By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - The gunmen who died in a firefight with police intentionally targeted a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, New Jersey, the city's mayor said Wednesday.
Steven Fulop's comments during a news conference continue to fuel speculation that the rampage was an anti-Semitic attack, and the mayor acknowledged there are "still a lot of questions" around the gunmen's motives, but he was firm in his assessment that the market was intentionally chosen.
"After reviewing the CCTV cameras, on the Jersey City side, we do feel comfortable that it was a targeted attack on the Jewish Kosher deli across the street here," he said.
Fulop said video footage depicts the gunmen driving slowly in a van on city streets before stopping in front of the kosher market, opening the door and opening fire using two long rifles.
The gun battle between police and the suspects at the Jewish JC Kosher Supermarket lasted more than four hours. In all, six people died in the carnage, including the two gunmen, a police officer and three bystanders.
The identities of the gunmen have yet to be made public but local media named them as David Anderson and Francine Graham, as per law enforcement sources,
Fulop said on Twitter that he is confident information on the suspects and victims will be provided later Wednesday by the Attorney General's office "and I’m going to respect that process but I do have a responsibility to the residents of JC so I will share what i can and respect a reasonable balance to protect the jc community."
He was using an acronym for Jersey City, and said in a separate tweet that officials have "zero indication" that the gunmen were Muslim.
"Ppl have speculated that the actors were of the Muslim faith but at this point there is zero indication to that being accurate," he said "I can speak to the large Muslim community in JC that is warm/inviting to everyone. We are lucky to have that community in Jc and I don’t want anyone jumping to conclusions that aren’t accurate."
The attack comes as liberal Jewish-Americans warn President Donald Trump against signing a planned executive order that would define Judaism as a nationality rather than a religion.
The plan, first reported by the New York Times, is an attempt by Trump to combat what he and others see as anti-Semitism on U.S. college campuses, as well as the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
It would allow the administration to withhold funding from institutions it views as failing to combat discrimination.
Currently, the Education Department is only allowed to halt funding under Title IX based on discrimination "on the grounds of race, color, or national origin," but not religion.
Still, some Jewish-Americans have warned against the proposal, which they say is an attempt to stifle free speech.
"This executive order, like the stalled congressional legislation it is based on, appears designed less to combat anti-Semitism than to have a chilling effect on free speech and to crack down on campus critics of Israel,” Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of the J Street lobbying group, said in a statement.
Bend the Arc, a liberal Jewish advocacy group, slammed Trump's plan, saying on Twitter: "American Jews are American. We are Jews & we are American."
"Our Jewish identity is vibrant & beautiful, and it belongs to us — not a president who degrades us, insults us, and makes all of us less safe," the group said. "We see through Trump’s hypocrisy and we reject his attacks on civil rights."