The man accused of bursting into a Hasidic rabbi’s New York home and stabbing five Jewish people at a Hanukah celebration was apprehended after police used advanced technology to track the suspect as he made his way to the city, officials said.
A man identified by authorities as Grafton Thomas, 37, was caught on surveillance footage charging into Rabbi Chaim Rottenburg’s home in Monsey, a suburban hamlet in Rockland County Saturday. He allegedly used a machete to attack five people, all of whom are Hasidic.
“He didn't say a word,” Joseph Gluck said. “He just hit people right and left.”
Gluck was at the home and fought back with a marble-topped table.
“I hit him in his face and I started to run toward the door,” he said.
The suspect fled the scene, but not before Gluck was able to get his license plate.
That plate number was picked up by a high-tech police license plate reader as the attacker drove 30 miles, including across the George Washington Bridge into New York City.
“Every time a vehicle goes by, it takes a picture, records the information … and it runs it through a data base to see if it's a wanted vehicle,” Police Officer Chris Franco told Inside Edition.
When a suspect vehicle passes an alarm sounds.
“They can read 1,800 plates a minute, so they're very accurate once it's entered into the system and flagged—it’s only a matter of time,” security expert Steve Kardian said.
More license plate readers spotted the suspect's car in the Bronx and in upper Manhattan, where Thomas was seen on surveillance footage walking into a bodega.
Video showed Thomas calmly walking the aisles in the store before returning to his car, where he was surrounded by armed police. Police said Thomas was covered in blood and smelled of bleach they alleged he used to try to clean up.
Federal prosecutors on Monday filed hate crimes charges against Thomas, who on Sunday pleaded not guilty to five counts of attempted murder and one count of first-degree burglary.