PERINTON, NY – A knife-wielding assailant allegedly attacked Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin Thursday evening as he was on the campaign trail in his bid to be the next Governor of New York, according to authorities.
Zeldin, who was campaigning in Perinton, New York at the time, was on a stage giving a speech about bail reform at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post when David G. Jakubonis of Fairport, New York, 43, purportedly climbed onto the stage and walked up to the lawmaker while holding what appeared to be a dual-bladed weapon in his right hand.
In video captured of the assault, Zeldin can be seen grabbing Jakubonis’ wrist in an attempt to ward off the attack, at which point several bystanders tackled the man, with Zeldin falling to the ground with him. At that point Jakubonis was subdued and placed under arrest. No one was seriously injured during the incident.
Prior to being tackled, Jakubonis could be heard during the attack repeatedly telling Zeldin, “You’re done. You’re done.”
Zeldin took to Twitter on Friday, predicting that New York’s lenient criminal justice system would likely allow his attacker to go free almost immediately.
“His words as he tried to stab me a few hours ago were ‘you’re done’, but several attendees, including @EspositoforNY, quickly jumped into action & tackled the guy,” Zeldin said. “Law enforcement was on the scene within minutes. The attacker will likely be instantly released under NY’s laws.”
Zeldin’s prediction shockingly came true; despite being charged with attempted assault in the second degree – a felony – the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department confirmed that Jakubonis was arraigned in Perinton Town Court and then released on his own recognizance, just hours after his arrest.
Zeldin, who is campaigning in-part on reforming New York’s current “soft on crime” criminal justice system, released a statement after the attack vowing to “make NY safe again.”
“Thank you to everyone who reached out following tonight’s attack in Fairport. 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,” he said. “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.”
Joe Chenelly – Executive Director of AMVETS and a candidate for New York State Assembly who was one of the individuals that raced to Zeldin’s aid – said that he had spoken with Jakubonis after the attack, and believes that he is a U.S. military veteran who may be suffering with mental health issues.
“As a veterans advocate, it just kind of struck me,” Chenelly said. “I told him that he’s got to deal with what he had done. And once he was through that, I would make sure that he gets the services that he needs. It indicated to me that he was having some sort of mental crisis.”