Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), a U.S. Army Reserve lieutenant colonel and Republican candidate for govenor of New York, was attacked by a man with a knife at a campaign stop in Perinton on Thursday night.
Zeldin was giving a campaign speech on a stage when a man got on the stage with appears to be a bladed knuckleduster. The man proceeded to lunge at Zeldin with the bladed weapon in hand and pulled him to the ground as people from around the stage rushed in to restrain him.
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Department arrested the suspect who was identified as David G. Jakubonis, 43 of Fairport, N.Y.
Jakubonis was charged with attempted assault in the second degree. Zeldin said the suspect told him “you’re done” as he began his attack. Zeldin said he was able to grab the suspect’s write as the attack began and hold him back long enough for others to intervene. Zeldin said he is okay after the attack.
American Vets (AMVETS) national director Joe Chenelly was the first person to jump on stage to help stop Jakubonis.
Chenelly told American Military News that in the time between restraining Jakubonis and law enforcement arriving to take him away, Jakubonis revealed to Chenelly that he had been a veteran of the war in Iraq.
“When he said he served in Iraq, I got down hands on my knees and said, ‘You know, we’re going to get through whatever you’ve done here tonight,’ and told him, ‘You’re going to get better and focus on that,’ and said, ‘You can contact me after this thing is done,” Chenelly said. “I was told not the engage with him right now. I think it’s very important we obviously have a mental health crisis nationwide— not just with our veterans but we especially have it with our veterans.”
Following the attack, Zeldin tweeted, “His words as he tried to stab me a few hours ago were “you’re done”, but several attendees, including [Alison Esposito], quickly jumped into action & tackled the guy. Law enforcement was on the scene within minutes. The attacker will likely be instantly released under NY’s laws.”
Fox News reported Jakubonis was arraigned in the Perinton Town Court and released afterward on his own recognizance, as Zeldin’s tweet predicted.
Zeldin campaign spokesperson Katie Vincentz told Reuters that Zeldin finished his speech after the attack and thanked law enforcement officers who responded.