The FBI will now oversee the investigation of this week’s deadly attack on a New Jersey kosher grocery store, which officials are treating as an act of domestic terrorism, federal and state law enforcement officials said on Thursday.
Six people, including the man and woman who carried out the attack, three civilians and a police officer died in a series of events that ended in a police shootout on Tuesday in Jersey City, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from New York City.
“The evidence points toward acts of hate,” state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal told a news conference. “We are investigating this matter as potential acts of domestic terror, fueled both by antisemitism and anti-law enforcement beliefs.”
New Jersey U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito told the same news conference that the Federal Bureau of Investigation would lead the probe.
The four-hour gun battle at the JC Kosher Supermarket erupted after the pair shot the police officer at a nearby cemetery and then fled in a white van. It ended after police crashed an armored vehicle through the wall of the market.
Officials on Wednesday identified the shooters as David Anderson, 47, and Francine Graham, 50. Authorities said they were examining social media posts and other evidence to learn more about the attackers’ motives. Anderson was once a follower of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, sources told WNBC. Online postings connected to Anderson’s social media accounts contained antisemitic material.
Members of the community believe they are descendants of the tribe of Judah. The belief system of Black Hebrew Israelites, a sect that is not associated with mainstream Judaism, varies among the dozens of groups into which the century-old theology has splintered over the years.
Followers reject the notion of race, and instead believe that the 12 tribes of Israel defined in the Torah are different ethnic groups, or nations, and that whites are not among them.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled Black Hebrew Israelites as a hate group, because, it says, their ideology is informed by bigotry.
Heidi Beirich, the director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center told The New York Times: “The group is not known for committing mass acts of violence. It doesn’t have a record of violence that white supremacists have in the United States.”
Authorities have not established an official link between the shooters and the group, Grewal said. The attackers appear to have acted alone, officials said.
The three civilian victims inside the market were Mindy Ferenz, 32, Miguel Douglas, 49, and Moshe Deutsch, 24, they said.
A fourth person who was in the market escaped after the shooters entered. Officials declined to identify that person.
The slain police officer was identified as Joseph Seals, a 15-year veteran of the force and father of five.
The JC Kosher Market sits next to a study hall, the Greenville Beis Midrash, also known as the Greenville Shul, and near an affiliated yeshiva. The area around the store is the home of about 70 families, many of whom are Yiddish-speaking Hasidic Jews priced out of Brooklyn, according to an article posted on JC.com about a year ago.
The community includes members of the Satmar and Bobov sects, as well as others, according to the Yiddish-language press. It took root in 2016, according to a NJTV News’ YouTube broadcast.