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Joe Seals, the Jersey City police detective who was shot and killed in what was described as an “ambush,” was remembered as a veteran officer who leaves behind a large family and was a “great cop” with previous heroism on the force. He took many guns off the streets.
His top post on Facebook, which you can see later in this article, showcased a makeshift way to stop active shooters.
Brian Thompson of NBC New York reported that the “body of slain Jersey City police officer Joe Seals now on way to Regional Medical Examiner with an American flag draped over it.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Joe’s family during this Christmas season and beyond,” Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop wrote in a statement.
“We take for granted sometimes the selfless work a police officer does when they wear that uniform. In the end they are people that volunteered to keep everyone else safe regardless of the circumstance. Today we tragically lost Joe as he was serving the ppl of Jersey City that he volunteered to serve. I know I speak for all the residents that we are grateful for all he has done for our city. Rest In Peace.”
To PIX11, the mayor added: “Joe was somebody who was involved in city. Officers in other precincts knew who he was because he was a good cop.”
The officer was one of the four people who lost their lives when two suspects clad in black, shot the officer and then stormed into a bodega after ditching a U-Haul van in a chaotic sequence of events that unfolded December 10, 2019 in the New Jersey city.
Along with the three civilians, the two suspects were also found dead inside the kosher grocery store where the suspects fled after Seals’ shooting. The officer was killed earlier on in the same unfolding incident. Terrorism is not suspected as a motive, authorities said in a press conference. Three other officers were also wounded – one by gunfire and two by shrapnel – but they are expected to survive.
For hours, the suspects holed up in the store, as a massive law enforcement response descended on the street and all Jersey City schools were closed. It’s not yet clear how the civilians died, and their names have not yet been released.
The governor wrote, “I have been briefed on the unfolding situation in Jersey City. Our thoughts and prayers are with the men and women of the Jersey City Police Department, especially with the officers shot during this standoff, and with the residents and schoolchildren currently under lockdown.”
In August, Joe Seals had posted a meme about a makeshift solution to stop active shooters in schools. “better than doing nothing,” he wrote in his own comment thread under the post:
Joe Seals’ post on Facebook
He also posted tributes to other slain officers.
“Joe be safe out there, God Bless,” wrote one friend on such a tribute on his Facebook page a couple years ago. One of the tributes Seals posted was to Jersey City Officer Melvin Santiago, who was shot and killed in 2014. Santiago’s death was the first Jersey City officer death in five years at that time.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Police Officer, Who Was Recently Made a Detective, Was Described as a Married Father of Five
Joe Seals with his family.
The slain police officer leaves a large grieving family. Seals was described by NBC New York as a “39-year-old married father of five.” Although four children are pictured in the above photo, Seals’ Facebook page indicates he also had an older daughter. His wife filled her Facebook page with photos showing a large, loving family. Joe Seals wrote on Facebook that he graduated from Bayonne High School, which is located in Bayonne, NJ.
Joseph Seals was promoted to detective in 2017.
For his birthday last spring, he recommended that people donate money to St. Joseph’s School for the Blind. “I’m asking that donations be made in my fathers memory (Paul Seals),” he wrote. “My father, who passed away almost 2 years ago, was born blind and throughout his life needed assistance from schools like this and from the commission for the blind. These people do so much for adults and children with disabilities and you can help by donating. It means a lot to me. Thank you.”
NBC New York reported that three civilians and the two suspects were found deceased inside the supermarket. Authorities didn’t give a breakdown of the victims in a Tuesday afternoon news conference. However, they did confirm the officer’s tragic death.
“There were two incidents today at two different locations, one at Bayview Cemetery and one at a corner store at Bayview and Martin Luther King,” Mayor Fulop said. “The Jersey City police department did a phenomenal job, and it’s a very tough day for them. Two officers were shot. One recently gave his life and was pronounced at the Jersey City Medical Center. The second officer was shot in the shoulder. He should recover. Two other officers are receiving medical treatment due to shrapnel. We entered the building…There were multiple deceased inside the building.”
2. The Slain Officer May Have Been Working a Homicide Investigation & Posted on Facebook About the Perils of Police Work
Joe Seals and his family
In their first news conference, authorities did not reveal what they think sparked the mass shooting situation. However, NBC New York reported through sources that Joe Seals may have been killed when he approached the two suspects in a “homicide investigation.” More details on that homicide were not given. The New York Daily News reported that Seals may have tried to stop “two suspicious men.”
They were armed with high-powered rifles, police said. “Our officers were under fire for for hours,” said Jersey City Police Chief Mike Kelly. “We have no inkling what the motive was yet.” Kelly confirmed that Seals was shot in a cemetery.
Joseph Seals posted on his Facebook page two years ago about a dangerous incident he was in. “Lucky for the both of us I was able to see it was fake before I jumped out and drew down on him. Smh,” he said, sharing a video of a suspect.
“This kid’s lucky he didn’t get shot today. I would have shot him, I would have been the bad guy, right?” Seals says in the video.
He posted this graphic a couple years ago.
Joe Seals’ Facebook post
After the recent shooting death of the officer, the suspects drove a U-Haul van to JC Kosher Supermarket, where they were holed up for hours and the five bodies were later found.
The New York Daily News reported that “Once inside (the grocery store), the shooters began firing randomly through the windows at anyone on the street.”
Police suspected two shooters early on, Heavy.com has learned from scanner dispatch audio. “We saw two shooters get out of the van. We saw two jump out of that van and go in,” said an officer. The description was “black male and a black female” wearing all black clothing, possibly with rain or trench coats. That officer told the dispatcher it wasn’t clear whether both shooters were still inside the store, but police didn’t see either come out. However, later reports indicated the suspects, who have not been identified, may be two males.
3. Seals Was Once Described as a Hero for Saving a Woman From a Rapist & The Police Union Wrote That ‘Our Hearts Are Heavy’ & Asked for Prayers, Saying Officers Had ‘Come Under Attack’
In 2008, Seals was one of two officers credited as heroes for saving a woman who was being sexually assaulted inside her own home on Christmas Eve. “Two of Jersey City’s Finest busted through a window and wrestled the attacker to the ground,” reported NJ.com at the time.
The woman was on the phone with police when the suspect who had previously been chased away, broke inside.
The article says that Seals and another officer “climbed the fire escape and surprised (the suspect), who attempted to flee.”
“The suspect attacked the cops. They did a great job in grabbing this individual and placing him under arrest after a struggle,” said police spokesman Lt. Edgar Martinez said.
New Jersey State PBA wrote on Twitter in the recent death: “Today is a horrific day. Officers have come under attack and we have several wounded. Our hearts are heavy and the violence is not over. We need prayers.”
The scene was later secured but not before the multiple fatalities.
“Just provided a brief update to press as scene is still active but secure. 2 officers struck by gun fire. One of the officers tragically has given his life. 2 other officers receiving medical treatment at the jcmc for injuries unrelated. Please keep these officers in your prayers,” the mayor said in a written statement. “Parents: At 415 we are planning on systematically releasing any schools that have been on lock down.”
At one point, one of the active shooters was firing at police from the corner grocery store. “He’s shooting again. He’s shooting again,” an officer said on the police scanner early on. Tactical officers responded. “Keep your people safe,” one officer said on the dispatch audio. Police dispatch audio indicated early on that there were two suspects, a man and a woman.
The ATF confirmed: “Breaking: @ATF_Newark Agents responding to reports of an active shooter in Jersey City, NJ.”
4. The Mayor Called Joe Seals a ‘Great Cop’ Who Probably Removed More Guns From the Streets ‘Than Any’
Jersey City’s mayor Steve Fulop praised the slain officer’s character. “I just left the JCMC and we paid respects to the officers and their families. I just want to say something about the officer we lost. His name was Joe Seals. He was a husband, a dad of 5. He was a great cop. I know everyone always says xyz was great after they pass but in this case Joe’s performance speaks for itself. He prob is responsible for more guns being removed from the streets than any. He was an officer that loved JC, was involved in the city, and one that everyone knew regardless of their precinct.”
NJ.com reported that one officer was shot in Bayview Cemetery, and the other was believed to have been shot near Martin Luther King Drive and Bidwell Avenue.
Police described the scene as “chaotic.” The two suspects jumped out of a U-Haul van and ran into the corner store, according to scanner transmissions. A man was down inside the store, and someone had put a glass coffee pot in view. Police worried that it could be a “device.”
The window in the back was garbage bag taped, police said. The bodega in question was located at Wilkinson Avenue and Martin Luther King Dr. in Jersey City. The specific address was 223 MLK Drive, according to NJ.com. Online records say that’s the address of JC Kosher Supermarket.
5. The Shooting of the Officer Was Described as an ‘Ambush’
FacebookJoe Seals with his wife
NBC New York described what happened to one officer as an “ambush,” and said an officer was shot in the head.
The scanner transmissions gave a sense of the frightening scene.
Scanner traffic indicated that four other people might be in the bodega. “We’ve got movement in the store,” an officer said on the scanner at 2:41 p.m. Officers said a male had “popped out” of the store and then went back in. “Use caution. The U-Haul nearby is hot,” an officer said, referring to the vehicle the suspects arrived at the store in. They said pipe bombs were in it.
Police were surrounding the store. They wanted to make sure that police had a “line of fire.” The New Jersey State Police wrote, “State Police assets from T.E.A.M.S., Canine Unit, Bomb Unit, Marine Services, Aviation, Field Ops, Tactical Patrol, Central Security, Trafficking, and Emergency Response Bureau are assisting @JCPoliceDept with the active shooter investigation.”