A major police operation is underway in the heart of Jersey City where a volley of shots have been fired and several people are dead in scenes reminiscent of a "war zone".

Jersey City mayor Steven Fulop said there were "multiple deceased" inside a commercial building on Martin Luther King Drive.

A police officer and multiple others were killed in the shooting that authorities say is not believed to have been a terrorism attack.

Law enforcement gathers near the scene following reports of gunfire in Jersey City. Photo / AP
Law enforcement gathers near the scene following reports of gunfire in Jersey City. Photo / AP

Police are looking for two shooters – a man and a woman, CBS News reported.

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One officer was pronounced dead at a hospital and multiple other people were found dead at the scene, Fulop said without indicating how many were killed.

A second officer was struck in the shoulder by gunfire, and two others were injured by shrapnel, Fulop said.

Bystanders look out from a store as law enforcement arrives at the scene following reports of gunfire in Jersey City. Photo / AP
Bystanders look out from a store as law enforcement arrives at the scene following reports of gunfire in Jersey City. Photo / AP

The nearby Sacred Heart School was put on lockdown, but all staff and students were safe, according to a statement from the Archdiocese of Newark.

Sporadic, heavy gunfire rang out over the course of at least an hour along a major thoroughfare but has quieted down. SWAT teams, state police and federal agents responded to the scene, and police blocked off the area, which, in addition to the school, has some stores, a kosher supermarket and a hair stylist.

"Our 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," Democratic Governor Phil Murphy said. "I have every confidence in our law enforcement professionals to ensure the safety of the community and resolve this situation."

The sounds of rapid gunfire ringing out on the street were captured on video and shared widely on social media. Dozens of bystanders pressed against the police barrier to film the action on cellphones, some whooping when gunfire bursts filled the air.

Witnesses, including CBS News journalist Alice Gainer, described hearing "at least 100 shots" fired over about one hour. NBC News reports a police officer described the attack as an "ambush".

Andy Patel works at a liquor store about three blocks away from the site of the shooting site and said there had been consistent gunfire fire about an hour Tuesday afternoon.

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Police officers arrive at the scene following reports of gunfire in Jersey City. Photo / AP
Police officers arrive at the scene following reports of gunfire in Jersey City. Photo / AP

"I can hear the gunshots. It's like firecrackers going off. They were shooting like crazy about an hour ago. Then it stopped for like 20 or 30 minutes. The cops were clearing everyone off the streets," said Patel.

Jersey City Police said they had no information to provide over the phone on the shooting.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said it was responding. The New York Police Department sent emergency services personnel, and the forces counterterrorism unit was monitoring the situation.

- AP