A man charged with hate crimes for a machete attack on Hasidic Jews at a Hanukkah party in New York is not a terrorist but rather a victim of mental illness and America’s failures, according to family friends.
Grafton Thomas, 38, was charged Sunday morning with five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary for allegedly breaking into a rabbi’s home in Monsey and going on a stabbing spree the previous night. On Monday, federal prosecutors announced hate crime charges against him.
According to the federal complaint, investigators recovered journals from Thomas’ home in Greenwood Lake, New York, that contained anti-Semitic sentiments, including references to Hitler and “Nazi Culture” “on the same page as drawings of a Star of David and a Swastika.”
The day of the machete attack, Thomas’ phone was allegedly used to access an article headlined: “New York City Increases Police Presence in Jewish Neighborhoods After Possible Anti-Semitic Attacks. Here’s What To Know.” He earlier in the month searched “Why did Hitler hate the Jews” and for Jewish synagogues and companies, the complaint said.
However, Thomas’ pastor of 10 years, Reverend Wendy Paige of Hudson Highlands Cooperative Parish told reporters that he is “not a violent person.” Rather, she said, he had simply been let down by “U.S. systems.”
“Grafton is not a terrorist, he is a man who has mental illness in America and the systems that be have not served him well,” Paige said, according to the New York Post. “I have been his pastor for a long time and I have seen him, he is not a violent person, he is a confused person.”
Paige, who spoke down the block from Thomas’ home, where he lives with his mother, seemed to be responding to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo calling the attack an “act of domestic terrorism” during a visit to Monsey on Sunday morning.
The pastor said Thomas has suffered from mental illness for more than 20 years and has been in and out of hospitals for treatment. She did not say whether he had been diagnosed with any condition or prescribed medication.
Taleea Collins, a friend of Thomas’ mother, said outside the home that Thomas is “a lovely person.”
“Grafton has always been a loving, loving man towards me. He calls me ‘auntie’ sometimes,” she said. “He’s just a lovely person. I’ve never seen him be violent, and I know that he suffers from mental illnesses.” read more