JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — An investigation by a leading New Jersey news organization found residents and one former police officer who said they saw small groups celebrating in Jersey City on the day of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, and nothing to back up Donald Trump's claims that he saw thousands of Muslims cheering the fall of the towers in the city across the river from New York.
Retired Jersey City police captain Peter Gallagher told NJ.com (http://bit.ly/1Ojmzvm) that he cleared a group of 20 or 30 people who he said were celebrating on the roof of a four-story apartment building with an unobstructed view of lower Manhattan, while two neighbors told the newspaper they saw a gathering of people celebrating on the street.
"Some men were dancing, some held kids on their shoulders," Gallagher said. "The women were shouting in Arabic and keening in the high-pitched wail of Arabic fashion. They were told to go back to their apartments since a crowd of non-Muslims was gathering on the sidewalk below and we feared for their safety."
Gallagher did not file a police report.
The investigation comes amid presidential contender Trump's insistence that video showed thousands of Muslims in the U.S. cheering the 9/11 attacks. He first made the claim after the Paris attack last month as he pressed the need for greater surveillance, including monitoring certain mosques.
The Associated Press has previously reported that state and local officials said there was no evidence of wide scale celebrations in New Jersey. Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop says police and the city clerk's office have found no evidence to support Trump's claim.
Gov. Chris Christie, a fellow Republican presidential nominee, and former state Attorney General John Farmer Jr. also have said Trump's claims were wrong. Footage of Muslims in Middle Eastern countries cheering news of the attacks were broadcast often on television, but there is no evidence in news archives of mass celebrations by Muslims in Jersey City.
Fulop questioned why Gallagher didn't file a police report about breaking up an alleged celebration in a building that's around the corner from the mosque where Omar Abdel-Rahman, who was convicted for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, preached.
"In the days after 9/11, with heightened awareness and heightened scrutiny, the fact that he didn't document it leads to one of two conclusions: Either he wasn't doing his job, or it never happened," Fulop told NJ.com.
Gallagher said that the people on the roof were cooperative and no report was necessary.
He declined to elaborate on his comments to The Associated Press on Monday.
"I've said what I've said and hope to go on with my retirement," Gallagher said in a Facebook message.
The apartment building in Jersey City was raided by the FBI in the days after Sept. 11 after two residents were arrested at a train station in Fort Worth, Texas, carrying box cutters, thousands of dollars in cash and hair dye. Both men were later cleared of having any connection to the 9/11 attacks.
A retired police officer, Arthur Teeter, who worked in the radio room at the police headquarters, told the newspaper there were numerous calls about reports of an exultant crowd.
"There were enough calls that it was disturbing," he said. "That's the only word I can use."
Ron Knight, 56, said he saw a crowd of 15 to 20 people celebrating in the street. He said it angered him to see they were happy.
Information from: NJ.com, http://www.nj.com