Jersey City

‘Wild Wild West': Witnesses Describe Jersey City Shootout

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What to Know

  • One police officer was killed and two others were shot amid shootout in Jersey City Tuesday
  • All public schools in Jersey City were shut down by early afternoon, and students remained in place into the evening
  • Two suspects were shot and killed, as were three other civilians who were inside a store where the shooters fled

The shootout that took to the streets of Jersey City Tuesday afternoon -- prompting school lockdowns, as well as police and residents to take cover, and ultimately claimed the life of an officer and multiple others -- was a scene straight out of the “Wild Wild West,” according to witnesses.

George Porch described being told by police to hide in a salvation army down the block from where the shooting happened.

“They said lock the door and get to the back as they were shooting up the block” Porch  said, adding he was worried about being a victim of a stray bullet.

Porch described he didn’t get to see the direction of where the gunfire was coming from, saying: “I don't know where it was coming from. But it was coming down the streets and I seen the unmarked police men firing back...trying to get their way out of the way.”

“I watch TV and all. This is the real deal -- the Wild Wild West. SWAT jumped back behind the truck and I knew it was the real. I don't know what's going on,” Porch went on to say.

"I watch TV and all. This is the real deal -- the Wild Wild West. SWAT jumped back behind the truck and I knew it was the real. "

George Porch, Witness

Six people died -- including a police officer, two suspects and three civilians -- during an "ambush" active shooter situation at a bodega in Jersey City Tuesday.

Law enforcement sources identified the dead officer as Det. Joseph Seals a married father of five.

Mindel Ferencz and Moshe Deutsch were identified as two of the three civilians killed in the horrific shootout when a rifle-wielding duo stormed a kosher grocery store in what authorities have described as a "targeted" attack -- an attack that became an hours-long siege, with 100 bullets fired and all public schools forced locked down.

At least one wounded civilian, along with the two wounded officers, are expected to survive, officials said. The circumstances of the hours-long shootout remain uncertain and the situation, which forced every public school in Jersey City into lockdown mode, was fluid for hours.

One police officer has been shot in the head amid an ongoing active shooter situation at a bodega in Jersey City Tuesday, according to the preliminary investigation, a senior law enforcement official tells News 4.

Police responded en masse to Jersey City Medical Center, according to News 4 reporters on the scene, where some of the victims were taken there. It wasn't clear if the other two injured officers were wounded by gunfire, but both were expected to survive, a senior official told News 4.

Heavily armed local and state officers in SWAT trucks swarmed the scene, ducking behind doorways and store entrances -- some even crawling along sidewalks, closely pressed to the ground -- as they zeroed in on the bodega. Gunshots -- dozens of them, it appeared -- continued to ring out throughout the afternoon, based on audio from the scene. The streets in the immediate area were totally empty of what would normally be heavy pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

Loud volleys of gunfire could be heard at regular intervals but subsided around 2 p.m. in the city, which is just across the Hudson River from Manhattan and is New Jersey's second-largest city after Newark. Dozens of bystanders pressed against the police barrier to film the action on cellphones, some whooping when gunfire bursts filled the air.

Dramatic radio transmissions captured on Broadcastify show the delicate nature of the situation.

“Units be advised more shots fired! You are reminded to continue to take cover,” radio transmissions captured Jersey City first responders saying, adding: “All units are to maintain cover.”

Ray Villeda reports from outside Jersey City Medical Center where a police officer who was critically injured in an active shooter situation Tuesday is being treated.

Additional radio transmission captured on Broadcastify show chaos and uncertainty of the situation that was fluid for hours as authorities tried to determine what exactly was taking place.

"He’s running roof to roof...He’s on the roof wearing all black,” according to radio transmission from the scene. “He had something in his hand. I don’t know if it’s a pistol or a phone. I can’t confirm. “

Video from the scene captured the tense moments lived by first responders, as NBC 4 reporter Adam Kuperstein was giving a live on-air update on the active shooter situation when gun shots began to intensify, sending him and a video journalist running for cover.

Kuperstein, who was behind the police line that was set up as a perimeter around the scene to keep onlookers away, said he could smell the gunsmoke from where he was covering the intense moments of the shootout occurring in real-time.

Andy Patel, who works at a liquor store about three blocks away from the site of the shooting site, said there had been consistent gunfire fire for about an hour. There was a brief pause -- and cops used the time to clear streets.

“It's like firecrackers going off. They were shooting like crazy about an hour ago. Then it stopped for like 20 or 30 minutes,” Patel said.

Another witness said he saw the gunman take cover inside a store and continue shooting at police, who returned fire.

“It's like firecrackers going off. They were shooting like crazy about an hour ago. Then it stopped for like 20 or 30 minutes."

Andy patel, witness

Chabad Rabbi Moshe Schapiro, co-director of Chabad of Hoboken and Jersey City, was with the surviving victim at the hospital. He tells NBC New York that the young man said he was grateful to be alive.

The new details came shortly after local authorities announced a review of surveillance video clearly showed the market was targeted, though they, along with state and federal investigators, say a precise motive remains under investigation.

The footage shows the shooters deliberately bypass other people on the busy street, aiming directly for people inside the kosher deli. Information continues to develop, and while authorities said Tuesday that it appeared the standoff began with the deadly shooting of a police officer at a separate site, Jersey City officials said Wednesday that the bloodshed began at the market.

Senior law enforcement officials told News 4 it appears the suspect or suspects arrived at the scene in a truck. They wanted to check that truck as a precaution to ensure the vehicle itself is not a threat.

Federal ATF and FBI agents in Newark also confirmed they responded to the scene to assist as needed. About a dozen schools in the vicinity were locked down initially. By 2 p.m., the lockdown order extended to every public school in the entire city, the district's superintendent said.

"I have every confidence in our law enforcement professionals to ensure the safety of the community and resolve this situation. Today reminds us of their bravery and the sacrifices they, and their families, make for our communities," New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement.

President Trump has been briefed on the situation, the White House said, and he later tweeted that "thoughts & prayers are w/ the victims & their families during the very difficult & tragic time."

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal tweeted after the incident:
"Our hearts break for the family of the fallen @jcpolicedept officer and for the entire law enforcement family. Today's tragic events serve as a stark reminder of how our brave first responders stand ready to run to danger at a moment's notice to keep us safe."

Copyright NBC New York/Associated Press
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