Grafton Thomas, Monsey synagogue stabbing suspect charged with attempted murder after stabbing five Jewish worshippers during Rockland County Hannukah celebrations.
A machete-wielding man who barged into a Hanukkah celebration and stabbed five people at a rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York, on Saturday evening before fleeing the scene has been arrested. The man’s arrest just after midnight, follows witnesses saying the assailant shouting, ‘I hate you’ and ‘I’ll get you,’ as he evacuated the premises.
Grafton E. Thomas, 37, according to the NYPD was picked up just after midnight in Harlem, just on an hour and a half after the rampage which took place in the predominantly Jewish community of Rockland County.
At the time of his arrest, Thomas was found with ‘blood all over him,’ according to a law enforcement source knowledgable about the case cnn reports.
The assailant was driving a Nissan Sentra across the George Washington Bridge into New York City when his car’s tag was captured by a license plate reader at about 11:45 p.m. Saturday, authorities said.
Police apprehended Thomas without incident after midnight.
Thomas, who is from Greenwood Lake, about a 40-minute drive northwest of Monsey, was arraigned Sunday on five counts of attempted murder and one count of first-degree burglary. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
During arguments over bail, Rockland County Senior District Attorney Michael Dugandzic said Thomas had no ties to the community. The prosecutor also said that one of the victims has a skull fracture and that when police stopped Thomas he had blood on his clothes and smelled strongly of bleach.
Public defender Kristine Ciganek argued her client had no criminal history and lived with his mother. Files showed Thomas previously arrested twice, including once for punching a police horse.
Judge Rhoda Schoenberger set bail at $5 million and said, if released, Thomas must forfeit any firearms he owns, and stay away from the alleged victims and the rabbi’s Monsey home.
SHOCKING PHOTOS: Aftermath of the stabbing attack in Monsey New York Synagogue wounding 5 people, suspect arrested. pic.twitter.com/WEyAI4sU9j
— Radio World (@radioworldsv) December 29, 2019
The ambush—which took place in Rockland County, a northern suburb that has the highest per capita Jewish population in the U.S. led to intensifying fears of anti-Semitic violence after a spate of incidents last week.
According to Ramapo Police Chief Brad Weidel, an African American man covering his face with a scarf knocked on the door at Rabbi Rottenburg’s shul during the seventh night of Hanukkah just as the rabbi was lighting the candle. The assailant rushed past the man who answered the door, who said he pulled out a machete and began stabbing people, according to several witnesses.
Witnesses told of Grafton Thomas going after terrified victims as they ran away and tried to access the adjacent synagogue before fleeing and escaping in a vehicle after some of the guests hit him with chairs and a small table.
One congregant told Channel 13 that Grafton shouted, ‘I hate you’ and ‘I’ll get you,’ as he evacuated the premises.
Of the five victims rushed to local hospitals, two of them were in critical condition as of late Saturday, according to the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council for the Hudson Valley region. The organization said one of the victims had been stabbed six times.
Four of the five victims have thus far been identified, including Rabbi Yosef Neiman, as well as Chaim Rottenburg, Shlomo Rottenburg, and Meir Rottenburg.
Yossi Gestetner, a co-founder of the OJPAC for the Hudson Valley region, told The New York Times there were ‘many dozens of people’ celebrating in the home at the time of the attack. ‘It was a Hanukkah celebration,’ Gestetner said.
NYC Mayor Deblasio just blamed @realDonaldTrump for recent antisemitic attacks including a stabbing attack inside a synagogue in Monsey NY last night which left 5 people stabbed – 1 critical. More than 8 hate crimes were carried out against Jews in NYC this Hanukah so far. pic.twitter.com/1nqjCcRcF2
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) December 29, 2019
Rockland County stabbings motive:
Saturday’s stabbing attack has re awakened fears that the Jewish community is once again being targeted as a result of their faith- with calls to ascribe violent acts against the community as hate crime or domestic terrorism.
The violence follows the rising trend of inertia and violence towards minority communities in the United States, including immigrants and increasingly Jewish communities along with accusations of political jawboning and rhetoric on the right.
Rockland County — where the stabbing took place — has the largest Jewish population per capita of any US county, according to New York state census figures from 2018. Of the 320,000 residents, more than 31 percent of those residents are Jewish.
While authorities have yet to publicly say what motivated Thomas, it is thought the man may have been inspired by a recent rise of antipathy and antagonism towards the Jewish community.
Saturday’s attack comes after at least seven other anti-Semitic incidents were reported in New York City this week, prompting the New York City Police Department to increase the number of officers in predominantly Jewish areas. Of note, the stabbing also counts as the 13th act of anti-Semitism in NY state in the last three weeks.
Of particular note, the stabbings come three weeks after four people were killed in a ‘targeted’ shooting at a Jersey City kosher supermarket that investigators believe was fueled by a ‘hatred of the Jewish people.’
Grafton Thomas is remanded to reappear in court on January 3.