MONSEY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – At least five people have been stabbed in an attack at a synagogue in New York's Rockland County. That attacker is now reportedly in custody after fleeing the scene.
CBS2's Tony Aiello has confirmed a man entered Rabbi Rottenburg's synagogue on Forshay Road in Monsey and stabbed several people just before 10 p.m. Saturday.
The suspect has been identified as 37-year-old Grafton Thomas, of Greenwood Lake, New York, in Orange County.
Thomas, covering his face with a scarf, reportedly entered the building and pulled out a machete to attack the victims during a Chanukah celebration. Thomas reportedly chased after and stabbed victims as they fled the synagogue before running off and escaping in a gray Nissan Sentra.
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"He took out his knife, sword from a holder and started hitting people back and forth. Nothing, he didn't say anything. He screamed after me when I came out here, he screamed after me, 'Hey you, I'll get you,'" one witness told CBS2's Marc Liverman. "He moved to the front door. He could go straight into the kitchen and the dining room's the first thing. First, he went into the dining room and hit a few people there. Then he went into the kitchen and hit one guy there, and then he came back to the dining room."
"I ran into the other room because I tried to save my life. I saw him running down this way, so I ran out and two ladies came along with me. They're still hysterical," witness Aron Kohn said.
Shortly after midnight on Sunday, Ramapo police announced Thomas had been arrested. Police tell CBS2 he was taken into custody in Harlem.
Tony Aiello reports at least four people were taken to area hospitals with injuries. Two of the victims were rushed to Westchester Medical's trauma center due to the severity of injuries.
Both the Clarkstown Police Department and the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council reported a total of five stabbing victims.
Sunday morning, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said one of the victims was still in "very serious and critical condition with wounds to the head."
So far, police haven't released any other information on the victims, although OJPAC co-founder Yossi Gestetner says one of the victims is a senior.
"The least severe case is someone who has been stabbed only in the hand," he said.
The rabbi's son was also one of the victims of the attack. The rabbi told Cuomo his son is recovering.
Officials said around 9:40 a.m. Sunday that two victims were still in the hospital, but their exact conditions are unknown.
This incident happened amid a rash of anti-Semitic attacks this week.
"What's going on? That's the question that we don't have the answers, and people are genuinely scared," Rockland County Legislator Aron Wider said.
"The people that were stabbed tonight, what did they do? Did the perpetrator even know who they were, or just knew that they were Jews?" said Dov Hikind, founder of Americas Against Antisemitism.
Local law enforcement in the New York area and local leaders are responding to the attack.
"We will NOT allow this to become the new normal. We'll use every tool we have to stop these attacks once and for all. The NYPD has deployed a visible and growing presence around Jewish houses of worship on the streets in communities like Williamsburg, Crown Heights and Boro Park," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio added in a tweet.
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"It's important for me to express to the rabbi and to all the people of the state of New York that this is intolerance meets ignorance meets illegality. This is an intolerant time in this country. We see anger, we see hatred exploding. It is an American cancer in the body politic. It literally turns one cell in the body against others. And we have seen it here in the state of New York. This is about the 13th incident of Antisemitism in just the past few weeks. Comes during a period of high holidays for the Jewish people. It is intolerant. It is ignorant. But it is also illegal. And at the end of the day, it's not just about words, it's about action, and we have seen enough in New York. This is violence spurred by hate. It is mass violence and I consider this an act of domestic terrorism. Let's call it what it is. These people are domestic terrorists. And the law should reflect that and they should be punished as if it was an act of terrorism. And we're going to take the lead here in the state of New York and do just that and I'm going to propose that in the beginning of January when I lay out my state of the state address," Cuomo said.
"Violence of any kind will not be tolerated here in Rockland. I stand with the people of this County in condemning this attack and ask all to offer their thoughts, hopes and prayers for a speedy recovery for the victims of this heinous crime. As a former Police Commander, people need to know that law enforcement in Rockland will leave no stone un-turned as they bring those guilty of this crime to swift and severe justice," Rockland County Executive Ed Day said in a statement Saturday night.
President Donald Trump responded to the attack on Twitter, saying in part, "We must all come together to fight, confront, and eradicate the evil scourge of anti-Semitism."
Gov. Cuomo has directed the state's Hate Crimes Task Force to investigate Saturday night's attack.
"I am horrified by the stabbing of multiple people at a synagogue in Rockland County tonight. We have zero tolerance for anti-Semitism in NY and we will hold the attacker accountable to the fullest extent of the law. NY stands with the Jewish community," Cuomo added.
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