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Grafton E Thomas was arrested for allegedly stabbing five people inside a rabbi's home during a Hannukah celebration on Saturday night in Monsey, New York. He is pictured in his mugshot
A man accused of stabbing five people in a rabbi's home during a Hanukkah celebration in a predominantly Jewish town in upstate New York on Saturday night has pleaded not guilty.
Grafton E Thomas, 37, of Greenwood Lake, was arraigned on five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary in Ramapo Town Court late Sunday morning. His bail was set at $5million.
Prosecutors say Thomas stormed into the home of Rabbi Chaim Leibush Rottenberg in Monsey at around 10pm and began wildly swinging a machete at dozens of worshippers gathered for a candle-lighting ceremony on the seventh night of Hanukkah.
He stabbed multiple people as onlookers threw a coat rack, table and chair in his path and chased him out of the home, witness Josef Gluck told DailyMail.com.
'He was silent. Deadly silent,' Gluck said of the assailant. 'Victims were screaming and panicking. It was chaos.'
Thomas then tried to enter the synagogue next door, Congregation Netzach Yisrael-Kosson, but it was barricaded by people who had taken shelter inside. He then reportedly fled in a gray car, as seen in surveillance video.
NYPD officers located him 30 miles away in Harlem about two hours later and he was taken into custody at the 32nd precinct. He was covered in blood and bleach at the time of his arrest.
The Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council said the five victims, all Hasidic, were transported to local hospitals with stab wounds, two in critical condition. One man remained in critical condition midday Sunday after suffering a skull fracture. One of the victims is believed to be Rottenberg's son.
The attack appeared to be the latest in a string targeting Jews in the region, including a massacre at a kosher grocery store in New Jersey earlier this month and six other anti-Semitic incidents over the first seven nights of Hanukkah, which began on December 23.
Governor Andrew Cuomo addressed reporters on Sunday morning and branded the Monsey incident an act of domestic terrorism.
President Donald Trump also tweeted about the incident this afternoon, writing: 'The anti-Semitic attack in Monsey, New York, on the 7th night of Hanukkah last night is horrific. We must all come together to fight, confront, and eradicate the evil scourge of anti-Semitism. Melania and I wish the victims a quick and full recovery.'
Grafton, 37, pleaded not guilty to five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary at an arraignment in Ramapo Town Court late Sunday morning. His bail was set at $5million. He is pictured leaving the court
Thomas is seen leaving an arraignment at Ramapo Town Court on Sunday morning
The defendant, dressed in a white jumpsuit and gray booties with his hands cuffed behind his back, was silent during his arraignment, except for briefly conferring with the public defender who entered his plea of not guilty
The suspected attacker stormed into the home of Rabbi Chaim Leibush Rottenberg at around 10pm and began wildly swinging a knife at some 60 worshippers gathered for a candle-lighting ceremony for the seventh night of Hanukkah
Witness Josef Gluck (pictured), one of the dozens of worshippers gathered at Rottenberg's home for a candle-lighting ceremony for the seventh night of Hanukkah, described the horror attack to DailyMail.com
Governor Andrew Cuomo addressed reporters outside Rottenberg's home on Sunday morning and condemned the incident as an act of domestic terrorism
Congregants at Congregation Netzach Yisrael-Kosson are seen inside the synagogue hours after the attack on Sunday
Gov Cuomo is seen leaving Rottenburg's home with the rabbi (second left) on Sunday morning
Around 50 to 70 people were inside Rottenberg's home on Forshay Road when the attack unfolded. They were preparing to leave and make their way to the synagogue, Congregation Netzach Yisrael-Kosson, known locally as Rabbi Rottenberg's Shul, for a service when the suspect entered wearing gloves and a scarf that obscured his face.
Gluck, 32, described the horror incident to DailyMail.com outside Rottenberg's home on Sunday morning.
'He was a big husky guy with a scarf over his face and nose. Only saw his forehead and eyes,' Gluck said of the suspect.
'He came in wielding a big knife, sword, machete - I don't know what it was - and he started hitting people right and left.
Gluck continued: 'He went into the dining room, hit someone there and then went through to the kitchen, swiped at more people. He then came back in the dining room where I tried to get him to run after me but he didn't come so I came back so threw a coffee table at the guy and then he chased me.
'I ran through a door and he started screaming: "Hey you, I'll get you." So I screamed for everyone to get away so nobody got hurt.
'He then ran towards the synagogue, tried with one door it didn't open. He then tried a second door ran to his car and drove away.'
Gluck said he ran after the fleeing car and memorized the license plate number as it drove off.
Gluck (second left) said he tried to stop the assailant by throwing a coffee table at him
Jole Spitzer, who lives across the street from Rottenberg, said he ran home after hearing about the attack.
'It was like a war zone. People being wheeled out of the house on stretchers and it was chaotic,' Spitzer told DailyMail.com.
He said he didn't know the victims by name but had seen them around the neighborhood.
Nachman Wilner, an EMT who lives two doors down from Rottenberg, told DailyMail.com he was celebrating Hanukkah with family when they heard a commotion outside.
'We heard some sirens and then we heard more and it didn't stop for quite a few minutes,' Wilner said.
'I came out side and it was like a Christmas tree all down the road with the amount of flashing lights. There was a lot of chaos.
'We thought maybe it was a fire to start with but once we heard what it was it was frightening. We tried to keep the kids calm by telling them that somebody probably just hurt themselves - but they're not that stupid. It was just so frightening.'
Wilner said he stayed at the scene for most of the night to help tend to victims.
'Everyone was so afraid, questioning what happened, why this house, was it a target? It was chaotic for some time,' he said.
Both Wilner and Spitzer said they had never heard of Grafton.
'I don't think he knew the neighborhood well because if he was looking for a large group of people, the synagogue was right next to the house,' Spitzer said. 'He would've gone in there first, before the house.'
Law enforcement is pictured at the scene on Forshay Road in Monsey in the wake of the horror attack
Investigators are seen coming out of the rabbi's home in Monsey on Saturday
Five people were stabbed in the attack. Witnesses said the attacker then fled the scene in a gray four-door Nissan sedan
Video circulating on Twitter shows emergency vehicles and ambulances hurriedly evacuating victims from a home on Forshey Road in Monsey, New York, a small hamlet in Rockland County just north of New York City
A first responder evacuates a stabbing victim outside a synagogue in Monsey, New York, late Saturday evening
Thomas is seen leaving the NYPD's 32nd precinct in handcuffs hours after the attack in video from CBS New York
Officials are seen marching the suspect out of the NYPD's 32nd precinct after his arrest in Harlem
Authorities have not provided a motive for the attack but said Thomas had no ties to the home.
In addition to the $5million bail, a judge issued five orders of protection for the victims and prohibited Thomas from going near the scene of the attack.
The defendant, dressed in a white jumpsuit and gray booties with his hands cuffed behind his back, was silent during his arraignment, except for briefly conferring with the public defender who entered his plea of not guilty.
On leaving court, Thomas remained silent when asked by reporters what was his motive for the violent attack.
He has the option to request a lower bail at a hearing on Monday, but will otherwise appear back in court on Friday, January 3.
Thomas has no prior criminal convictions but has one previous arrest on his record.
Law enforcement sources searched the home where Thomas lives with his mother in Greenwood Lake on Sunday afternoon.
Local police cordoned off the street with yellow crime scene tape where the suspect lives in a brickfront two story detached house.
An FBI evidence response agent was seen entering the home around 3.15pm.
A neighbor who did not give her name told DailyMail.com that the suspect's mom, Kim Thomas, is her friend. The neighbor said Ms Thomas is 'suffering' and did not expect what happened.
'She's overwhelmed,' she said.
When asked if the suspect had mental health problems the neighbor replied: 'Yes.'
Two friends of the mom left around 3pm and returned with soup.
They refused to comment but one woman said: 'God bless. God help us.'
Orthodox Jewish people listen to New York state Assemblyman Dov Hikind speak in Monsey hours after the attack
Two Orthodox Jewish men speak to law enforcement officials at the scene
Police tape and investigators are seen in front of the home on Forshay Road in Monsey late on Saturday night
Investigators are seen outside the home of Rabbi Chaim Leibush Rottenberg in Monsey, New York, on Saturday
A massive emergency response is seen outside of the home on Forshay Road in Monsey late Saturday
The image above shows Rabbi Chaim Leibush Rottenberg (sitting). Rottenberg is the leader of Congregation Netzach Yisrael-Kosson. This photo is said to have been taken moments before the attack on Saturday
After the attack, the rabbi was seen addressing his congregants in Yiddish in video circulated on social media
The rabbi made remarks and then led the congregants in what appeared to be singing and clapping
After the attack, the rabbi was seen addressing his congregants in Yiddish. Video circulated showing him talking to his followers.
The rabbi made remarks and then led the congregants in what appeared to be singing and clapping.
Monsey, a small hamlet located in Rockland County, is home to a large Orthodox Jewish community.
Last month, an Orthodox Jewish man was stabbed as he was walking toward a synagogue, according to The New York Times.
An estimated one-third of the 320,000 residents of Rockland County are Jewish, according to census figures.
Amateur video shot by a witness in Harlem shows New York Police Department officers taking into custody a man believed to be connected to the stabbings of multiple people at the home of a rabbi in Monsey, New York, on Saturday night
A street-level camera image shows the car matching the make, model, and license plate as that given by witnesses in Monsey