After a detective was shot and killed in a Jersey City cemetery, a raging shootout broke out Tuesday between police and two suspects about a mile away, with hundreds of rounds exchanged over two hours as a bustling neighborhood was transformed into a deadly battlefield.
By the time it ended, six people were dead - the detective, two suspects who fired at police from inside a small supermarket, and three bystanders who had been inside the store when the shooting began.
The detective was identified as Joseph Seals, a father of five from North Arlington who was part of a department tasked to get guns off of the city's streets. Seals was on duty and in plainclothes when he was shot by at least one of the suspects at Bayview Cemetery.
"We believe he was killed while trying to interdict these bad guys," said Jersey City Police Chief Michael Kelly.
Authorities said they did not know why the detective was there but that they were looking into whether it was part of an investigation. They said a stolen U-Haul truck that possibly contained an explosive device was found and removed from the area.
Kelly said he had "no inkling on motive."
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was on the scene along with the FBI. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Newark said on social media that it was part of the investigation along with state and local authorities.
The shootout lasted roughly two hours before police killed the suspects at about 2:30 p.m. The two suspects, who were not identified, and three other people were found dead inside the store.
The bystanders were struck by rounds thought to have been fired by the suspects, police said. They were inside a kosher grocery store in a section of the city that has become a home for about 100 Orthodox Jewish families.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said he and other authorities met with the detective's relatives on Tuesday. "We cried with the family," Fulop said.
Kelly said police found out around 12:30 p.m. that Seals had been shot - around the same time they received a call about shots fired on Martin Luther King Drive in the Greenville section of the city.
Police who responded were confronted with "high-powered rifle fire" from two gunmen who were inside the JC Kosher Supermarket, according to Kelly.
The bystanders killed inside the store were struck by "bad-guy gunfire," the chief said.
Late Tuesday, Fulop wrote in a tweet that based on then initial, ongoing investigation, the "active shooters targeted the location they attacked."
The identities of the three bystanders were not released as of Tuesday night. Police did not say whether anyone else was in the store. But no other civilians were reported to be injured outside the store as a barrage of bullets sprayed back and forth for hours on a street that is usually packed with people but had been cordoned off by police.
Seals was pronounced dead at a hospital, and the three civilians and two suspects died inside the store, Kelly said. A second officer was struck in the shoulder and a third in the body during the shootout at the store, Kelly said.
Both officers - Ray Sanchez and Mariela Fernandez - had been released from the hospital by late afternoon.
"I can just tell you that they were very, very brave, along with many men and women out there," Kelly said.
Seals joined the Police Department in 2006 and had been stationed in the South District, which Kelly said is "one of the busiest [precincts] in the state of New Jersey," with a "high volume of violent crime." He was promoted in the last few years to detective and assigned to the city's Cease Fire Unit.
"He was our leading police officer in removing guns from the street," Kelly said. "Dozens and dozens of handguns he is responsible for removing from the street."
Seals' family lives on a quiet street of two-story single-family homes in North Arlington. Friends were seen leaving the family home Tuesday in tears, and neighbors called the veteran detective's death a "real tragedy."
Victoria Frankowski, 29, lives up the block and described the Seals as a great family that was always kind to hers. She found about her neighbor's death as many in her neighborhood did: while watching the news.
"It was really upsetting - especially on my block. Right?" Frankowski said. "It doesn't seem like anything like this is going to hit super close to home. Then it did."
A family friend who stopped by the home said Seals was "an awesome guy, a great dad, always there with the kids." The man, who declined to give his name, said the family is strong and appeared to be holding up better than he would have expected.
Gov. Phil Murphy arrived in the area of the shootout in the late afternoon along with U.S. Sen. Cory Booker and state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. The governor was expected to be briefed in the early evening.
"Tonight, we should all hold our kids a little closer," the governor said, adding that "there are no ongoing threats to public safety that have any connections to today's events."
"Jersey City is a strong and resilient community," Murphy said. "Tomorrow we will think of those lost, and in their names we will think of how we can ensure that this doesn't ever happen again."
Craig Carpenito, the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, released a statement on social media saying: "Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the four victims of the horror that unfolded today in Jersey City, including Jersey City PD Det. Joe Seals."
President Donald Trump tweeted that he had been briefed on the shooting and was monitoring the situation.
"Just received a briefing on the horrific shootout that took place in Jersey City, NJ. Our thoughts & prayers are w/ the victims & their families during this very difficult & tragic time. We will continue to monitor the situation as we assist local & state officials on the ground," Trump tweeted.
Jersey City resident James Scott, 45, was at Martin Luther King Drive and Wilkerson Avenue when he heard gunfire.
"I was on the corner of Martin Luther King. Next thing you know there was shots fired. We all ducked to the ground. I got out of here," Scott said.
Lorenzo Richardson, who works at the Urban League of Hudson County on Martin Luther King Drive, said that around 12:30 p.m. he started hearing a "very loud boom." He was locked in his office while speaking to a reporter about it.
"Big, big shots. [They] sounded like it came from a cannon. You can hear through the windows, through the inner walls," Richardson said.
All Jersey City schools were on lockdown until 4:15 p.m., when Fulop said students would start to be released. The school district had tweeted that it would not release students until given clearance by law enforcement.
The New Jersey turnpike closed exit ramps at Interchange 14B in Jersey City at about 2 p.m. because of the shootout.
The New Jersey State Policemen's Benevolent Association tweeted a message of support to Jersey City police.
"We need a lot of prayers right now for Jersey City officers. Keep all those involved in your thoughts," the NJSPBA tweeted.
Staff Writers Ricardo Kaulessar, Melanie Anzidei, Scott Fallon, Terrence McDonald, Steve Janoski, Svetlana Shkolnikova, Hannan Adely and Jessie Gomez contributed to this article.
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This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Jersey City shooting: How a cop-killing led to a gunbattle and 6 dead