Watch CBSN Live

Witness describes confronting suspect at Hanukkah celebration stabbing

Witness on Hanukkah celebration stabbing
Witness on Hanukkah celebration stabbing 02:46

Monsey, New York –  Police say 37-year-old Grafton Thomas wounded five people inside a rabbi's home at a Hanukkah celebration on Saturday. New York's governor called it "domestic terrorism," and the attack is part of a national rise in anti-Semitic incidents and harassment.

Refusing to be silenced by the violence, members of the Jewish community rallied in Brooklyn Sunday night hours after dozens gathered in the afternoon outside Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg's home.

"We are not going to cower in the face of hate," said Rabbi Yisroel Kahan, executive director of the Oizrim Jewish Council.

The knife ambush happened Saturday around 10 p.m. at the home where more than 100 Orthodox Jews were gathered, reports CBS News' Tom Hanson. Witnesses said a man stormed in with a weapon and his face covered.

"I saw a guy walking around wielding a knife or a sword back and forth hitting people," Joseph Gluck said.

He said he chased down the attacker and threw a table at him.

"I started to scream, 'Everybody away! Everybody away!'" Gluck said.

Five people were stabbed including a rabbi's son. One elderly man is in critical condition. The suspect allegedly fled in a car but not before Gluck said he got the suspect's license plate number. Thomas was apprehended by police a couple hours later in New York City. 

Shortly after the attack, Rabbi Rottenberg continued the event in a nearby synagogue.

A motive for Thomas' alleged violence is not yet known, but it comes amid a rise in anti-Semitic attacks and incidents. 

Earlier this month, two shooters opened fire on a Jewish-owned grocery store in New Jersey. Four people including a police detective were killed. The FBI is investigating it as domestic terrorism.

"We see anger, we see hatred exploding," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. He also said there's been around 13 anti-Jewish incidents in the last few weeks.

Thomas' public defender entered a not guilty plea for him. His family released a statement overnight saying Thomas has a "long history of mental illness and hospitalizations" but no known history of anti-Semitism. He will be back in court on Friday.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.