When bullets started flying at a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, David Lax pushed his way past one of the shooters to escape.
Lax was in the JC Kosher Supermarket on Tuesday when a heavily armed man and woman stormed in, killing three people before engaging in an hours-long standoff with police.
“The way they came in, they came to kill, to shoot,” Lax, who runs an appliance repair shop in the neighborhood, told CNN on Friday.
Lax said he initially hid in the salad bar area and saw the male shooter, wearing a black raincoat, pass by him. When he stood up, the female shooter carrying a “long gun” was facing him.
“The second she starts pivoting herself, I just went right in and push back her arm and just run right out of the store,” Lax said.
He said the woman fired her weapon at him as he ran out of the store. Surveillance footage captured the moment the shooters opened fire as they walk inside the market. A man, who NBC News has identified as Lax, runs out the store and across the street. He said he was lucky because he ran in front of a car that seconds later pulled away from the store.
“I didn’t look right or left, I just ran for my life,” he said.
Attack was an act of terrorism, officials say
Authorities are not yet sure why the shooters, David N. Anderson, 47, and Francine Graham, 50, attacked the store, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said. But it is being investigated as an act of terrorism with “a hate-crime bias slant.”
“We believe the suspects held views that reflected hatred of the Jewish people, as well as a hatred of law enforcement,” Grewal said, citing evidence and witness interviews.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said Friday it was important to call out anti-Semitism.
“We’ve always had a diverse community and I think people need to realize that if anti-Semitism can exist in a place that’s accustomed to diversity, it can really exist anywhere,” Fulop told CNN’s “New Day.”
“And every day and every moment that you don’t call it out, you’re wasting an opportunity to bring attention to it because there’s less eyes focused on it.”
Both shooters expressed an interest in the Black Hebrew Israelites movement, though neither appear to have formal links to the movement, Grewal said. Some members of the movement have expressed anti-Semitic sentiments in the past.
“Our community has been terrorized once again by violent anti-Semitism,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement. “From Pittsburgh to Poway, and now to Jersey City, the disease that is anti-Semitism has clearly spread to epidemic proportions.”
“But we will not be defeated, we will not stand down, we will not be intimidated,” Greenblatt said.
Investigators are checking a note found in a stolen U-Haul truck that the killers drove to the market – a note that contained both anti-Semitic and anti-police writing, a law enforcement source told CNN. Posts with similar sentiments also have been found on social media linked to the shooters, the source said.
The FBI has also issued a notice to law enforcement in the region “requesting assistance locating a vehicle associated with” Anderson.
Investigators are looking for a white 2001 Ford van, with New Jersey license plate B40-JSD.
Deadly attack began at a cemetery
Authorities have said that the attack began near a city cemetery where the shooters killed Jersey City Police Detective Joseph Seals.
He was trying to stop the shooters when he was killed, police have said.
A bystander called 911 to report Seals’ body at the cemetery at 12:38 p.m., authorities said. But by that time, the shooters had already driven the stolen U-Haul to the market and began their attack.
Surveillance video shows the pair get out, and a man — Anderson, police say — walks directly toward the store, apparently ignoring several people on the sidewalk nearby, and starts firing a gun into it before entering. Graham follows, police say.
Police arrived at the supermarket around 20 minutes after the attack began, starting a long shootout that left two police officers injured.
The shooters were armed with an AR-15-style rifle, a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun, a 9 mm Ruger semiautomatic pistol and a 9 mm Glock 17 pistol, with a pipe bomb and a .22 caliber Ruger pistol with a homemade silencer found in the U-Haul, Grewal said. If not for the actions of the police, they could have done more harm, Grewal said.
Around 3:25 p.m., an armored vehicle broke into the supermarket’s entryway, and law enforcement soon found the bodies of the three victims and two attackers inside the store, Grewal said.
The three people in the market were Mindy Ferencz, 31, the store’s co-owner; Moshe Deutsch, 24, a customer; and Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, 49, a store employee.
Store owner was next door as his wife died
Two of the four victims were laid to rest Wednesday night.
In Jersey City, crowds of men in black hats surrounded Ferencz’s casket in the Jersey City neighborhood of Greenville at the site of a synagogue under construction. Hundreds of women, separated from the men as per Orthodox Jewish tradition, were standing in the bitter cold sobbing.
Ferencz owned the store with her husband, who was next door at the small synagogue at the time of the attack, according to Yossi Steinmetz who was there as well.
When shots broke out, her husband desperately tried to call her and tell her to lock the doors to take cover, Steinmetz said. She didn’t answer.
At Deutsch’s Brooklyn funeral, mourners spoke in Hebrew through tears as at least a dozen NYPD counterterrorism officers and nearly 100 “Shomrim” members — Hebrew for guardians — stood watch.
Deutsch and Ferencz both had ties to the Jewish community in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
“This is just an atrocity. Of course, we accept everything, but this is more than we can handle,” Deutsch’s cousin, also named Moshe Deutsch, told CNN. “The question is, is it a sign of hatred? Is it a sign that we are not safe in New York anymore?”
CNN’s Nicole Chavez, Julia Jones, Elizabeth Joseph, Melanie Schuman, Alec Snyder, Alexandra Field, Rob Frehse, Evan Simko-Bednarski and Julian Cummings contributed to this report.