After initially saying the Monday shootings that left six dead in Jersey City, N.J., were a random act, officials now disclose that one of the two attackers had published anti-Semitic posts online and had, in fact, targeted the site, the New York Times reports.
A senior law enforcement official said the attack on the kosher market is now being investigated as a hate crime, reported NBC.
“The report from the Jersey City mayor saying it was a targeted attack makes us incredibly concerned in the Jewish community,” said Evan Bernstein, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish civil rights organization, in an interview with the Associated Press.
“They want answers,” said Bernstein. “They demand answers. If this was truly a targeted killing of Jews, then we need to know that right away, and there needs to be the pushing back on this at the highest levels possible.”
On Wednesday night, hundreds flooded the streets in Jersey City to mourn the victims killed, reported CNN.
Surveillance video has indicated the kosher market was targeted. Three people inside the market 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.
The two assailants were also killed, as was a police officer.
The assailants were confirmed as David N. Anderson, 47, and his girlfriend, Francine Graham, 50. 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 a decade ago, say media reports.
Graham worked as a home health aide, her neighbors in Elizabeth, N.J., said, until an injury she suffered on the job left her unable to work. She and Anderson may have been living in his van.
Anderson was 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,” reported the New York Times.
According to initial investigations, Anderson made numerous anti-police comments on social media and online video pages, glorified Baton Rouge police shooter Gavin Long, unleashed anti-Semitic and anti-Christian vitriol, and called non-black Jewish people “imposters.”
CNN reported, “The Black Hebrew Israelite movement is best known for its confrontational brand of street preaching in urban areas but it has a complex history in the United States, with sects and branches splintering over theological and leadership disputes.”
“Scholars say what unites most Black Israelites is the belief that African Americans are the true descendants of biblical Jews,” according to CNN.