Tributes and prayers have been pouring in for a New Jersey police officer who was killed in the line of duty Tuesday. Joseph Seals, a Jersey City Police Detective, was shot dead in a cemetery in the Greenville section of Jersey City.
After killing Seals, two heavily armed gunmen stormed a nearby Jewish supermarket and killed three bystanders. The assailants were eventually shot dead by armed police following a furious and lengthy gun battle.
“Our officers were under fire for hours,” said Jersey City Police Chief Michael Kelly, according to CNBC.
The chief said that he could not confirm why Seals was at the cemetery but believes that he was killed “while trying to interdict these bad guys on Garfield Avenue.” As for the broader attack, Kelly noted that the police “have no inkling what the motive is” at this point.
Seals, a 40-year-old married father-of-five, joined the police back in 2006 and was part of the department’s “Cease Fire Unit” — he was the force’s “leading police officer in moving guns from the street,” according to Kelly.
“He was a great, great guy — couldn’t be better,” one friend of the family told NBC News as he left the family home. “It’s a shame.”
Last night, neighbors of the Seals family turned off their Christmas lights in honor of the fallen police officer.
“He was an excellent family man,” neighbor Joe Vuocolo told ABC-7. “He loved his children, did everything with them. He was a hard worker.”
“I’m not surprised he ran toward the danger,” Vuocolo, a retired lieutenant from the Bergen County Sheriff’s Department, added to NY Daily News. “I don’t think he would run from anything.”
Vuocolo described the North Arlington man as a dedicated father who ran a small flooring business on the side to help support his large family.
Seals was commended as a hero in 2008 after rescuing a woman from a sexual assault. “Two of Jersey City’s Finest busted through a window and wrestled the attacker to the ground,” NJ.com reported at the time, noting that Seals and a colleague “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 of their heroics.
“It’s a tough day for Jersey City,” Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said following the incident. “Joe is somebody who is involved in the city, who officers in other precincts knew who he was, because he was a good cop.”
“We cried with the family,” Fulop added. “It’s the hardest thing you ever have to see. No one expected Detective Seals not to return home. I’m sure his children expected him to return home.”
In a statement, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said that his “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.”
“I have every confidence in our law enforcement professionals to ensure the safety of the community and resolve this situation. Today reminds us of their bravery and the sacrifice,” he added.
Do pray for the Seals family at this devastating time.