Officer, three suspects, two civilians dead in New Jersey shootout; officer killed was a father of 5

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JERSEY CITY, New Jersey (CNN) – The gunfire lasted for hours in a standoff that killed four in Jersey City, New Jersey, with the city streets taken over by armed officers and the sounds of sirens and gunshots.

And authorities say the investigation into what started it all could last weeks — or even months.

The shooting began around 12:30 p.m. and stretched over three locations. Gunshots rang out continuously for at least 20 seconds just before 2 p.m. The gunplay continued for hours before authorities announced the suspects had been killed during the standoff.

“The crime scene is very extensive,” Jersey City Police Chief Michael Kelly told reporters. “And is at three locations, at least.”

At least three armored personnel vehicles were on scene. Paramedics responded as helicopters hovered overhead.

The bodies of five people, including the two suspects, were found inside JC Kosher Supermarket, according to police. Kelly said he believes a police detective was killed near a cemetery. The other three victims are believed to be civilians, authorities said.

What we know

As authorities piece together the deadly shooting, much of what led up to the gunfire exchange and how it unfolded is still unclear.

CNN affiliates reported the first shooting occurred at Bay View Cemetery on Garfield Avenue in Jersey City, across the Hudson River from Manhattan.

Police say two suspects were later killed in a standoff in the kosher supermarket less than a mile away. No one was in custody in connection with the shooting, according to a law enforcement official.

Part of the investigation involves a stolen U-Haul truck, which Kelly said was being examined by the bomb squad.

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop tweeted Tuesday that the initial investigation has led authorities to believe the shooters targeted the location. He did not offer further explanation. Jersey City Department of Public Safety Director James Shea said earlier on Tuesday that there is no indication of terrorism.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio added that officers have been deployed to protect the Jewish community in his city.

“Although there is no credible or specific threat directed against New York City, I have directed the NYPD to assume a state of high alert. Tonight, NYPD assets are being redeployed to protect key locations in the Jewish community. Tomorrow, we will announce additional measures,” de Blasio tweeted.

Officer killed part of anti-violence unit

The fallen officer was identified as Detective Joseph Seals, a 15-year veteran of the department, Kelly said. He is believed to have been ambushed, according to a law enforcement source.

Seals was part of a statewide anti-violence unit, and Kelly credited him with removing “dozens and dozens” of handguns from the street.

“We believe he was killed while trying to interdict these bad guys,” Kelly told reporters, adding, “Once again, this is all being investigated.”

Two officers and one civilian were in stable condition after being struck by gunfire, Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez said via Twitter. The wounded officers were identified by Kelly as Ray Sanchez and Mariela Fernandez. They were both treated and released.

City shudders

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, who announced his office is leading the criminal investigation, said they are mourning with the city.

“We recognize the fear that communities rightfully feel after traumatic incidents such as these, and we are committed to providing all resources necessary to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our fellow residents,” Grewal said.

Jersey City Public Schools will have a delayed opening Wednesday in the wake of the shooting.

In a brief news conference Tuesday evening, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy praised the efforts of law enforcement, who “responded to this incident not knowing what they were entering, or if they would even make it out.”

“If not for them,” Murphy said, “I shudder, we shudder to think about how much worse today could have been.”

The New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association tweeted: “We need a lot of prayers right now for Jersey City officers. Keep all those involved in your thoughts.”

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