Officer, five others dead in violent Jersey City shootout

Police officers arrive at the scene following reports of gunfire, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019, in Jersey City, N.J. AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

By DAVID PORTER

A police officer, two suspects and and three bystanders were killed in a furious gun battle Tuesday that filled the streets of Jersey City with the sound of heavy gunfire for hours.

Two other officers were wounded but were later released from the hospital, authorities said.

Jersey City Police Chief Michael Kelly said Tuesday night that Detective Joseph Seals, a 15-year member of the force assigned to an anti-firearms task force, was believed to have been shot in one of the initial conflicts with the two reportedly male suspects. Published reports indicated the violence erupted from an apparent drug deal gone bad.

The first gunfire broke out outside the Bayview Cemetery, where Seals was gunned down. The suspects then engaged police in an wild exchange of gunfire from a kosher supermarket. Five bodies, including two suspects, were found there once the bullets stopped flying, Kelly noted as the most likely probability.

“Our officers were under fire for hours,” the chief said.

As of early Tuesday evening, Kelly did not pinpoint what set off the shooting, but that he believes the officer who was killed was trying to stop some “bad guys.”

Kelly reported that the shooters had stolen a U-Haul vehicle, which may have contained explosive devices. The NYPD specifically its ESU was brought in to assist the Jersey City PD and is currently investigating the nature of the devices recovered.

City Public Safety Director James Shea said that investigators believe the bloodshed was not an act of terrorism, but an investigation remained ongoing and could take weeks, according to Kelly.

The bullets started flying early at about 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 10 in the outskirts of city of with a population 270,000 people.

The shooting spread fear through the neighborhood, and every school in Jersey City went on lockdown as a precaution. 

Bystanders look out from a store as law enforcement arrives at the scene following reports of gunfire, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019, in Jersey City, N.J. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

SWAT teams, state police and federal agents converged on the scene, and police blocked off the area, which in addition to the school and supermarket included a hair salon and other shops.

Dozens of bystanders pressed against the police barrier to capture the action on their cellphones, some whooping when bursts of fire could be heard.

Video shot by residents recorded loud volleys of gunfire reverberating along one of the city’s main streets and showed a long line of law enforcement officers pointing guns as they advanced, yelling to bystanders, “Clear the street! Get out of the way!”

“It’s like firecrackers going off,” said Andy Patel, who works at a liquor store about three blocks away. “They were shooting like crazy. … The cops were clearing everyone off the streets.”

Loud volleys of gunfire could be heard at regular intervals but subsided around 2 p.m. in the city, which is New Jersey’s second-largest city after Newark. 

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives responded to the incident. The New York Police Department sent emergency services personnel, and the forces Counterterrorism Unit was monitoring the situation.

With additional reporting by Alex Mitchell of amNewYork

Associated Press