Friday, January 03, 2020
The police are actively exploring whether a man accused of storming into a Hasidic rabbi's home and stabbing five people at a Hanukkah celebration last week in a New York City suburb was also involved in another stabbing near a synagogue a month earlier, officials said on Thursday.
Chief Brad Weidel of the Ramapo Police Department, which is overseeing both investigations, said that detectives were looking at possible links between the two attacks but that the man, Grafton E. Thomas, was not yet a suspect in the November one. Both attacks occurred in Monsey, N.Y., located about 30 miles northwest of New York City.
Within days of the chilling stabbing in November, when an Orthodox Jewish man was attacked as he walked to his synagogue, officers had interviewed Mr. Thomas, according to Chief Weidel. But investigators, who had tied Mr. Thomas to a vehicle similar to the one they believed might have been used, did not have evidence to directly connect him to the attack.
After Mr. Thomas, of Greenwood Lake, N.Y., was arrested last Saturday and charged with being responsible for a bloody rampage that horrified people across the country, a detective recognized his name from the earlier investigation and decided to re-examine the possibility that he had been involved.
"We get a name, and the detectives go, 'Wait a minute. Isn't that the guy we interviewed from Greenwood Lake?'" Chief Weidel said at a news conference at Ramapo's town hall.
On a conference call with reporters, Mr. Thomas's lawyer, Michael Sussman, said that he had not investigated whether Mr. Thomas was connected to the November attack and could not comment on it.
The attack in November rattled the Jewish community in Rockland County, a suburban area northwest of New York City that is believed to have one of the largest concentrations of ultra-Orthodox Jews outside of Israel.
At around 5:30 a.m. on Nov. 20, a Hasidic Jewish man was headed to a synagogue on Howard Drive for morning prayers, when a car stopped and at least one man attacked him, officials said.
The victim in that attack survived, but the November case remained unsolved. For weeks, the authorities have shied away from calling it a hate crime despite pressure from Jewish community leaders, saying they have not collected enough evidence to determine a motive.
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