The suspect in the brutal attack at a rabbi’s home during a Hanukkah celebration has suffered from a long history of mental illness but has no known history of antisemitism, a family statement issued Monday outlines.
Grafton Thomas, 37, allegedly wounded five people with a machete after entering a rabbi’s home. The bloody assault was labeled an “act of domestic terrorism” by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as Breitbart News reported.
He was arrested in Harlem by New York Police Department (NYPD) officers and “was found with blood all over his clothing and a strong smell of bleach in the car, like he was trying to destroy evidence,” according to Rockland County Assistant District Attorney Michael Dugandzic.
The attack came a day after New York city police said officers were stepping up patrols in heavily Jewish districts following a spate of antisemitic threats and attacks.
The statement released by the family sought to define a man who has battled mental illness rather than one consumed by hate. His pastor of 10 years told the New York Post that Thomas has suffered from mental illness for 20 years.
“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 antisemitism and was raised in a home which embraced and respected all religions and races. He is not a member of any hate groups.”
The family concluded the statement by offering their prayers for the victims and thanked those who “rendered medical attention to each of those injured.”
Thomas was arraigned Sunday and pleaded not guilty to five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary. Bail was set at $5 million and he remains behind bars. He didn’t answer questions as authorities escorted him to a waiting vehicle. He reportedly pleaded not guilty.
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.
AP contributed to this story