Congressman Lee Zeldin, the Republican nominee for New York State Governor, was attacked at a campaign event in Western New York Thursday evening, according to police in Monroe County.
Police said 43-year-old David Jakubonis of Fairport, N.Y. swung a weapon toward Mr. Zeldin’s neck and said, “You’re done.”
In videos of the incident posted to social media, Mr. Jakubonis can be seen slowly approaching Mr. Zeldin (R-Shirley) as he spoke from a makeshift stage on the back of a flatbed truck. Mr. Jakubonis was wearing an Iraqi War Veteran hat and sunglasses and appeared to hold up his hand — adorned with spiked metal knuckles on two fingers — to the Congressman’s face. The two men tussled as four people who came to the aid of the Congressman wrestled him to the ground, bringing Mr. Zeldin down too, the video shows.
The Congressman, whose current district includes the North Fork, was unhurt, his campaign said. The incident occurred about 8 p.m., according to police.
Mr. Zeldin took to Twitter late Thursday night to thank supporters who reached out following the attack. He said he was fourtunate he was “able to grab [the man’s] wrist and stop him for a few moments until others tackled him.”
Mr. Zeldin later Tweeted that under New York laws Mr. Jakubonis would likely be immediate released from jail.
In its press release, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office said the he was arraigned in Perintown Town Court Thursday night and released on his own recognizance. Mr. Jakubonis was charged with attempted assault in the second degree, a Class-E felony.
At the time of the attack, Mr. Zeldin was speaking to the crowd assembled at a “Fire Kathy Hochul” rally outside the V.F.W. Hall in Perinton, N.Y. about residents of the state leaving because they feel unsafe, a familiar rallying cry of his gubernatorial campaign.
“You’re still here,” he said to the crowd. “And this is our last stand for New York.
“There’s only one option,” he said as the man encountered him, interrupting his remarks.
Individuals who restrained the man then tied his arms and legs with zip ties and could be seen removing items from his pocket, one video showed. It was unclear if the individuals who restrained him were law enforcement, though one man appeared to be displaying a badge and a holstered gun at his hip. Mr. Jakubonis can be heard screaming “no weapon.”
Police described the audience members who restrained Mr. Jakubonis as members of the audience and Mr. Zeldin’s campaign.
The audience cheered as uniformed officers from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office arrived on scene nine minutes later. The officers could be seen on the video cuffing the man and escorting him into a police car, his shorts falling below his calves.
Shortly after police left, Mr. Zeldin returned to the stage.
“So as I was saying,” he said to laughs from the crowd.
“Far more must be done to make New York safe again,” read part of a statement from Zeldin campaign spokesperson Katie Vincentz, who went on to praise law enforcement in both her statement and posts to Twitter.
Perinton, N.Y. is nine miles east of Rochester and about 20 miles south of Lake Ontario and the Canadian border.
Mr. Zeldin, 42, is a fourth-term Congressman who won a G.O.P primary to oppose incumbent Governor Kathy Hochul (D-Buffalo) in November.
In a statement on Twitter, Gov. Hochul condemned the “violent behavior,” stopping short of describing it as an attack.
According to a resumé posted to the social media site LinkedIn, Mr. Jakubonis is an unemployed former Army lab technician who served from 2007-12.