JERSEY CITY, N.J. (WSJ) —Mayor Steven Fulop is calling for tougher federal gun laws and said the city was reviewing how to improve its active-shooter response after the recent attack here on a Jewish grocery store.
The mayor called on Congress to enact stronger firearms laws to curb out-of-state gun trafficking, noting that law-enforcement officials have said some of the weapons used in the Dec. 10 shootout were obtained in Ohio.
Shootings and homicides have fallen in Jersey City in recent years, but police continue to confiscate about 300 illegal guns a year in the city, hampering efforts to curb violence, Mr. Fulop said.
“We need change on the federal front,” Mr. Fulop, a Democrat, said in an interview. “Despite the fact that we make inroads on the policing front, it feels like we are swimming upstream.”
The Jersey City Police Department’s emergency-services unit will be meeting with active-shooter consultants in the coming weeks to discuss the hourslong standoff with two assailants earlier this month to examine what improvements could be made, Mr. Fulop said.
Officials also plan to enhance lines of emergency communication with parochial schools. Some smaller schools near the grocery store could have been better integrated with the city’s emergency-notification system, he said.
Federal and state law-enforcement officials have opened a domestic-terrorism investigation into the shootout at the Jersey City Kosher Supermarket, where three people were killed, including two Hasidic Jews. Investigators also said the shooters killed a Jersey City Police Department detective at a nearby cemetery.
The shooters, who died during an exchange of gunfire with police, held views that reflected hatred of Jews and law enforcement, investigators said.
NJ Gov.Murphy went to see first hand the carnage the following day. Gov. Murphy gave support and words of encouragement to the Jewish community at the synagogue which is adjacent to the Kosher grocery where the attack took place.
The Governor said he will leave it to law enforcement to do its job and update the public and not jump to conclusions or get in the way of the investigation.
Mr. Fulop, who comes from a family of Holocaust survivors, defended comments he made after the attack that got ahead of what investigators said, including when he called the shooting a hate crime that targeted Jews.
“I feel like I had a different responsibility than [law enforcement] did,” he said. “Had I not been forthright with them, I thought it would have done a disservice to my relationship long term. And so I said how I thought I saw it, and I ended up being right.”
The mayor also said he thought the assailants initially targeted the yeshiva next door to the grocery store, where there were about 50 children during the time of the shootout.
The shooters likely picked the yeshiva because it is the center of the Jewish community in Jersey City, not the grocery store, Mr. Fulop said. The male shooter can also be seen on surveillance footage heading in the direction of the yeshiva before entering the grocery store, he said.
Law-enforcement officials have warned against speculation like Mr. Fulop’s.
“The public needs to know that the FBI continues to follow leads in the case to piece together not only what happened, but why,” said Gregory Ehrie, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Newark office. “Speculation by non-law-enforcement channels only muddies the waters and makes our job more difficult.”
As the investigation proceeds and law-enforcement officials comb through the web searches of the two assailants, Mr. Fulop said he was confident his theory about the shooters initially targeting the yeshiva would be proven.
“There is no book on it—on what you should do or shouldn’t do,” Mr. Fulop said. “I have no regrets, though, on anything that I’ve done over the last week, on how we’ve acted as an administration on this.”
Write to Joseph De Avila at [email protected]
When officials aren’t upfront with the information the public is desperately seeking they are criticized. Now that Mayor Fulop stood up for his community he is being criticized. This is just one of those times that we see no matter what a politician does it’s a no-win situation.
Did the Mayor jeopardize any investigation? NO. So why the politics?
Sources tell me some people have a personal vendetta against the Mayor for his comments made to a NY Times reporter in 2013 and say the Mayor is partially to blame for the antisemitism. Hopefully cooler heads will prevail.
The shooters were going to go to the yeshiva but pivoted to the kosher grocery store as shown in CCRTV video surveillance. The terrorists also turned on the gas full blast on the first and second floors. There is no question that the terrorist was trying to blow up the entire building. Right after the shooting ended the NYPD requested gas shut off to the entire building but nobody did it and nobody followed up. On December 11th the smell was so bad that the NJFD received multiple 911 calls for a gas smell! The amount of ammunition plus a pipe bomb wasn’t to just kill a few people in a grocery store.
There were usually around 12 to 25 customers in the store daily at the time of the shooting. Every person I spoke to told me of a miracle of why they or others were not in the store at the time of the attack.
A back door also led to the yeshiva. It’s a miracle the terrorists didn’t run out the back door to escape the police from the front of the building. Residents say there was no police covering the back during the attack or at least in the initial 90 minutes of the attack.
A boss who decided to buy lunch for employees on that specific day saving others from being in that store at that specific time. A boy seen running in the CCRTV video was a few seconds off by entering the store. There are many stories of miracles during this horrible tragedy.