The seemingly drunk man approached the candidate with a pair of plastic brass knuckles with two blades and a cat’s face on it.
David Jakubonis from Fairport walked on stage and approached Lee Zeldin as the gubernatorial nominee was speaking to a crowd in the small town of Perinton, New York, outside Rochester, about bail reform.
The 43-year-old assailant is reported to be an Iraq War veteran. He walked up un stage from just behind Mr Zeldin, and eventually raised his arm towards the neck of the Republican.
He was taken down by some of the candidate’s supporters and Mr Zeldin wasn’t injured. The supporters detained the man until he was arrested by police.
The weapon found at the scene was a pair of plastic brass knuckles with two blades and a cat’s face on it. While it was made from plastic, the authorities have said that the blade was similar to a metal version in strength and sharpness.
Mr Jakubonis was charged with attempted assault in the second degree during his arraignment in Perinton Town Court. He has been released on his own recognizance.
“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”, Mr Zeldin tweeted about the incident.
According to WHEC, Mr Jakobinis appeared to be intoxicated and yelled “okay, you’re done” ahead of the attack. He was arrested by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department and Mr Zeldin was able to finish his speech.
The national director of a non-partisan veterans’ group, Joe Chenelly of AMVETS, was one of those who held Mr Jakubonis in place until the arrival of police.
“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. You’re going to get better and focus on that. You can contact me after this thing is done’”, Mr Chenelly told Rochester First.
“I was told not to engage with him right now … We obviously have a mental health crisis nationwide, not just with our veterans but we especially have it with our veterans”, he added.
Mr Zeldin has represented the first congressional district in New York – covering the wealthy Hamptons area on Long Island – since 2015.
“All members of Team Zeldin are safe following tonight’s attack. Far more must be done to make New York safe again. This is very much getting out of hand in this state”, the campaign said in a statement on Thursday. “Unfortunately, Congressman Zeldin is just the latest New Yorker whose life has been affected by the out of control crime and violence in New York. This needs to stop!”
New York Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy appeared to put the blame for the attack on the Democratic Governor of the state, Kathy Hochul.
“It’s not a coincidence that just hours earlier, Kathy Hochul fanned the flames of hate by directing her supporters to his rally schedule. This is unacceptable conduct for anyone, let alone a sitting governor”, he tweeted.
The Hochul campaign told its supporters on its website to “RSVP” for the 21 July event “to hear about Zeldin’s ‘Election Integrity Task Force,’ and his recent election fraud scandal in which his campaign photocopied over 11,000 duplicate signatures”.
Mr Zeldin was removed from the ballot line of the Independent Party a week before the attack after more 12,500 signatures on his application were shown to be duplicates, Newsday reported.
After the altercation, Ms Hochul issued a statement saying that she was “relieved to hear that Congressman Zeldin was not injured and that the suspect is in custody. I condemn this violent behavior in the strongest terms possible — it has no place in New York”.