Suspect Arraigned After 5 People Stabbed at Rabbi’s House on Hanukkah

December 29, 2019 Updated: December 29, 2019
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Grafton E. Thomas was identified as the suspect in the stabbing attack of five people inside the home of a New York City-area rabbi during a Hanukkah celebration on Saturday night, in what Gov. Andrew Cuomo described as an act of domestic terrorism.

A photo of Thomas was released by The Associated Press on Sunday, showing him being escorted by officers at a facility in Ramapo, New York, while he is seen clad in a white jumpsuit.

Thomas had been driving a Nissan Sentra across the George Washington Bridge into New York City a license plate reader captured his car’s tag at around 11:45 p.m. on Saturday, CNN reported. He was apprehended without incident after midnight on Sunday, officials said.

The report said Thomas is from Greenwood Lake, which is about 40 minutes northwest of Monsey, where the attack unfolded.

He was arraigned Sunday on five counts of attempted murder and one count of first-degree burglary, Ramapo police officials said. He entered a not guilty plea, the report said.

Ramapo Town Justice Rhoda Schoenberger set his bond at $5 million. She also issued orders of protection for the victims, according to the New York Post.

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Police work the scene of a residence in Monsey, N.Y., early Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, following a stabbing Saturday during a Hanukkah celebration. (Seth Harrison/The Journal News via AP)

Rockland County Assistant District Attorney Michael Dugandzic said in court that Thomas, 38, tried to cover up his alleged rampage by pouring bleach on himself, reported the New York Post.

“When the NYPD made the stop, he was found with blood all over his clothing and a strong smell of bleach in the car, like he was trying to destroy evidence,” Dugandzic said. “No one else was alleged to be involved.”

The district attorney said he believes Thomas has no ties to the victims.

“It’s a serious offense. The defendant entered the residence, seriously injuring five people, one with a skull fracture who is still critical. He then fled the jurisdiction,” Dugandzic said.

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Orthodox Jews listen to N.Y. state Assemblyman Dov Hikind speak in Monsey, N.Y., on Dec. 29, 2019, following a stabbing late Saturday during a Hanukkah celebration. (AP Photo/Allyse Pulliam)

One person was seriously wounded, Gov. Cuomo told reporters outside the rabbi’s home in Monsey, adding that the rabbi’s son was also injured.

“Let’s call it what it is. These people are domestic terrorists and the law should reflect that and they should be punished as if it was an act of terrorism,” the governor told reporters in Mosley on Sunday. “At the end of the day, it is not just about words but actions. It is violence spurred by hate. It is mass violence and I consider this an act of domestic terrorism,” Cuomo said.

New York is going to change the way acts of domestic terrorism are prosecuted following the incident.

“We are going to take the lead here in the state of New York,” he said. “I’m going to propose that in the beginning of January when I lay out my State of the State address.”

Ramapo Police Chief Brad Weidel told the AP that it was unclear why the house was targeted or if a specific ideology motivated Thomas. Authorities told AP that they don’t believe Thomas is connected to a spate of recent anti-Semitic incidents in and around New York City.