Detective Joseph Seals, a husband and father of five who dedicated his career to getting illegal guns off the streets, was killed while responding to a shooting in Jersey City, New Jersey, Tuesday.
Seals was a 15-year veteran of the Jersey City Police Department and a part of Operation CeaseFire.
"He was a great cop," Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop tweeted. "He probably 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."
This is Det Joe Seals who was killed in the line of duty today! He was a husband and father of 5. He is a #Hero and died protecting the citizens of Jersey City! God Bless his family and all of the JCPD members! #JerseyCityShooting @JCPoliceDept pic.twitter.com/pvs62bb0af— NJ Chiefs of Police (@NJSACOP) December 10, 2019
Seals was shot and killed in Bayview Cemetery after approaching two suspects in a U-Haul van that had been linked to a homicide over the weekend, the New York Times reported.
Surveillance video shows the suspects shooting Seals before driving to a kosher market, parking the van and entering the store while firing their guns. A pipe bomb was also found in the suspects' van, the Times reported.
Police quickly responded to the scene, and the ensuing gun battle lasted more than an hour and left another five people dead, including the two shooters, CBS News reported.
Massive bursts of gunfire could be heard coming from the market and all of the city's schools were put on lockdown during the incident as officers rushed to get people off the nearby streets to safety. Witnesses described the scene as a "war zone."
Seals is being hailed a hero for trying to stop the suspects before they could hurt others. The detective had been recognized for his heroism before. On Christmas Eve in 2008, Seals and his partner, Edmond Redmond, ran up a fire escape and busted through a window to rescue a woman from a man trying to sexually assault her, NJ.com reported.
In 2010, Seals and Redmond spotted and arrested a serial armed robber, according to the site.
Seals leaves behind his wife and five children who had expected him to come home last night, the mayor said.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with Joe’s family during this Christmas season and beyond. We take for granted sometimes the selfless work a police officer does when they wear that uniform," Fulop tweeted Tuesday. "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 people of Jersey City that he volunteered to serve."