New York stabbing: Suspect in attack at rabbi’s home charged with federal hate crimes

Five people were stabbed and injured late Saturday when a knife-wielding man attacked a rabbi’s home during a Hanukkah party in New York, police said.

According to The New York Times, the stabbing happened shortly before 10 p.m. at Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg's house in Monsey, a suburb of New York City. Dozens of guests were celebrating the Jewish holiday when a man pulled out a large blade and "started attacking people right away as soon as he came in the door," witness Aron Kohn told the newspaper. The suspect, later identified as Grafton Thomas, then fled, authorities said.

Here are the latest updates:

Update 12:45 p.m. EST Dec. 30: Federal prosecutors have filed hate crime charges in the case, according to the New York Times. The criminal complaint states that upon his arrest, authorities discovered a machete, a knife and journals at his home that contained anti-Semitic writings.

Update 10:56 p.m. EST Dec. 29: The suspect accused in the Hanukkah attack at a rabbi's home has a history of mental illness, his family said Sunday.

"We believe the actions of which he is accused, if committed by him, tragically reflect profound mental illness," the family said in a statement, WLNY reported.

Update 6:52 p.m. EST Dec. 29: Rabbi Rottenberg was grateful the attack was not worse, he said in a statement released Sunday afternoon.

"We would like to publicly proclaim our thanks to the one above who performed a modern-day Chanukah miracle," Netzach Yisroel said in a statement on behalf of Rottenberg. "Last night's brutal attack sent shock waves through our community and around the world; yet, with God's help, the casualties were less extensive than what might have been."

Update 3:22 p.m. EST Dec. 29: The man accused of stabbing five people at a rabbi's home during a Hanukkah party in Monsey, New York, pleaded not guilty Sunday, WCBS reported.

Grafton Thomas, 38, of Greenwood Lake, New York, is facing five counts of attempted murder and one count of first-degree burglary. Judge Rhoda Schoenberger, in Ramapo town court Sunday morning, set bail for $5 million, The Times-Herald Record of Middletown reported.

Thomas did not speak during his arraignment, the newspaper reported. His lawyer, Christine Ciganik, entered the plea on his behalf.

Update 2:34 p.m. EST Dec. 29: President Donald Trump weighed in on Twitter, tweeting that the attack was "horrific."

“We must all come together to fight, control, and eradicate the evil scourge of anti-Semitism,” the president wrote.

A law enforcement official told The New York Times that said the vehicle of the accused assailant, Grafton Thomas, was tracked to the Harlem section of New York City with the aid of license plate readers. Officers who arrested Thomas said the 38-year-old from Greenwood, New York, was "covered with blood," the newspaper reported.

Update 12:25 p.m. EST Dec. 29: Police identified the suspect in the stabbings as Grafton Thomas, 38, of Greenwood Lake, New York, according to The New York Times. Thomas is facing counts of attempted murder and one count of first-degree burglary, according to the police. Two of the victims remained in the hospital as of Sunday morning, the newspaper reported.

Police did not immediately disclose information about Thomas or whether he knew the victims, the Times reported. Officials originally identified the man as Thomas Grafton, the newspaper reported.

Update 11:23 a.m. EST Dec. 29: Authorities identified the sixth person aboard the plane that crashed Saturday in Lafayette, Louisiana, as Stephen Wade Berzas, 37, The Acadiana Advocate reported. Berzas is in critical condition at Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center, the newspaper reported.

Danielle Britt, store manager of Andy’s Jewelry in Lafayette, was injured when the small plane carrying six passengers crashed, according to a Facebook post from her husband, Robby Britt.

Robby Britt said his wife remains hospitalized with burns on 30% percent of her body, “mostly on her right side.”

Sunday morning, Robby Britt wrote on Facebook that his wife “had a long night, but she’s a warrior. Still in great spirits. Amazing woman.”

GoFundMe page has been set up for the Britt family.

Update 10:17 a.m. EST Dec. 29: The suspect accused in the stabbing of five people at a Hanukkah party at a rabbi's home in Monsey, New York will face five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary, Ramapo police Chief Brad Weidel told The Associated Press.

New York police found the suspect in Harlem early Sunday and arrested him, Weidel told WNBC-TV. Authorities have not released his name.
Update 8:55 a.m EST Dec. 29: Speaking with reporters early Sunday in Monsey, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo blamed the attack at a Hanukkah party in Rockland County on "domestic terrorists."

“Let’s call it what it is,” Cuomo said. “These are domestic terrorists.”

Former New York state assemblyman Dov Hikind called for leaders to take action after the attack.

"We are in a crisis. This is an emergency situation and the leaders of the state of New York need to declare that in the state of New York anti-Semitism is out of control and what people want to know, is what is the plan, what is going to be done to address this," Hikind told WABC.

Original story: Emergency responders rushed the five people who suffered stab wounds – all Hasidic Jews – to nearby hospitals, the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council tweeted. Two of the victims were critically injured, the organization said.

By midnight Sunday, New York police had found the suspect in Harlem and arrested him, Ramapo Police Chief Brad Weidel told WNBC-TV. Authorities have not released his name.

In a statement early Sunday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he was directing the New York State Police Hate Crimes Task Force to investigate the attack.

"Let me be clear: Anti-Semitism and bigotry of any kind are repugnant to our values of inclusion and diversity, and we have absolutely zero tolerance for such acts of hate," the statement read.

The New York Police Department Counterterrorism Bureau is also "closely monitoring" the incident, it said in a tweet.

Read more here or here.

About the Author