Five people celebrating Hanukkah at a Hasidic rabbi’s house in Rockland County near New York City were stabbed on Saturday night by a suspect who burst into the party wielding a knife as long as “a broomstick,” authorities and witnesses say.
At about 10 p.m. on Saturday, just as the Rabbi Chaim Rotterberg was about to light the Hanukkah candles inside his Monsey home, an intruder allegedly stormed into the party and began slashing people, say police.
The suspect, Grafton Thomas, 37, allegedly pulled out a knife that was “almost like a broomstick,” Aron Kohn, 65, who attended the celebration, told CNN.
“I saw him stabbing people,” Kohn said, ABC News reports. “He injured a guy, he was bleeding [from his neck], he was bleeding in his hand, all over.”
Shortly after the attack, police arrested Thomas, 37, of Greenwood Lake, who fled the scene in his car and was apprehended in Harlem, The New York Times reports.
Thomas had “blood all over him” when he was pulled over, a law enforcement source told CNN.
He was turned over to authorities in Rockland County.
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We will NOT allow this to become the new normal. We’ll use every tool we have to stop these attacks once and for all. The NYPD has deployed a visible and growing presence around Jewish houses of worship on the streets in communities like Williamsburg, Crown Heights and Boro Park.— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) December 29, 2019
Thomas has been charged with five counts of attempted murder and one count of first-degree burglary, PEOPLE confirms.
It is unclear whether Thomas has retained an attorney who can speak on his behalf. He pleaded not guilty to all charges, the Associated Press reported. Bail was set at $5 million.
The victims, all Hasidic Jews, were taken to local hospitals. Two victims are in critical condition, CNN reports.
One of the victims is the rabbi’s son.
The stabbing is the latest anti-Semitic attack to hit the New York City area in two weeks.
Calling the attack an “act of domestic terrorism,” Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the State Police hate crimes task force to investigate the stabbings, The New York Times reports.