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Man facing attempted murder charges after 5 stabbed at Hanukkah celebration in Monsey

Posted at 11:10 PM, Dec 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-29 22:40:10-05

MONSEY, N.Y. — A man is facing multiple charges after five people were stabbed at a Hanukkah celebration at a Rabbi's home in Rockland County Saturday night, according to Ramapo Police Chief Brad Weidel.

Authorities said officers responded to reports of a stabbing at the Monsey residence of Rabbi Rottenburg at 10 p.m.

Rockland County Sheriff's Department, the New York State Police, NYPD intel and Westchester County Police were among the departments that assisted with the investigation.

The Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council for the Hudson Valley Region said in a tweet that victims inside the rabbi's shul were Hasidic Jews. At least two people were in critical condition, co-founder of the council, Yossi Gestetner, told CNN.

The attacker pulled out a knife that was "almost like a broomstick," said Aron Kohn, who attended the Hanukkah celebration. Kohn said there were at least 100 people in the home at that time, as the rabbi was "lighting the candle" on the seventh night of Hanukkah.

Kohn added that the suspect tried to run into a nearby synagogue, but someone closed the doors.

While the identities of the victims are not known at this time, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a news conference Sunday morning that the rabbi's son was one of the victims and is recovering. Cuomo said another victim is still in "very serious...critical" condition, with wounds to the head.

Cuomo denounced the attack, calling it an act of "domestic terrorism."

The suspect has been identified as Grafton Thomas, 38, of Greenwood Lake in Orange County, New York.

Thomas 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 about 11:45 p.m. Saturday, authorities said.

NYPD Police Commissioner Dermot Shea tweeted surveillance video capturing the moment police officers apprehended Thomas.

Police apprehended Thomas in Harlem without incident just after midnight, an NYPD spokeswoman told CNN earlier Sunday. Ramapo officers picked him up and transported him upstate, the spokeswoman said. Monsey is a hamlet within Ramapo.

Thomas was arraigned Sunday and pleaded not guilty to five counts of attempted murder and one count of first-degree burglary, according to officials.

The judge set the alleged attacker's bail at $5 million. Thomas is due back in court January 3.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called the incident "horrific" in a tweeted statement late Saturday night.

This attack in the suburbs comes as the NYPD is stepping up security measures in Jewish neighborhoods within the five boroughs after a series of hate crimes against Jewish people over the past weeks.

Monsey is a hamlet located in the town of Ramapo in Rockland County near the border between New York and New Jersey.

Editor's note: The suspect's identity has been updated to the correct first and last name.