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Massive gun battle erupts in New Jersey: 6 dead, including police officer

Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AP via CNN
Police officers arrive at the scene following reports of gunfire, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019, in Jersey City, N.J
ABC News
Jersey City, New Jersey police block off an area where a gun battle erupted.
SWAT officers deployed in a New Jersey neighborhood where a gun battle claimed 6 lives.
Authorities on the scene of a shooting incident that claimed six lives in New Jersey.
Police in Jersey City investigating a shooting attack that claimed a half-dozen lives.

JERSEY CITY, New Jersey -- Six people, including a police officer and three bystanders, were killed in a furious gun battle Tuesday that filled the streets of Jersey City with the sound of heavy gunfire for hours, authorities said.

Officials told ABC News it was believed to have been a drug deal gone bad that set off the shooting. In addition, the officer who was killed was likely ambushed, according to a law enforcement source.

The dead also included two suspected gunmen, said Jersey City Police Chief Michael Kelly, who added: "Our officers were under fire for hours."

The deceased officer was identified as Detective Joseph Seals, who was part of the Jersey City Police Department's cease fire unit, Kelly said. Seals was in plain clothes when he was shot, Kelly said.

The 40-year-old Seals was the department's "leading police officer for removing guns from the street," Kelly said, adding that he was responsible for removing "dozens and dozens" of firearms.

He is survived by a wife and five children, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop told reporters. He had been with the department since 2006 and was promoted to detective in the last few years.

Two other officers were wounded but were later released from the hospital, authorities said.

The shooting took place at two scenes, starting at a cemetery, where the officer was gunned down, and continuing at a kosher supermarket, where five more bodies were found, Kelly said.

Authorities believed the Jewish market was also targeted by the gunmen, Fulop tweeted Tuesday night, but he did not elaborate on the reason why.

The chief said when police responded to the area of the kosher store, officers “were immediately engaged by high-power rifle fire.”

The bullets started flying early in the afternoon in the city of about 270,000 people, situated across the Hudson River from the Statue of Liberty.

The shooting spread fear through the neighborhood, and the nearby Sacred Heart School was put on lock-down.

SWAT teams, state police and federal agents converged on the scene, and police blocked off the area, which in addition to the school and supermarket included a hair salon and other shops. Dozens of bystanders pressed against the police barrier to capture the action on their cellphones, some whooping when bursts of fire could be heard.

Video shot by residents recorded loud volleys of gunfire reverberating along one of the city's main streets and showed a long line of law enforcement officers pointing guns as they advanced, yelling to bystanders, “Clear the street! Get out of the way!”

“It's like firecrackers going off," said Andy Patel, who works at a liquor store about three blocks away. "They were shooting like crazy. … The cops were clearing everyone off the streets.”

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