Six people, including a police officer and three bystanders, were killed in a furious gunbattle that filled the streets of Jersey City with the sound of heavy fire for hours on Tuesday, authorities said. The deceased also included two gunmen, Jersey City Police Chief Michael Kelly said. The gunfire erupted near a cemetery and the shooting continued at a kosher supermarket about a mile away, where five more bodies were found.
Two other officers were injured in the incident, but were later released from the hospital, authorities said.
The bullets started flying early in the afternoon in the city of about 270,000 people, situated across the Hudson River from New York City. The gunmen then traveled to another part of the city in a stolen rental van and engaged police in a lengthy shootout.
Inside the grocery store, police found the bodies of who they were believed were the two gunmen and three other people who apparently happened to be there when the assailants rushed in, authorities said.
Police said they were confident the bystanders were shot by the gunmen and not by police.
The kosher grocery is a central fixture in a growing community of Orthodox Jews who have been moving to Jersey City in recent years. Authorities were unable to say why the gunmen went there.
The names of the victims inside the store were not immediately released.
City Public Safety Director James Shea said that authorities believe the bloodshed was not an act of terrorism but that it was still under investigation.
The shooting spread fear through the neighborhood and the nearby Sacred Heart School was put on lockdown as a precaution.
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!”
Police also removed what they described as a possible “incendiary device” from the rental vehicle and sent it for examination by a bomb squad. The results of that examination were not available Tuesday evening.