The man accused of slashing five people at a Hanukkah celebration near New York City had been questioned in connection to a separate stabbing of an Orthodox Jewish man six weeks ago, police disclosed on Thursday.
Grafton Thomas, 37, already faces state and federal charges for Saturday’s attack at a rabbi’s home in the hamlet of Monsey, a little more than 30 miles northwest of Midtown Manhattan.
Brad Weidel, police chief in the town of Ramapo, which includes Monsey, revealed that Thomas might have been involved in the Nov. 20 stabbing of an Orthodoz Jewish man, who was critically wounded while walking to a synagogue.
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Grainy security video showed that a Honda Pilot might have been involved in the Nov. 20 attack and Thomas’ mom drives that make and model, police said. While Thomas was questioned for that assault, he could not be held.
That vehicle has been seized by police since Saturday night’s attack. Weidel defended his department’s handling of Thomas’ connection to the Nov. 20 attack.
“We didn’t know anything at that time and we had no evidence, and we had no probable cause to do anything other than follow a lead,” Weidel told reporters at Ramapo Town Hall.
“The emotions fluctuate,” Neumann’s daughter, Nicky Kohen, told NBC New York. “We are sad, we’re angry, we are outrage. We don’t understand why this happened.”
Neumann has been unconscious since Saturday’s attack and remains in intensive care at Westchester Medical Center.
Chief Weidel said his investigators also want to discover how Thomas allegedly came to pick his victims.
“We too want to know why this individual went to that location,” Weidel said. “What connection, if any, there was to the congregation or the rabbi or that house? That’s part of the investigation.”
Rockland County prosecutors are expected to present evidence against Thomas to a grand jury on Friday.
Defense lawyer Michael Sussman insists his client is not anti-Semitic, but suffers from mental illness.