A 41-year-old woman named Kathleen had just backed her car into the garage after doing a little Christmas shopping in Atlanta on Wednesday when a man approached her in the driveway and introduced himself as an FBI agent.
He wanted to talk with Kathleen about an individual she hadn’t spoken with since 2003: her ex-husband, David Anderson, the suspected 47-year-old gunman in a deadly shooting on Tuesday that authorities believe targeted Jewish people in a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Kathleen, who asked that her last name not be used out of concern for her safety, said this came as a shock.
“That was not the David I knew,” she told CNN, speaking by phone Wednesday evening.
Kathleen said the David Anderson she married in 2000 was outgoing, attentive and funny — not the David Anderson who, along with 50-year-old accomplice Francine Graham, killed four people and wounded a bystander in the hours-long firefight, according to police. Anderson and Graham were killed in the gun battle.
At a news conference Thursday, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal told reporters that both Anderson and Graham expressed interest in the Black Hebrew Israelites movement, but authorities have not found any definitive formal links between them and that organization or other groups. Authorities believe the shooters acted on their own, but were motivated by hate, and are investigating the crime as an act of domestic terrorism.
“Based on what we have collected so far however, including based on recent witness interviews, we believe that the suspects held views that reflected hatred of the Jewish people, as well as a hatred of law enforcement,” Grewal said.
Kathleen and Anderson met while stationed together in Germany with the US Army. Her description of their time together is remarkable for its normalcy — a stark contrast from the violence and criminal activity that characterized his later years.
Ex-wife says Anderson ‘wasn’t a flashy person’
Kathleen said Anderson was never violent in her presence.
But a 2009 police report years later details a domestic-violence incident in which Anderson allegedly threatened to kill his then-girlfriend. In addition, there were two other cases, in 2003 and 2007, where Anderson was arrested for unlawful possession of weapons. In both cases, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to jail, according to court records obtained by CNN.
Kathleen divorced him after her 2003 discharge and returned to Georgia while he remained in Germany — a move she attributed in part to the ocean between them, but also to an increased emotional distance. They did not have children.
Kathleen was about 22 and Anderson about 28 when they met on the base in 2000.
“I thought he was a nice-looking guy,” she said. “He made me laugh.”
They both served in the same maintenance unit at the Babenhausen base near Frankfurt. She was an electronics technician and he worked in the same building as a fuel and electrical system repairer, according to Army public affairs at the Pentagon, which confirmed that Anderson served from September 1999 to September 2003.
“They dealt with a lot of chemicals, the battery acid,” said Kathleen, who is currently a stay-at-home mother with children from a later marriage. “You had to have like a suit and mask.”
Kathleen and Anderson eloped at a German courthouse after a couple months of dating. They moved into an apartment, where Anderson set up a recording studio and self-produced hip-hop songs. Though Kathleen said she cannot recall what the songs were about, she remembers what they not about “money or fancy cars,” or “anything questionable.”
“I know what kind of a person I am. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable with him rapping about anything negative,” she said. “He wasn’t a flashy person … If anything (the lyrics) just had to do with just life, just him growing up in Jersey.”
Anderson looked up to his father, a musician who raised Anderson after Anderson’s mother died when he was just a boy, Kathleen said.
Although Kathleen does not remember Anderson ever espousing extreme views about Jews or other races or religions, she said he was a religious young man who often carried around a Bible.
“He would just sit around (the apartment) and read it,” she said. “He wasn’t like a Bible pusher.”
For fun, they went to movies, ate with friends and attended frequent German festivals, complete with bratwurst, schnitzel and beer.
Kathleen returned to her home in Georgia in early 2003. Anderson planned to join her after his stint. They talked on the phone, but she remembers their relationship started to “kind of go distant. I know for me; I can’t say for him. He really didn’t want the divorce, but I did.”
After the divorce, she said, he moved back to New Jersey. He reached out to her once by phone in 2003.
“He was just checking to see how I was doing,” she said.
Arrested three times after return from Germany
When Anderson came back from Germany in 2003, police and court records paint a picture of a different life. That same year Anderson was arrested in New Jersey for possession of weapons “with purpose to use it unlawfully against a person or property of another,” according to court records, and was sentenced to 11 months in jail.
Four years later in 2007, he was arrested again in Ohio, this time for the possession of a weapon. He received a 14-month jail sentence.
In September 2009, he was arrested in a domestic violence incident in Kent, Ohio, during which he told his girlfriend, “I’m gonna kill you. I feel like killing you,” according to the police report. He pleaded guilty to criminal mischief but not to domestic violence and was ordered to pay a $250 fine and complete 16 hours of community service, according to court records.
Sometimes in recent years Kathleen would type his name into social-media search engines on a whim. But the searches always served up a bevy of David Andersons — none of them him — and she would let it go.
CNN found an Instagram account which appears to belong to Anderson where he posts about his music and running a mobile store out of a van because he couldn’t get a job as a felon.
The most recent post from January 2015 is captioned “Revelations 1:13-15 Jesus comes from the tribe of JUDAH!!!!!!!!!!!! Y’all n***** better wake the f*** up before its too late. America has NOTHING for us but DEATH.”
On one Facebook page that is thought to belong to Anderson, under the name Dawada Maqabath, the author’s “info” said “Tool of TMH.” “TMH” can refer to God, or “The Most High.”
The Black Hebrew Israelite movement is best known for its confrontational brand of street preaching in urban areas, but it has a complex history in the United States, with sects and branches splintering over theological and leadership disputes. Scholars say what unites most Black Israelites is the belief that blacks are the true descendants of biblical Jews.
Some members have expressed anti-Semitic sentiments in the past. However, the Southern Poverty Law Center does not recognize the overall movement as a hate group.
Authorities were checking into a note found in the stolen U-Haul truck used by the shooters that contained both anti-Semitic and anti-police writing, a law enforcement source told CNN.
Posts with similar sentiments have been found on social media linked to the shooters, the source said.
Kathleen says she never saw those posts. As the years went by, Anderson faded from her daily concerns, though she would fleetingly think of him when she read anything about New Jersey. She vaguely thought of him on Tuesday, when reading the news about the shooting in Jersey City.
But she says she had no idea her ex-husband had been involved until Wednesday, when the FBI agent showed up in her driveway and spoke to her while she was still clutching bags filled with Christmas presents.
When the agent told Kathleen that Anderson was one of the suspected shooters, she was stunned – not only by his involvement, but also by a simultaneous realization.
“He was killed,” she remembers telling the agent, who nodded.
“So that — that hurt too,” she told CNN. “It was hurtful all the way around. I hate that — how his life ended. Or that’s a place in his mind that he was at. I guess that’s the troubling part for me. Because I’m still in shock from just knowing that it was him.”