JERSEY CITY, New Jersey -- They came by the thousands. Police vehicles from every police department in New Jersey — along with Baltimore, Philadelphia and Delaware, among other states — lined Montgomery Street. Their blue and red lights flashing, brightening what was a dark and dreary day in more ways than just the weather.
They converged, with black stripes over their badges and white gloves tucked in their left shoulder, on St. Aedan’s Church on Bergen Avenue Tuesday to mourn the death of Detective Joseph Seals, described in his obituary as “one of the hardest-working men and one of the most instinctive cops on the job.”
At the steps of the church, Seals’ family took shelter under three large black umbrellas as his casket, cloaked in an American flag, was taken out of the hearse. The casket was escorted into the somber ceremony by eight Jersey City police officers, as an army of color guard officers from around the state stood at attention, stoically and unfazed by the heavy rain. The sound of bagpipes and drums echoed through the streets, which were at a standstill shortly before 11 a.m.
A week ago, Seals, a 14-year member of the Jersey City Police Department, was fatally shot in the Bayview Cemetary after he encountered David Anderson and Francine Graham in a U-Haul truck. The 40-year-old devoted father of five became Jersey City’s 35th officer to die in the line of duty.
A Bayonne native, Seals graduated from high school there in 1997, before joining the Hudson County Corrections Department in 2001.
“He followed his dreams. He wanted to be a police officer. It was all he’s ever wanted to do and he accomplished it,” his mother, Deborah Perruzza, told Fox News. “Everyone loved him. He was a fair cop. He helped people.”
Seals joined the Jersey City Police Department in 2005. On the streets, Seals, who was promoted to detective in 2017 and joined the force’s Cease Fire Unit, worked out of the South District precinct in the Greenville section of Jersey City. It’s a high-crime area of the city and Seals had a knack for sniffing out guns.
“He was the leading police officer in removing guns from the street,” Jersey City Police Chief Michael Kelly told reporters in a press conference after the shooting. "Dozens and dozens of handguns, he’s responsible for removing from the street.”
The Cease Fire Unit, formed in 2013, is an elite team of detectives mainly tasked with investigating non-fatal shootings. Its members are known to have deep contacts on the street.
On Dec. 10, Seals was apparently meeting with an informant for a guns or narcotics case in the cemetery, according to multiple reports.
Few details of the incident have been made public, but law enforcement sources told NJ Advance Media Seals was shot point-blank in the back of the head, behind the ear. It is not known what time he was killed, but police received a 911 call at 12:38 p.m. from a passer-by who found his lifeless body in the cemetery, authorities said.
By that time, the first shots from Anderson, 47, and Graham, 50, were reported to the police. After killing Seals, the two assailants drove their U-Haul truck about a mile to a kosher grocery store, where they killed three civilians, authorities said. Anderson and Graham were also killed during a nearly four-hour standoff with police that turned the city streets into a war zone.
Authorities have called the attack an act of domestic terrorism aimed at Jews and law enforcement.
At the grocery store on Tuesday morning, Mary Bumarsee was waiting for the No. 87 NJ Transit bus to work. She lives in an apartment in a four-story brick building at the corner of Bidwell Avenue and Martin Luther King Boulevard, in sight of the now boarded-up kosher grocery store. She passes it every day before her commute to her job as a health care assistant.
“This makes me feel bad, this makes me feel upset," she said. “These people, they don’t bother anybody.”
Inside the neighboring synagogue, Rabbi Yisrael Bennish and others were engaged in prayer.
“These are men and women put their lives on the line for us every day," Bennish said of police officers. "It’s important that we respect them and remember them.”
NJ Advance Media staff reporters Alex Napoliello and Steve Strunsky contributed to this report.
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Rodrigo Torrejon may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @rodrigotorrejon.
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