The first body was found stuffed inside the trunk of a Lincoln Town Car.
It was a brutal crime, a 34-year-old livery driver beaten in the head and his body hidden in a sedan on a residential street in Bayonne, N.J.
But the discovery offered no hint of what was to come.
A bulletin with details about the man’s death circulated among local law enforcement. It mentioned a moving van.
On Tuesday, a police officer named Joe Seals was on duty in nearby Jersey City. He grew up in the area, and joining the force had fulfilled a dream. Two years ago, he made detective.
Detective Seals, 40, was apparently on his way to meet a confidential informant at Bayview Cemetery, where weeds grow thick among the graves. He had been exchanging texts with his mother about Christmas presents for his five children.
By noon, he stopped replying.
He had spotted a U-Haul van.
Investigators on Tuesday combed the scene at Bayview Cemetery in Jersey City, where Detective Joe Seals was killed.Credit…Kevin Hagen for The New York Times
Shortly afterward, Detective Seals was shot dead at the hands of a couple who then carried out an anti-Semitic rampage at a Jersey City kosher market in what officials later declared an act of domestic terrorism.
The attack left three people dead and deeply unnerved the thriving multicultural city across the river from Lower Manhattan. Scores of law enforcement officers engaged in a harrowing firefight with the couple that turned the neighborhood into a combat zone.
The assailants — David N. Anderson, 47, and Francine Graham, 50 — were both killed, leaving their relatives, friends and authorities trying to understand what set them off.
The two had been dating for a couple of years and seemed to have recently begun a transient lifestyle.
Ms. Graham had moved to New Jersey in 2011, when she left the Harlem block she had known all her life and bought a condo in Elizabeth. She had recently left her job as a nurse aide at a health care center where she worked for 17 years.
It was her first time owning a home, an achievement that she shared with her upstairs neighbor, who often shared meals with “Miss Francine.”
Once, Ms. Graham stopped by as the neighbor was watching a movie with a shooting scene. “I’m terrified of guns,” he recalled her saying.
The friendship withered when Ms. Graham began bringing around Mr. Anderson, a lithe, self-assured man who had a small flower tattoo on his cheek.
Mr. Anderson had been in the Army reserve for four years, during which he repaired fuel and electrical systems. His rap sheet included serving time for weapons charges and threatening to kill a live-in girlfriend.
An aspiring hip-hop producer and performer, Mr. Anderson appeared to have created several social media personas, posting under Dawada Maqabath, AKANapoleonHill, Baryon Bloodbourne and Dawad Maccabee.
By 2015, Mr. Anderson was ascribing to the ideology of the Black Hebrew Israelites, an extremist sect that thinks of its members as true Israelites, believes Jews are impostors and espouses anti-Semitism.
In October of that year, he reposted a Facebook friend’s statement: “I hope you negroes, latinoes, and native Americans wake up to who you are. According to the bible you are the real Hebrew Israelites. Not those fake jewish people who is really from kahzaria.”
Mr. Anderson moved in with Ms. Graham and the two could be heard shouting Bible verses together. In 2017, Ms. Graham’s condo went into foreclosure.
After squatting in the home, the couple disappeared.
A hub for a newly vibrant Hasidic community
It was a modest storefront, but the JC Kosher Supermarket had become a hub, a symbol of the roots of a newly formed Hasidic Jewish community in Jersey City.
Moishe Ferencz had opened the market a few years ago with his wife, Leah Mindel Ferencz. The two had met through a matchmaker in Monroe, N.Y., in the Hudson Valley, and lived for some time in Brooklyn. When cheaper housing drew friends to Jersey City, they followed, wanting more space for their three children.
The arrival of dozens of Hasidic Jews to the predominantly black neighborhood came with tensions. Some longtime residents felt they were being pushed out.
But the Ferenczes took to their new city eagerly, and their market was a boon to an area lacking kosher food. They had a reputation for being compassionate to employees, including Douglas Miguel Rodriguez.
Mr. Rodriguez, 49, had endeared himself to regulars by quickly learning their names and memorizing their favorite snacks. They knew to ask him about his wife and 11-year-old daughter whose middle name was Milagros — “miracle” in Spanish — because it had taken the couple so long to conceive.
He had been a financial manager in Ecuador for an insurance company that went under, and, in 2016, he left his parents and four siblings to find work in New Jersey.
At JC Kosher, Mr. Rodriguez worked six days a week, making deli sandwiches, stacking shelves and delivering food.
On Tuesday, he was inside the store with the Ferenczes and a handful of customers. Among them was Moshe Deutsch.
A 24-year-old rabbinical student, Mr. Deutsch had helped establish a new yeshiva, where he was also a student.
His father, a well-known community member, organized a large food drive every year before Passover. Mr. Deutsch helped him with the event and hoped to follow in his footsteps. A resident of Brooklyn, he happened to be visiting a cousin in the area.
At about 12:15 p.m., Mr. Ferencz stepped out, as he usually did, to head to the synagogue next door. His 33-year-old wife was left tending to the store.
‘There were bullets flying all over’
When the U-Haul van pulled up to Bayview Cemetery, there was little way to know what its occupants had in store.
But it had been retrofitted with makeshift ballistic panels meant to deflect bullets and was lined with material from bulletproof vests.
Inside were five firearms: an AR-15-style rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun, two 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistols and a Ruger Mark IV with a homemade silencer, officials later said. One of them may have been used to kill the livery driver, whose body was found in the trunk in Bayonne on Dec. 7.
Two of the weapons were believed to have been purchased last year in Ohio. There was also a pipe bomb and a homemade device to catch shell casings, as well as a rambling manifesto that spoke of a creator.
None of this was apparent to Detective Seals.
He was not in uniform, and it was unclear whether he called for backup, but he approached the van with 15 years of experience and the reputation of having personally rid the streets of dozens of guns.
Detective Seals was fatally shot in the head and in the arm.
From there, the van headed one mile north, appearing to be in no rush as it ambled along Martin Luther King Drive. At about 12:20 p.m., it passed cars that were waiting at a stoplight and people who were plodding down sidewalks in the rain.
It slowed just before Bayview Avenue. The driver took care to park at an open space near the corner.
Then the van doors flew open.
Mr. Anderson sprang out of the driver’s seat. He quickly raised a rifle and aimed it at the JC Kosher Supermarket, firing without hesitation while striding across the road. A handful of bystanders scrambled to take cover, some dodging behind cars.
From the other side of the vehicle emerged Ms. Graham. She held a shotgun, but her gait was less confident, and she scurried after Mr. Anderson who had barged into the market.
David Lax was at the salad bar near the entrance when bullets crashed through the glass window. He threw himself under the table.
Mr. Anderson, clad in black, marched past him, continuing to fire all around the store. Mr. Lax stood up, but then Ms. Graham appeared in a black coat. She looked at Mr. Lax and briefly turned to make sure her firearm had cleared the door.
Mr. Lax took the moment to shove past her, pushing on the arm that held the gun, and raced out.
“There were bullets flying all over,” he said. “I was just on autopilot.”
His friend Simon Goldberger saw him run out. Mr. Goldberger had been about to go to the synagogue, but had hunkered down in his Kia Optima once he saw the assailants storm the market. He found himself trembling under his steering wheel and dialing 911.
The lines were jammed.
Around that time, Chaim Deutsch bolted out the back door of the market and clambered over two fences. He had been shopping when the initial shots were fired and was hit by three bullets, including one to the chest. He never glimpsed who was shooting. But he had seen three people go limp, their bodies collapsing to the ground.
Terror and chaos in the rain
Mariela Fernandez and Ray Sanchez, both Jersey City police officers, rushed toward the sound of rapid gunfire. They were on foot patrol and happened to be in the area. When they arrived, one was struck in the torso, the other in the shoulder.
Officers began to descend on the neighborhood and the exchange of gunfire pummeled the air like firecrackers. Some pounded on doors and urged residents and business owners to leave.
“Get off the street!” they shouted at those standing outside, confused by the chaos. An armored vehicle with flashing blue and red lights drove up, rain drizzling onto its windshield. The door opened.
“Get up! Get out of your car, come in!” someone shouted at Mr. Goldberger, who was still huddled in his seat. Mr. Goldberger darted into the authorities’ vehicle. He was driven down a road and dropped off.
Three blocks away, Emma J. Sheffield kicked at the doors of the middle school on Bergen Avenue where she teaches special needs students, hoping someone would let her in. She had just returned from a lunch break and was desperate to seek cover. “Oh my, God!” she cried.
But her school, along with many others in Jersey City and Bayonne, had been placed on lockdown.
Parents received phone calls and text messages that stopped them cold. Live reports from the scene offered little comfort.
Doors were bolted at the synagogue, in hopes of keeping dozens of children at the second-floor yeshiva safe. Bullets tore through a window at a private Catholic academy directly across the street.
The neighborhood was soon crawling with authorities from Jersey City, New York City and the F.B.I. Snipers crouched on rooftops. State police, including assets from the agency’s marine services and canine units, were on their way.
A bomb squad from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives showed up, and helicopters whirred overhead. More than a dozen officers slipped south on Martin Luther King Drive, their guns drawn as they passed a shuttered Mexican restaurant and a laundromat. The exchange of gunfire continued in ceaseless succession.
It felt to residents as if the neighborhood was under siege. Up close, the shots were deafening. Perhaps, many thought, this was what war sounded like.
Inside her apartment on Grant Avenue, Evelena Morrison Tisdale crawled on the floor, unsure of where the gunfire was directed. The 56-year-old counted gunshots. One hundred? No, more. She began to pray. Whenever the shooting seemed to end, it started up again.
At about 3:25 p.m., an armored vehicle appeared and rammed into the front of the market, mowing into what was left of the glass windows and door. There was more gunfire.
And then, suddenly, a hush.
Mr. Anderson and Ms. Graham lay dead on the floor. Near them, the bodies of Ms. Ferencz, Mr. Rodriguez and Moshe Deutsch.
The terror had ended. The grief would not.
Anxious parents waiting outside schools embraced their children.
Detective Seals’s mother raced to Jersey City Medical Center to receive news that made her numb. A crowd of officers turned up to honor their colleague as his body was carried into a hearse.
Members of a Jewish disaster relief organization appeared at the market to ensure all of the victims’ body parts were collected, according to religious custom. The same practice is carried out in Israel after terrorist bombings and other attacks.
A rabbi would later confirm that Mr. Deutsch’s body had been riddled with bullets. “Can you imagine, a few hundred bullets into the body of a 24-year-old child?” he said, sobbing.
A vigil was held for Michael Rumberger, the father of two left in a car trunk who may have been the first victim, the link still unclear to his inconsolable parents.
And everyone grappled with the notion that the rampage had been an act of domestic terrorism, infringing on any sense of peace and exposing their vulnerability.
Chesky Deutsch, a community activist in the Hasidic community, would agonize over how to soothe frayed emotions. There was much to consider: holding proper burials, addressing the families of victims, relaying details from the police.
It was the thought of the young school children that particularly weighed on Mr. Deutsch. They would need therapists. Trapped beside a barrage of bullets, they had experienced a fear from which they could not be sheltered, their innocence forever fragmented.
“All they heard,” he said, “was gunshots for two hours.”
Reporting was contributed by Nick Corasaniti, Michael Gold, Kwame Opam, Sharon Otterman, William K. Rashbaum, Michael Rothfeld, Andrea Salcedo, Edgar Sandoval, Nate Schweber, Ashley Southall, Christiaan Triebert, Tracey Tully, Ali Watkins and Haley Willis. Susan C. Beachy, Jack Begg and Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.
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