A man accused of storming into a rabbi’s home and stabbing five people as they celebrated Hanukkah in an Orthodox Jewish community in New York has a history of mental illness, his family has said.
Grafton Thomas has a long history of mental illness and being admitted to hospital, a statement issued by lawyer Michael Sussman on behalf of the man’s family said.
Mr Sussman added: “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.”
Police tracked a fleeing suspect to Manhattan and made an arrest within two hours of the attack on Saturday night in Monsey. Thomas had blood all over his clothing and smelled of bleach but said “almost nothing” when officers stopped him, officials said.
US President Donald Trump condemned the “horrific” attack, saying in a tweet on Sunday that “We must all come together to fight, confront, and eradicate the evil scourge of anti-Semitism”.
The stabbings on the seventh night of Hanukkah left one person critically wounded, New York governor Andrew Cuomo said. He also said the rabbi’s son was injured.
Thomas, 37, was arraigned on Sunday and pleaded not guilty to five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary.
The street where Thomas lived with his mother was blocked with police tape on Sunday as FBI agents and police officers carried items from their home.
The attack was the latest in a string of violence targeting Jews in the region, including a December 10 massacre at a kosher supermarket in New Jersey. Last month in Monsey, a man was stabbed while walking to a synagogue.
Mr Cuomo said Saturday’s incident was the 13th anti-Semitic attack in New York since December 8.