JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Six people were killed – including a police officer and three bystanders – in a raging gun battle Tuesday at three locations in Jersey City, forcing schools into lockdown and rattling nearby residents in the city’s second active shooter situation this year.
Detective Joseph Seals, a married father of five, was shot near a cemetery and was pronounced dead at a hospital, police chief Mike Kelly said at a press conference. Three unidentified civilians and two suspected gunmen died at a kosher supermarket. A second officer was struck in the shoulder by gunfire, and a third was struck in the body.
Both wounded officers — Ray Sanchez and Mariela Fernandez — were released from the hospital, Kelly said.
Authorities said there was no immediate indication of terrorism.
The shootout began when officers received a call of shots fired at a supermarket, which is next to a synagogue and yeshiva, in the city’s Greenville neighborhood across the Hudson River from Lower Manhattan, around 12:30 p.m, Kelly said. Officers arriving on the scene were met by high-power rifle fire, he said.
Hudson County Sheriff’s Department, Jersey City Police, Newark FBI and Newark ATF responded to the scene, and law enforcement formed a perimeter around the supermarket, Kelly said. The shootout continued for nearly four hours.
A stream of loud gunshots could be heard in the vicinity around 2 p.m.
Here in Jersey City where tuners were reports of an active. Hudson County Sheriff’s Dept & Jersey City Police on scene. pic.twitter.com/GpIUjrU7xH
— Keldy Ortiz (@KeldyOrtiz) December 10, 2019
Meanwhile, Seals, dressed in civilian clothes, had been working about a half-mile away when he encountered “bad guys,” Kelly said.
Seals was well-known among police for his work taking guns off the street, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop. “He was a good cop,” he said.
“I’m sure his children expected him to return home,” Kelly said.
This is Det Joe Seals who was killed in the line of duty today! He was a husband and father of 5. He is a #Hero and died protecting the citizens of Jersey City! God Bless his family and all of the JCPD members! #JerseyCityShooting @JCPoliceDept pic.twitter.com/pvs62bb0af
— NJ Chiefs of Police (@NJSACOP) December 10, 2019
Kelly said the crime scene is “very extensive” and encompasses at least three locations, including the cemetery, the supermarket and a stolen U-Haul vehicle, which was being examined by a bomb squad.
Public Safety Director James Shea said the incident was the city’s second active shooter situation this year.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the men and women of the Jersey City Police Department, especially with the officers shot during this standoff, and with the residents and schoolchildren currently under lockdown,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in a tweet.
I have been briefed on the unfolding situation in Jersey City. Our thoughts and prayers are with the men and women of the Jersey City Police Department, especially with the officers shot during this standoff, and with the residents and schoolchildren currently under lockdown.
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) December 10, 2019
Sacred Heart School, a Catholic elementary school across the street from the supermarket, was locked down, along with all Jersey City schools. No students or staff were harmed, the School District of Jersey City said in a Facebook post.
Anxious parents and loved ones finally reunited with their children after sundown, when 30,000 students at 43 schools were dismissed.
Jersey City resident James Scott, 45, said he was nearby when he heard gunfire.
“I was on the corner of Martin Luther King. Next thing you know there was shots fired. We all ducked to the ground. I got out of here,” Scott said.
Andy Patel, who works at a liquor store about three blocks away, said gunfire rang out continuously for about an hour Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s like firecrackers going off. They were shooting like crazy about an hour ago. Then it stopped for like 20 or 30 minutes. The cops were clearing everyone off the streets,” he said.
President Donald Trump said in a tweet that he was praying for the victims of this “horrific shootout” and their families.
“We need a lot of prayers right now for Jersey City officers. Keep all those involved in your thoughts,” the NJSPBA said.
The incident came days after a Saudi aviator in training opened fire at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida, killing three and wounding several others before being shot by police.
Contributing: The Associated Press
USA TODAY’s Grace Hauck reported from Chicago. Anthony Zurita and Keldy Ortiz reported from Jersey City.