A man took the stage and attempted to stab U.S. Congressman Lee Zeldin on Thursday as he delivered a speech in his run for governor of New York, the candidate and authorities said.
Zeldin, the Republican candidate, was unharmed and his attacker was arrested during the campaign stop in Fairport, NY, 15 miles east of Rochester in western New York.
“His words as he tried to stab me a few hours ago were, ‘You’re done,'” the Republican politician tweeted, thanking attendees who helped confront the man, including his running mate, the former New York Police Department Assistant Inspector Alison Esposito. .
“I’m fine… Luckily I was able to grab his wrist and stop him for a few moments until others tackled him.”
His words as he tried to stab me a few hours ago were “you’re done”, but several participants, including @EspositoforNY< /a>quickly swung into action & tackled the guy.
Law enforcement was on the scene within minutes.
The assailant will likely be released instantly under New York law. pic.twitter.com/wZEyIyrjFe
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office identified the suspect as David Jakubonis, 43, of Fairport. The motive was unclear.
Video footage posted to social media by witnesses showed a man wearing a black baseball cap quickly approaching Zeldin from the side of the stage at the rally in upstate New York.
Zeldin pushed the suspect back before both men fell to the ground as several others attempted to subdue the suspect.
Opponent of Hochul campaign condemns attack
Jakubonis, who is charged with attempted second-degree assault, had a gun in his hand and swung it at Zeldin’s neck, the sheriff’s office said in a statement. Photos on social media appeared to show an object with at least two sharp points.
Members of the public and the Zeldin campaign team restrained Jakubonis until deputies arrived and took him into custody, the statement said.
The suspect was arraigned in Perinton City Court and released on his own recognizance.
My team briefed me on the incident at Lee Zeldin’s campaign event tonight. Relieved to hear that Congressman Zeldin was unharmed and the suspect is in custody. I condemn this violent behavior in the strongest terms possible – it has no place in New York.
A Zeldin campaign spokeswoman, Katie Vincentz, said Zeldin finished his speech after the incident and thanked law enforcement who responded to the attack.
“Relieved to hear that Congressman Zeldin was unharmed and the suspect is in custody,” tweeted outgoing New York Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat and Zeldin’s opponent in the race.
“I condemn this violent behavior in the strongest terms possible – it has no place in New York.”
Republican State Chairman Nick Langworthy called on Hochul to issue a security detail for Zeldin to protect him during the campaign trail.
“It could have been a lot worse. It really could have ended horribly tonight and that’s unacceptable,” he said.
Avi Small, Hochul’s publicist, referred questions about providing Zeldin with a security detail to the New York State Police.
Zeldin, an Army Reserve lieutenant colonel who has represented Eastern Long Island in the US Congress since 2015, is a staunch ally of former President Donald Trump and was among the Congressional Republicans who voted against the certification of the results of the 2020 elections.
He has focused his campaign on fighting crime but faces an uphill battle against Hochul. He will have to persuade independent voters – who outnumber Republicans in the state – as well as Democrats in order to win the general election.
Democrats are expected to focus on Zeldin’s vocal defense of Trump during his two impeachments, as well as Zeldin’s objection to the 2020 election results.