Suspect in Hanukkah attack outside New York City has history of mental illness, family says

The family of the suspect in the brutal attack at a rabbi’s home during a Hanukkah celebration on Saturday night said in a statement that he has suffered from a long history of mental illness and has no known history of anti-Semitism.

Grafton Thomas, 37, allegedly wounded five people with a machete after entering a rabbi’s home. The attack was labeled an “act of domestic terrorism” by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo said one person was critically wounded. The rabbi’s son was also injured, he said.

Ramapo police officers escort Grafton Thomas from Ramapo Town Hall to a police vehicle, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Ramapo, N.Y.  (AP Photo/Julius Constantine Motal)

Ramapo police officers escort Grafton Thomas from Ramapo Town Hall to a police vehicle, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Ramapo, N.Y.  (AP Photo/Julius Constantine Motal)

He was found shortly after the attack covered in blood and tried to douse himself with bleach to cover up his role in the attack, the New York Post reported, citing prosecutors.

The statement released by the family did not paint a picture of a man overwhelmed with hate, but rather a man who has battled mental illness. His pastor of 10 years told the Post that he 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 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.”

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 jailed. 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.

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The family concluded the statement by offering their prayers for the victims and thanked those who “rendered medical attention to each of those injured.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report