The suspected shooters in the deadly Jersey City shootout on Tuesday have been identified, according to reports. David Anderson and Francine Graham reportedly launched a “targeted” attack on a Jewish market that left at least six people dead, NBC New York reported Wednesday morning.
One of the main things people have wanted to know is who the gunmen are and the motive for the horrific shootings that killed at least one police officer in the New Jersey city just across the Hudson River from lower Manhattan.
“Three sources say Anderson was a one-time follower of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, a group of African Americans whose members believe they are descendants of the ancient Israelites and may adhere to both Christian and Judaic beliefs,” NBC New York wrote.
One of Graham’s neighbors told NBC New York that she lived near Anderson. But the extent of their relationship was not immediately known.
“The neighbor also claims Graham was coerced into a militant religion he could not identify; chanting and reading of the New Testament, translated into ‘evil,’ could be heard from her home,” NBC New York also reported.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, who is Jewish, took to Twitter to express his thoughts before the identities were revealed. He tweeted on Tuesday that surveillance video footage he saw confirmed that “these two individuals targeted the Kosher grocery location” and went on to reference “anti-semitism” on Wednesday. Fulop, however, didn’t share any proof of the “anti-semitism,” but the New York Times reported on Wednesday that one suspect “published anti-Semitic and anti-police posts online and investigators believe the attack was motivated by those sentiments.”
Before the names of the suspects were reported, there were reports on social media that the gunmen were Muslim. Fulop addressed reports of the latter on Wednesday morning that sought to de-escalate any speculation with that narrative.
James Shea, the Jersey City Public Safety Director, said on Wednesday that closed-circuit footage showed that the shooting “did not begin with gunfire between police officers and perpetrators and then move to the store.” Instead, Shea said, “It began with an attack on the civilians inside the store” after the suspected parked and exited a “van with long guns in their hands. And they immediately begin firing in the location where we lost three of our citizens yesterday.”
Black Hebrew Israelites gained attention earlier this year during an encounter between a white teenager from Kentucky and a Native American elder at the Lincoln Memorial in January. The episode was captured on a video that went viral after Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann appeared to be taunting Nathan Phillips. But the Washington Post subsequently reported that “a small band of Hebrew Israelites” had “been goading and preaching at both the Native Americans and high schoolers, using profanity and highly provocative language, for nearly an hour.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center referred to a militant wing of the Black Hebrew Israelites as “black supremacists.”
Black-Jewish relations have been tested in recent years in part because of the political climate ushered in with the election of President Donald Trump. “With hate crimes on the rise, old coalitions between blacks and Jews are being rekindled and tested,” NPR reported.
Prior to the suspects’ identities being revealed, law enforcement seemed to be following the standard blueprint whenever there is a mass shooting suspect who is not a person of color. Typically (especially?) when the suspect is Black, police are quick to plaster a mugshot across all media. With the absence of that treatment this time around, people could be forgiven for having thought the suspects were white, a line of thinking that falls right in line with most of the other perpetrators of mass shootings in America.