Monday, December 30, 2019

Suspect Charged With Hate Crimes in Hasidic Stabbing Attack Near NYC 

Police officers escort stabbing suspect Grafton Thomas, center, to a police vehicle, in Ramapo, New York, Dec. 29, 2019.

U.S. prosecutors filed federal hate crimes charges Monday against a man who is charged with stabbing five Hasidic Jews during a Hanukkah celebration near New York City.

According to Monday's federal complaint, investigators found journals from the residence of suspect Grafton Thomas containing drawings of a Swastika and the Star of David. Detectives also found internet searches on Thomas' phone that included "Why did Hitler hate the Jews" and "German Jewish temples near me."

The day of Saturday's attack, the seventh night of Hanukkah, Thomas' phone was used to access an article titled "New York City Increases Police Presence in Jewish Neighborhoods After Possible Anti-Semitic Attacks. Here's What To Know," according to the criminal complaint.

Thomas' family has denounced the crime and said Thomas was raised to embrace tolerance. "Grafton Thomas has a long history of mental illness and hospitalizations. He has no history of like violent acts," the family said in a statement late Sunday.

Thomas pleaded not guilty in his first court appearance Sunday on five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary. He made no comment during his arraignment.  A judge set bail at $5 million and Grafton remains in jail.

Grafton allegedly burst into the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg in Monsey, a New York suburb home to a large Orthodox Jewish community on Saturday night.

Witnesses say Grafton swung a machete or a sword, shouting "I'll get you." Guests grabbed small children and headed out the back door while others threw a table and other furniture at Grafton, stopping him.

Grafton apparently tried but failed to storm into the synagogue attached to the rabbi's home, but was blocked by people who barricaded the door. Grafton fled in his car. Police tracked him to New York City's Harlem neighborhood. Officers found his clothes covered with the victims' blood and smelling of bleach, with which he allegedly tried to scrub away the blood.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called the attack domestic terrorism while U.S. President Donald Trump condemned the stabbing rampage as "horrific."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also strongly condemned Saturday’s attack.


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