UPDATE: Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop said late Tuesday that the attackers targeted their location.


JERSEY CITY — An hours-long standoff that turned a city neighborhood into a war zone as police on the streets and students in their schools ducked for cover began with the fatal shooting of a 40-year-old officer who tried to take down armed suspects, officials said.

Detective Joseph Seals was tasked with removing illegal guns off the streets. On Tuesday, one took his life after he was shot near the Bayview Cemetery on Garfield Avenue, police said.

Four hours later, police believed that two suspects had been shot dead along with three other civilians inside a kosher market next to a Jewish school and across the street from a Catholic elementary school. Police believe that the civilians were killed by the suspects.

After the shooting near the cemetery, two men in a stolen U-Haul truck then drove about a mile to Martin Luther King Drive, where they holed up in a kosher market and opened fire.

Police got a call about shots fired at the block about 12:30. Officers responded and were hit with "high-powered rifle fire," Police Chief Michael Kelly said.

Two police officers — Ray Sanchez and Farinella Fernandez — were injured in the gunfire. Both were released from the hospital before the evening, officials said.

Also injured was Newark Police Officer Joe Kerik, the son of NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who was part of a federal task force that helped take down the suspects, the New York Post reported.

AP
AP

The shooting prompted a massive police response from local and federal agencies. Dozens of schools with thousands of students remained on lockdown across the city until the evening as worried parents congregated outside the school buildings.

Police said the suspects opened fire in the direction of Sacred Heart School, prompting officials to instruct the school to send all students and staff to the opposite side of the building.

AP
AP

Officials described Seals as a married father of five children.

He had been with the police department in the state's second-largest city for about 15 years. He was promoted to detective in 2017.

As part of the department's Cease Fire Unit, Seals was responsible for confiscating dozens of firearms from criminals, Mayor Steven Fulop and police brass said Tuesday evening.

AP
AP

Fulop said Tuesday was "a tough day for Jersey City" and Seals' family.

"We cried with his family," Fulop said during a news conference. "[When he left for work this morning], I'm sure his children expected him to return home. Sometimes people don't appreciate the tough work that these police officers do every day."

AP
AP

Police officials did not identify the suspects or the other victims by name late Tuesday night.

Police believed that the U-Haul contained an explosive, which investigators removed from the area.

By 5 p.m., the weapons had not been recovered.

Police Chief Michael Kelly said Tuesday evening that the case did not appear to be related to terrorism but he said that investigators were continuing to piece together the case. He said early Tuesday evening that it was too soon to say how Seals encountered the suspects.

This is the first death of a Jersey City police officer since January 2018, when Lt. Christopher Robateau, 49, was killed on his way to work after he stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike to check on another driver involved in an accident.

The last Jersey City police officer to be killed by gunfire was Melvin Santiago, 23, a rookie officer killed in 2014 by a robber who stole a handgun from a security guard at a 24-hour pharmacy on Communipaw Avenue and John F. Kennedy Boulevard. Police said that the gunman ambushed the responding Santiago. Santiago was posthumously promoted to detective.

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Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.

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