Stabbing Suspect Is In Custody After Attack In New York Rabbi's Home

Dec 30, 2019
Originally published on December 30, 2019 10:28 am
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NOEL KING, HOST:

Five people were injured this weekend after a man attacked them while they were celebrating Hanukkah at the home of a Hasidic rabbi in Monsey, N.Y. Monsey is a suburb northwest of the city. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang went to Monsey yesterday, and he's on the line now from New York City. Good morning, Hansi.

HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: Good morning, Noel.

KING: So this suburb, Monsey, is home to a big Jewish community. I know you were out and about yesterday talking to people. What did they tell you?

WANG: I talked to folks who live on the same street of that home of the rabbi where the attack occurred. A lot of people feeling very vulnerable after the attack and are very concerned about their personal safety. This is a community that's been talking about how to defend themselves for weeks, some for months. This is - thinking - people are thinking about the recent attacks not just from this weekend but also the recent shootings at a kosher grocery store in Jersey City, N.J., that left people dead. And also folks are thinking about volunteering with their neighborhood street patrols. And some are even thinking about getting licensed to carry firearms.

KING: In order to defend themselves.

WANG: Right.

KING: What do we know about the five people who were injured in this attack? How are they doing?

WANG: Well, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told NPR that as of Sunday evening, two of the five victims were in critical condition, one with skull fractures. They survived an attack in which the attacker apparently used a long machete, looked like a sword and that people inside this home threw furniture at the attacker trying to fend for themselves. And, ultimately, the attacker tried to go next door to a synagogue. But it was locked.

KING: This story is developing, as we would expect, and will continue to develop over the next few days. But I wonder about the suspect in this case. What do we know about this man so far? What are people saying?

WANG: Police identified him as Grafton Thomas, and he has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and burglary charges. And his family has released a written statement through his attorney. And the Thomas family has said that, quote, "he was raised in a home which embraced and respected all religions and races" and that he has, quote, "no known history of anti-Semitism." The family's asked the attorney, Michael Sussman, to request a mental health evaluation because they say that Thomas has a long history of mental illness and hospitalizations. And Thomas is due back in court this Friday.

KING: OK. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang from New York. Hansi, thanks so much.

WANG: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.