Police secure Philly synagogues after 'hate-fueled' Jersey City shooting

Tim Jimenez
December 12, 2019 - 7:00 am
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UPDATED: 2 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Police all around the area are increasing security at synagogues and other places of worship in the wake of the shooting Tuesday at a Jersey City kosher supermarket

While cops say they have extra patrols out, Temple Menorah Keneseth Chai in Tacony is looking into hiring private security for upcoming services.

"The board of directors asked me to look into getting security guards inside and outside the building for services. We feel threatened," synagogue president Malcolm Adler said to CBS 3 Eyewitness News. "We just can't let our guard down, because you just never know when it's gonna hit us." 

Nearly three years ago, someone threw rocks and smashed a few windows at the synagogue.

Despite growing concern in the Jewish community, New Jersey officials say they are not ready to comment on a motive for that shooting.

"Speculation distracts from the investigation," said Gregory Ehrie with the FBI.

The mayor of Jersey City, Steven Fulop, is not holding back. On Twitter, he called the shooting "a hate crime against Jewish people." 

However, state officials like Attorney General Gurbir Grewal are being more careful.

"We know that there is significant speculation about the shooters' motives. We are not in the position at this time to say definitively why the suspects decided to stop in front of the supermarket and begin firing immediately," Grewal said Wednesday.

Grewal and authorities believe the suspects, David Anderson and Francine Graham, were acting on their own, and they were firing only at law enforcement officers. But he said at a Jersey City news conference Thursday afternoon that there are indications from social media posts that the suspects harbored resentment toward Jewish people and police officers. 

“The evidence points toward acts of hate,” he said. “I can confirm that we're investigating this matter as potential acts of domestic terrorism, fueled both by anti-Semitism and anti-law enforcement beliefs.”

Grewal said authorities recovered five guns from the scene — four inside the market and one in a stolen U-Haul parked outside — including an AR-15-style rifle and a shotgun. A pipebomb was also discovered in the van.

It's been reported that the pair were linked to the Black Hebrew Israelites, an anti-white and anti-Semitic movement, but Grewal said a definitive link to the organization had not yet been established. 

Grewal did link the two suspects to another killing that happened nearby over the weekend.

He and other officials also had high praise for the way law enforcement handled the shooting.

"If not for the tremendous work of law enforcement, from the immediate response of the Jersey City Police Department to the support from the state police and local and federal agencies, we would be coming to terms with a much starker reality," Gov. Phil Murphy said.

Six people in all were killed in the rampage — Detective Joseph Seals, an officer gunned down at a cemetery; the killers; and three people who had been inside the store.

The victims killed in the store were: Mindel Ferencz, 31, who with her husband owned the grocery; 24-year-old Moshe Deutsch, a rabbinical student from Brooklyn who was shopping there; and store employee Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, 49.

Murphy says there are no more security concerns in the state related to the shooting.

The prospect of attacks against Jews weighed heavily on the more than 300 people who attended a vigil Wednesday night at a synagogue about a mile from where the shootings took place.

In the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history, 11 people were killed in an October 2018 shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Last April, a gunman opened fire at a synagogue near San Diego, killing a woman and wounding a rabbi and two others.

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KYW Newsradio's Andrew Kramer and Mike DeNardo as well as the Associated Press contributed to this report.