The man accused of attacking a gathering of Hasidic Jews during a Hanukkah celebration has a history of mental illness, according to those close with his family.
Grafton Thomas, 38, was charged Sunday morning with five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary after he stormed into a rabbi’s home and attacked the group with a machete. While there have been obvious accusations of anti-Semitism against Thomas, his family friends claimed that Thomas has struggled with mental illness for years.
Thomas’s pastor of more than a decade, Rev. Wendy Paige told the New York Post, “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 maintained that Thomas was “not a violent person” despite his arrest in the brutal attack. She noted that Thomas has received treatment and been hospitalized several times over the past 20 years for his mental illnesses. The reverend explained, “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.”
She added, “We apologize to the families for him. We apologize because we know this was not him, this was an action out of mental illness, please understand … Please, let’s work on our systems for mental illness. Grafton has mental illness, and that is the sound of his confusion and these actions.”
Taleea Collins, a friend of Thomas’s mother, agreed with Paige, saying, “Grafton has always been a loving, loving man towards me. He calls me ‘auntie’ sometimes. He’s just a lovely person. I’ve never seen him be violent, and I know that he suffers from mental illnesses. He’s not a terrorist. He’s a loving, loving man, with a lot of creativity and just a wonderful spirit.”
Thomas is being held in a New York jail on $5 million bail. Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the attack an act of domestic terrorism.
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