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What We Know About The Suspect Behind An Attempted Hanukkah Massacre

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A 37-year-old African American man named Grafton Thomas is the prime suspect behind an attempted massacre at a rabbi’s house in Monsey, New York over Hanukkah last month.

Thomas allegedly broke into the rabbi’s home and stabbed five Jewish men with a machete as they were celebrating Hanukkah. The attack was described by Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo as an act of “domestic terrorism,” and is the latest assault on New York’s orthodox Jewish community.

One victim, a 72-year-old man named Josef Neumann is still fighting for his life following the attack, and has remained unconscious since that tragic night, dealing with a multitude of injuries that include a fractured skull and a knife wound to the neck. Thomas was indicted last week for six counts of attempted murder and has also been charged with three counts of first-degree assault, three counts of first-degree attempted assault, and two counts of first degree burglary. (RELATED: Andrew Cuomo: ‘We Didn’t Have Hurricanes’ Before Climate Change)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks to the media outside the home of rabbi Chaim Rottenbergin Monsey, in New York on December 29, 2019. (KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks to the media outside the home of rabbi Chaim Rottenbergin Monsey, in New York on December 29, 2019. (KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images)

The tragedy was one of eight reported anti-Semitic attacks that occurred over the last month, all of them targeting New York’s Hasidic community. The Monsey attack led to nationwide protests across the country, as Americans demonstrated solidarity with the Jewish community. Politicians and celebrities joined thousands of Americans Sunday at a “No hate, No Fear” rally, while New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered the New York Police Department (NYPD) to increase police presence around areas with large Jewish populations, while Cuomo has vowed to prosecute Thomas and other alleged perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law.

Despite the horrific crimes Thomas has been accused of, and the strong statements of condemnation from state leaders, Thomas’ family is asking for compassion. Thomas’ family and lawyer claimed that Thomas has been hospitalized multiple times over the few years for mental illness, including depression and anxiety. Thomas claimed after his arrest that he had heard voices instructing him to attack the house, potentially setting up his legal defense.

“We believe the actions of which he is accused, if committed by him, tragically reflect profound mental illness for which. … Grafton has received episodic treatment before being released,” the family said in a statement to CNN, adding that he has “no known history of anti-Semitism.”

While Thomas’ family has emphasized his mental illness, his past writings reveal a deep-seated anti-Semitism that includes admiration for the Black Hebrew Israelites, a black separatist group that believes they are the true descendants of the ancient Israelites, and is alleged to have been behind other anti-Semitic attacks that have recently occurred in New York. (RELATED: Anti-Israel Boycott Movement Exposes Schism Within The Squad, And The Democratic Party)

“‘Hebrew Israelites’ took from the ‘powerful ppl (ebinoid Israelites),’” Thomas wrote in one of his journals. Thomas’ journals also allegedly included references to Nazi’s and notorious German dictator Adolf Hitler. There were also allegedly drawings of swastikas. Authorities also went through Thomas’ cell phone and found google searches looking for “Zionist Temples” in the New York area. Thomas’ google searches included “Why did Hitler hate the Jews?” and “German Jewish Temples near me.” Thomas also viewed an article about the increased NYPD police presence around Jewish communities.

Thomas’ former stepfather Joe Kennedy told Heavy that while he had not personally witnessed any anti-Semitism from his former stepson, he has seen a violent streak from Thomas. (RELATED: Democrats Rush To Blame Trump For Anti-Semitic New York Attacks)

“He was a guy almost 6 foot 5, and 200 and something odd pounds. That’s a frightening situation when it’s someone pretty much out of control,” Kennedy told the website. “He is a mentally disturbed young man who didn’t receive proper treatment.”

Additionally, Thomas was kicked out of the Marine Corps in 2002 for “fraudulent enlistment,” according to The Associated Press. The AP also reported that Thomas has repeatedly been in trouble with the law, including a past arrest he had for allegedly assaulting a police horse.

Whether Thomas was driven by mental illness or a darker, more sinister ideology, his alleged attempted massacre at a Rabbi’s home is a sobering reminder that anti-Semitism is on the rise in the U.S. and across the world. The recent surge in anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York have raised concerns that it is no longer safe to be Jewish in one of New York’s most heavily populated Jewish cities.