15-year veteran of the Jersey City force. Two other officers were also shot, one in the shoulder and the other in the body, Kelly said. They were treated and released from the hospital.

“It’s a really tough day for the city of Jersey City,” Mayor Steven Fulop (D) said at a news conference Tuesday evening.

Authorities initially said there was “no indication” of terrorism and suggested that the shooters stormed the Jewish market at random. But hours after he addressed reporters on Tuesday, Fulop said on Twitter that an “initial investigation,” which remains ongoing, has led them to believe “the active shooters targeted the location they attacked.” He did not elaborate, but said police have no indication of additional threats.

Photos from the scene of a deadly shooting in Jersey City

Dec. 12, 2019 | Police officers stand guard near the scene of a shooting at a kosher supermarket in Jersey City. Investigators are looking to pinpoint what prompted the deadly attack on the Jewish market amid fears that it was motivated by anti-Semitism. (Seth Wenig/AP)

Officials have not disclosed the identities of the suspects or of the others killed at the store. But they described a difficult and dangerous episode that began just after noon in a residential community, near schools and stores, further complicated by the two suspects’ near-constant movement.

“Their movement was rapid and continuous for four hours within that area,” Kelly said.

Police also recovered a stolen U-Haul vehicle that Kelly said “may contain an incendiary device” and that bomb squads were investigating.

Video and photographs from the scene showed throngs of heavily armed officers from a patchwork of agencies converging on the northeastern New Jersey city, which sits between Newark and the southern tip of Manhattan. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Newark said its agents were responded, along with other New Jersey authorities and Special Operations officers from the New York Police Department.

Across the street from the convenience store where the gun battle ended, students and staff at Sacred Heart School sheltered in place, a spokeswoman told The Washington Post, adding that all were safe.

The violence also prompted lockdowns in all 43 of the city’s public schools, Jersey City Board of Education President Sudhan Thomas told local media.

“All students and staff are safe,” the School District of Jersey City said in a statement.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said in a statement that his thoughts and prayers are with officers shot.

“Today reminds us of their bravery and the sacrifices they, and their families, make for our communities,” Murphy said.

The state’s police officer union said that its “officers have come under attack and we have several wounded.”

“Today is a horrific day,” the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association said in a tweet. In another, the union added: “We need a lot of prayers right now for Jersey City officers.”

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