They were allowed to go into the hospital room, four at a time. When it was Deborah Perruzza's turn, she took a deep breath and walked in. It was a mother's worst nightmare.
Perruzza saw her son, Joseph Seals, a 39-year-old police officer in Jersey City, N.J., who had five children of his own, lying there on a sterile surface. His eyes had gone black and there was a towel on the back of his head where he had been shot.
"When I saw him yesterday, laying there, it was disgusting," she told Fox News. "How can people be so cruel?"
Seals was one of six people who died -- four victims and two suspects - during an hours-long bloody gun battle that began at the Bay View Cemetery and made its way to the Jewish JC Kosher Supermarket. Seals, a detective, was part of the department's push to get guns off Jersey City's streets. He was on duty and in plainclothes when he was fatally shot at the cemetery.
The shootout dominated the news cycle on Tuesday. Perruzza was about 20 minutes away at her home in Bayonne, N.J., at the time.
"I was watching the news and I saw there was a shootout and it wasn't too far from me," she said. "I saw it was in my son's district."
She texted Seals, who she thought was working the night shift, to see if he had heard about the events unfolding.
"I texted him, 'Joe, are you alive? You ok?' I never heard back from him," she said. "I called his wife but she hadn't heard anything."
Then she got a call from her daughter telling her the awful news.
"When I saw him yesterday, laying there, it was disgusting. How can people be so cruel?"
Seals had been shot twice, in the head and on his upper arm. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
"I kept thinking, it's not even real," Perruzza said. "I just kept watching the news and I would see his picture and I was just saying to myself, 'Why him? Why him?'"
When she arrived at the hospital, a crowd of supporters had gathered. Her 4-year-old granddaughter was there telling people, "My daddy is sick."
The last time Perruzza had seen the little girl was at her princess-themed birthday party on Nov. 2. Seals had gone all out for the event, even hiring princesses to come and mingle with the guests. He told his mother he'd work double shifts -- anything, really -- to make sure he could give his daughter the birthday party she wanted.
Seals was always like that; a man who put his family first.
He had a rambunctious side, Perruzza said with a small chuckle.
"He was a clown. The nuns [at his school] would call me and say, 'Joe's at it again,'" she said. "He was a clown with everyone."
As he grew up, Seals set his sights on becoming a police officer. It was inevitable, his mother said. As a child, he'd play "cops and robbers" all the time.
"He followed his dreams. He wanted to be a police officer. It was all he's ever wanted to do and he accomplished it," Perruzza said. "Everyone loved him. He was a fair cop. He helped people."
Perruzza said her son's friends on the force came by Tuesday night to express their condolences.
"I had police officers crying in my lap," she said.
For now, Perruzza said, she has to put on a brave face and stay strong for her family, which helplessly watched Seals' father pass away from lung cancer two years ago.
"They watched him die over 12 days... and now this," she said.
Investigators are still looking into the shooting. Senior law enforcement officials briefed on the investigation have told various media outlets that the Jewish market was specifically targeted, though New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said authorities were not prepared to definitively say why the crime occurred. The names of the other victims in the case have not been released.