As their night tour began, the two young New York City police officers pulled their SUV in front of the car driven by a man suspected of stabbing several people at a Hanukkah celebration. They blocked his path at an intersection in Harlem.
Russell Mattera and David Radziwon drew their guns and calmly walked to the car. With his hands raised, Grafton Thomas stepped out and the officers handcuffed him after midnight Sunday. Thomas had blood on his clothes and smelled of bleach, a prosecutor said.
The NYPD on Sunday released a brief surveillance video showing the moment police arrested Thomas in Harlem, about 28 miles from where police and witnesses said he entered a rabbi’s home in Rockland County and began stabbing people late Saturday.
The stabbing victims were Hasidic Jews, the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council for the Hudson Valley Region said in a tweet.
A license plate reader had captured Thomas’ tag as he drove across the George Washington Bridge around 11:45 p.m. Saturday, about an hour after the attack, police said.
“The entire incident took place in probably 10 to 15 seconds,” Police Commissioner Dermot Shea told reporters on Sunday.
Shea lauded the two officers.
“I would like to say personally to them as a new Yorker, ‘thank you,'” Shea said. “More importantly, as the police commissioner, I would like to say how proud I am of their work.”
Several other police cars arrived at the scene as the officers apprehended Thomas, the police commissioner said.
Thomas was arraigned on five counts of attempted murder and one count of first-degree burglary, Ramapo Police Chief Brad Weidel said Sunday.
He entered a not guilty plea.
Public defender Kristine Ciganek argued her client had no criminal history and lived with his mother. He has been arrested twice, she said.
Rockland County Senior Assistant District Attorney Michael Dugandzic said Thomas was arrested earlier in the year for menacing and reckless endangerment. The outcome of those charges was not immediately clear.
Thomas — who is from Greenwood Lake, about a 40-minute drive northwest of Monsey — was being held Sunday on a $5 million bail.
Shea didn’t say what led Thomas to drive to Harlem, where Mattera and Radziwon took him into custody without firing their weapons or a struggle.
“I have no doubt that their speedy efforts last night, keen work, saved lives, whether it was last night, maybe tonight or in the future,” Shea said of the officers.