Monsey Hanukkah stabbing: What we know about the suspect

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Tuesday, December 31, 2019
Monsey Hanukkah stabbing: What we know about the suspect
Latest details on what we know about the suspect in the Hanukkah stabbings

MONSEY, New York (WABC) -- The suspect in the stabbings of five people who were celebrating Hanukkah at a rabbi's home in Monsey is facing five counts of attempted murder as well as federal hate crime charges, and his family says he has a history of mental illness.

Grafton Thomas, 37, of Greenwood Lake, initially fled the scene but was later taken into custody in Harlem with the help of license plate readers.

NYPD officers who stopped him said there was blood on his clothes, which also smelled of bleach.

See the moment police made the arrest:

Video shows the moment NYPD officers arrested the suspect after 5 were stabbed at a Hanukkah celebration in Monsey.

He appeared in court Sunday, walking in with his head down while wearing a white plastic jumpsuit, and pleaded not guilty.

The federal hate crime charges were filed after police recovered what they described as anti-Semitic materials in several journals and on the suspect's phone.

According to the criminal complaint, Thomas was in possession of handwritten journals that referred to Adolf Hitler and Nazi culture, as well as drawings of the Star of David and a Swastika. His internet browsing history also included several noteworthy searches, including "German Jewish Temples near me," "Why did Hitler hate the Jews?" and "Prominent companies founded by Jews in America."

His family released a statement talking about his mental illness, but they said he was raised to embrace tolerance.

"Grafton Thomas has a long history of mental illness and hospitalizations," the statement read. "He has no history of like violent acts and no convictions for any crime. He has no known history of anti-Semitism and was raised in a home which embraced and respected all religions and races. He is not a member of any hate groups. We believe the actions of which he is accused, if committed by him, tragically reflect profound mental illness. Finally, we express our deepest concern and prayers for those injured physically and otherwise deeply affected by the events of Saturday night...We thank those who rendered medical attention to each of those injured."

Bail was set at $5 million, and Thomas remains jailed.

Attorney Michael Sussman said Monday that he talked to Thomas for 35 minutes.

"I can tell you that I heard nothing during that conversation that he is a domestic terrorist, that he intentionally targeted this in that sense," he said. "I can't get into the detail of what he was doing and why he was doing it. I'm not sure he can honestly yet get into that detail and understand his own behavior. But I do feel it important to say this is the action of an individual who for a long time has...been treated in mental health facilities."

Sussman said he and the family's pastor, the Rev. Wendy Paige, reviewed "scores of papers which frankly show the ramblings of a disturbed individual, but there is no suggestion in any of those ramblings in pages of those writings of an anti-Semitic motive or any anti-Semitism."

Thomas' criminal history includes an arrest for assaulting a police horse, according to an official briefed on the investigation who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. A lawyer representing Thomas at the arraignment said he had no convictions.

The Greenwood Lake street where Thomas lived with his mother, about 20 miles from Monsey, was blocked with police tape Sunday as FBI agents and police officers carried items from their home.

Thomas played football for two seasons at William Paterson University in New Jersey. He was also a Marine Corps recruit for just one month after enlisting in 2002 and then being let go for "fraudulent enlistment," which means he most likely lied on enlistment paperwork.

Monsey, near the New Jersey state line about 35 miles north of New York City, is one of several Hudson Valley communities that has seen a rising population of Hasidic Jews in recent years.

(Information from the Associated Press was used in this report)


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