New York City police have arrested a man suspected of stabbing five people in a rabbi’s home during a Hanukkah celebration in a predominantly Jewish town in upstate New York on Saturday night.
The suspect was identified as 37-year-old Thomas Grafton of Greenwood Lake, New York, a police source told CNN.
Grafton allegedly stormed into the home of Rabbi Chaim Leibush Rottenberg, the leader of Congregation Netzach Yisrael-Kosson, in Monsey at around 10pm and began wildly swinging a machete at some 60 worshippers gathered for a candle-lighting ceremony for the seventh night of Hanukkah.
He stabbed multiple people before a man threw a coat rack, table and chair at the assailant and chased him out of the home, Hasidic organization Chabad reported, citing witnesses and officials in the majority-Jewish community.
Grafton then tried to enter the synagogue next door but it was barricaded by people who had taken shelter inside. He then reportedly fled in a gray car, as seen in surveillance video.
NYPD officers located him 30 miles away in Harlem about two hours later and he was taken into custody at the 32nd precinct. A police source said he was covered in blood at the time of his arrest.
Officials were later seen in video from CBS New York marching Grafton, who is African American, out of the precinct in handcuffs before transporting him back to Rockland County, where he faces five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary.
The Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council said the five victims, all Hasidic, were transported to local hospitals with stab wounds, two in critical condition. One man was reportedly stabbed in the chest and another was stabbed in the head. One of the victims is believed to be Rottenberg’s son.
The attack appeared to be the latest in a string targeting Jews in the region, including a massacre at a kosher grocery store in New Jersey earlier this month and six other anti-Semitic incidents over the first seven nights of Hanukkah, which began on December 23.
Governor Andrew Cuomo addressed reporters on Sunday morning and branded the Monsey incident an act of domestic terrorism.
Video circulated on Twitter showed emergency vehicles and ambulances hurriedly evacuating victims from a home on Forshay Road. The house is adjacent to Congregation Netzach Yisrael-Kosson, known locally as Rabbi Rottenberg’s Shul.
Chabad reported that the people who were gathered at Rottenberg’s home were preparing to leave and make their way to the synagogue when the attacker entered wearing gloves and a scarf that obscured his face.
The outlet said the suspect brandished a large knife and stated: ‘No one is going anywhere’ before he launched the attack.
Aron Kohn, 65, told The New York Times that he was inside the house when the stabbings occurred.
‘I was praying for my life,’ Kohn said. ‘He started attacking people right away as soon as he came in the door. We didn’t have time to react at all.’
Kohn said he started throwing chairs and tables at the attacker to fend him off.
An unnamed witness told CBS New York: ‘He took out his knife, sword from a holder and started hitting people back and forth.
The witness said when he ran outside the suspect yelled: ‘Hey you, I’ll get you.’
Lazer Klein, who lives in the neighborhood, described watching people ‘running away screaming and calling the cops’.
‘I saw someone lying on the stairs,’ Klein, 19, told the New York Post. ‘I saw people getting carried out. I saw blood. One guy was lying limp on the stretcher.’
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Source: Daily Mail