He was a follower of the fringe Black Hebrew Israelite movement, which has expressed hostility to Jews, officials said.
The scene at a kosher market in Jersey City where two armed attackers and three other people were killed. Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times
- Dec. 11, 2019Updated 9:08 p.m. ET
After first saying that a deadly rampage at a New Jersey kosher market was random, the authorities disclosed on Wednesday that one of the two attackers had published anti-Semitic posts online and had, in fact, targeted the site.
He was also a follower of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, a fringe religious group that has expressed hostility to Jews, officials said. A rambling religious manifesto was found inside the suspect’s rental van.
The revelations capped a harrowing 24-hour period for residents of Jersey City, who had gone on lockdown after the two attackers went on a violent spree on Tuesday, killing a police officer and then assaulting the kosher market, where three others died.
The case took another twist when the authorities described the pair as prime suspects in the killing of a 34-year-old livery driver in nearby Bayonne, N.J. The driver’s body was found on Saturday night stuffed inside the trunk of a Lincoln Town Car.
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The assailants were identified as David N. Anderson, 47, and his girlfriend, Francine Graham, 50. Mr. Anderson, a four-year veteran of the Army reserve, had spent more than a year in jail in New Jersey after pleading guilty to a weapons charge from more than a decade ago, according to court records.
Ms. Graham had worked as a home health aide, her neighbors in Elizabeth, N.J., said, until an injury on the job left her unable to work.
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Both Mr. Anderson and Ms. Graham died at the kosher market, apparently after law enforcement officers fired into the store.
The extent of Mr. Anderson’s involvement with the Black Hebrew Israelite group was not immediately clear, one law enforcement official said.
The Black Hebrew Israelites, a century-old theology that has split into dozens of semiautonomous groups, believe, in general, that the chosen ones are black, Native American and Hispanic people, but not white people. They have no connection to mainstream Judaism.
Though the movement is not known for promoting violence, followers have been described as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a legal advocacy organization that tracks such movements.
The Jersey City mayor, Steven Fulop, said Mr. Anderson had published anti-Semitic tracts online, including on Facebook.
“We know that they posted favorable sentiment on social media, toward anti-Semitic groups,” the mayor said.
The violence on Tuesday started at a cemetery when a detective, Joseph Seals, apparently recognized the attackers’ rented van from a bulletin about the Bayonne killing. He approached the van and was soon gunned down, officials said.
Then, with Mr. Anderson at the wheel, the assailants drove slowly for a mile through Jersey City. They parked across from the kosher market, which served the area’s growing Hasidic community.
Video images captured what happened next. First, the driver stepped out of the van, gun raised. His accomplice followed, also carrying a gun. They walked past people on the sidewalk and started firing into the store. Bystanders scattered frantically.
The shooting continued as they invaded the market, with images showing dozens of bullet holes in the cash register and the shelves.
One man who was inside the store at the time of the attack described ducking under a table as shots rang out and then running out the door.
Three people inside the store were killed: Mindel Ferencz, 33, who ran the market with her husband; Moshe Deutsch, 24, a rabbinical student who lived in Brooklyn; and Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, 49, who was a worker at the store.
Ms. Ferencz, her husband and their three children were among the first Hasidic Jews to relocate to Jersey City from the large Hasidic community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, several years ago, Hasidic leaders said.
Bullet holes in a window at Sacred Heart School, across the street from the market where the attack occurred.Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times
The victim’s mother-in-law, Victoria Ferencz, 72, heard the news about her death on Wednesday morning from Jewish media.
“I’ve cried my eyes out already. I’m feeling pretty broken,” she said. “I feel sorry for my son. She’s going to heaven, but he and his children will have it hard.”
Mr. Deutsch was “extremely kind and generous” and a “go-to person when his peers needed help,” said Rabbi David Niederman, the executive director and president of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg,
Mr. Deutsch, he said, had helped lead a food drive this year during the Jewish holidays this year that fed 2,000 people.
Mr. Rodriguez lived in Harrison, N.J., with his wife and daughter, said Mark Schwartz, 26, a regular customer at the market.
“He loved everything about this country,” Mr. Schwartz said. “He was so happy to be here. He had big dreams for his family.”
The authorities said the attackers had deliberately chosen the store. Mr. Fulop, the Jersey City mayor, who is a grandson of Holocaust survivors, said he and other city officials had no doubt the attack was a hate crime.
The frenzied gun battle went on for hours — trapping thousands of students in schools that were under lockdown and forcing the evacuation of many homes and businesses. The firefight ended only after the police smashed through the market’s front window with an armored vehicle. Mr. Anderson and Ms. Graham were found dead inside.
They arrived carrying guns. As they opened fire, people on the sidewalk started running.
In the attackers’ van the authorities found the manifesto-style note, officials said. It was brief and “rambling” and did not offer a clear motive for the rampage. But in nearly illegible handwriting the note indicated that Mr. Anderson believed he was carrying out “God’s will,’’ the officials said.
It was not the only alarming item discovered in the van. Investigators also found a live pipe bomb, said the New Jersey attorney general, Gurbir S. Grewal. The special agent in charge of the F.B.I.’s office in Newark, Gregory W. Ehrie, said the device was “not complicated” but was “sophisticated in that time and effort went into creating it.”
Mr. Grewal said the police did not know about the shooting at the cemetery when Mr. Anderson and Ms. Graham blasted their way into the market. He said the assailants arrived there at 12:21 p.m. on Tuesday. The police did not learn that Detective Seals had been killed until 17 minutes later, when someone discovered his body at the cemetery and called 911.
Detective Seals, a father of five, joined the force in 2006. He was credited with helping to prevent a sexual assault in 2008, when he and his partner climbed a fire escape while going after a 23-year-old man who had been chased away by a woman in the building minutes earlier, and had returned.
In contrast to the encounter with Detective Seals at the cemetery, which did not last long, the gun battle in the market continued for more than three hours, according to Mr. Grewal. It ended at 3:47 p.m., 22 minutes after the armored vehicle smashed into the market, when officers found the bodies inside.
Officials said the attackers first killed a Jersey City detective at a cemetery before driving to the kosher market.Credit…Kevin Hagen for The New York Times
Officials would not offer any insight into why Mr. Anderson and Ms. Graham attacked the market. “We’re not in the position to say,” Mr. Grewal said.
The rampage spread fear in the Jewish community in Jersey City and beyond.
On Wednesday, Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey prayed at the synagogue next to the market and said that “an attack on our Jewish community, or for that matter any community in what is the most diverse state” in the country was “an attack on all nine million of us who are proud to call ourselves New Jerseyans. Period.”
It was unclear whether Ms. Graham had ties to the Black Hebrew Israelites. Her brother, Frederick Graham, 52, said he was not aware of any.
She was polite, diligent and hardworking, a home health aide living in a tidy condominium in Elizabeth — until she met Mr. Anderson, according to her upstairs neighbor, who declined to be identified. Mr. Anderson soon moved in and “flipped her life around,” the neighbor said.
He described the difference between what she had been and what she became as “like Jekyll and Hyde.”
The neighbor said he tangled with Mr. Anderson about parking in the shared driveway.
He said Mr. Anderson played audio recordings of sermon-like speeches, and at night shouted out the names and numbers of Bible verses.
“He would say, like, ‘Hebrew 16:18,’ and ‘God says!’” the neighbor said.
Mr. Anderson’s theme was that his religion was the only true religion while others, specifically Catholicism and Judaism, were false, the neighbor said.
He had not heard about the rampage until the police banged on his door at 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
“It was like we didn’t know her anymore,” he said.
Nick Corasaniti, Corina Knoll, Jeffery C. Mays, Sarah Maslin Nir, Sharon Otterman, Azi Paybarah, Ed Shanahan, Edgar Sandoval, Nate Schweber, Ashley Southall, Tracey Tully and Michael Wilson contributed reporting. Susan C. Beachy and Jack Begg contributed research.
James Barron is a Metro reporter and columnist. He is the author of the books “Piano: The Making of a Steinway Concert Grand” and “The One-Cent Magenta” and the editor of “The New York Times Book of New York.”
Michael Gold is a general assignment reporter on the Metro desk covering news in the New York City region. @migold
Ali Watkins is a reporter on the Metro desk, covering crime and law enforcement in New York City. Previously, she covered national security in Washington for The Times, BuzzFeed and McClatchy Newspapers. @AliWatkins