(July 22, 2022 / JNS) The man who allegedly attacked Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), the Jewish Republican nominee to challenge Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul in New York’s gubernatorial race, was released on his own recognizance just hours after he was arrested by officers from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.
At approximately 8 p.m. on Thursday, Zeldin was campaigning in Perinton, N.Y., outside of Rochester, where he was making a public speech at a Veteran of Foreign Wars (VFW) post. According to a video of the incident, a white male, who police later identified as David Jakubonis, 43, of Fairport, N.Y., climbed onto the flatbed trailer on which Zeldin was speaking and pointed a double-bladed weapon at the candidate’s neck and said “You’re done,” multiple times.
Zeldin grabbed Jakubonis’s wrist before AMVETS national director Joe Chenelly and Alison Esposito, Zeldin’s running mate for lieutenant governor and a former police officer, intervened, according to Fox News.
Rep. Lee Zeldin, the Jewish Republican nominee in New York’s gubernatorial race, was attacked by a man wielding a sharp object during a campaign stop Thursday evening. pic.twitter.com/Cya0Bj38QC
— Jewish News Syndicate (@JNS_org) July 22, 2022
Chenelly pulled Jakubonis to the ground, taking Zeldin with him. Several other attendees and campaign staff stepped in to help, pulling Zeldin off of Jakubonis and helping restrain the attacker on the ground.
Zeldin and Esposito were not injured, and Zeldin was able to finish his speech. The topic of the speech was, coincidentally, bail reform, and Zeldin correctly predicted that Jakubonis would be quickly released due to New York’s laws.
According to a release from the sheriff’s office on Friday, Jakubonis is charged with second-degree attempted assault, a Class E felony in New York. He was arraigned in Perinton Town Court and released.
In a series of tweets after the incident, Zeldin thanked those who expressed concern as well as members of law enforcement.
“I’m OK, and [Esposito] and all other attendees are safe. The attacker is in custody,” he tweeted. “Grateful for the attendees who stepped up quickly to assist, and the law-enforcement officers who quickly responded. I’m as resolute as ever to do my part to make New York safe again.”
I’m ok, and @EspositoforNY, and all other attendees are safe. The attacker is in custody. Grateful for the attendees who stepped up quickly to assist and the law enforcement officers who quickly responded. I’m as resolute as ever to do my part to make NY safe again.
— Lee Zeldin (@leezeldin) July 22, 2022
Zeldin described the attack in a follow-up tweet.
“Thank you to everyone who reached out following tonight’s attack in Fairport,” he said. “Someone tried to stab me on stage during this evening’s rally, but fortunately, I was able to grab his wrist and stop him for a few moments until others tackled him.”
According to The New York Times, the stop was part of a general election campaign kickoff bus tour across the state called “Unite to Fire Hochul” in which reeling in crime is a key campaign issue for Zeldin.
“My team has informed me about the incident at Lee Zeldin’s campaign event tonight. Relieved to hear that Congressman Zeldin was not injured and that the suspect is in custody,” Hochul tweeted. “I condemn this violent behavior in the strongest terms possible; it has no place in New York.”
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