U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin attacked on stage at New York campaign event, witnesses say

A man attacked U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin at a campaign event near Rochester, New York, Thursday evening, according to officials and witnesses.

David Jakubonis, 43, went on stage at the event at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Perinton with a weapon around 8 p.m. and attacked Zeldin, before being restrained by people in the audience and members of his campaign, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office said.

Zeldin, a Republican running for New York governor, was not injured, and no other injuries were reported.

NY GOP Candidate for Governor Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-NY, top right, is protected by an unidentified man wearing sunglasses as others apprehend a man who attacked Rep. Zeldin at the campaign event in Fairport, N.Y., on July 21, 2022.Courtesy Jeff Nichols

Video of the event recorded by NBC affiliate WHEC of Rochester showed the man approach Zeldin and appear to repeat “you’re done” as Zeldin holds on to his wrist, before others intervene and everyone falls.

The man appeared to be holding an object with two protruding points, the video showed. The sheriff’s office statement did not say what kind of weapon it was.

Jakubonis, of Fairport, is charged with attempted assault in the second degree, a felony, and was arraigned at Perinton Town Court and released on his own recognizance, the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

Zeldin later tweeted his thanks to everyone who reached out, writing in part, “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.”

The man was subdued and restrained with zip ties, and police arrived, handcuffed him and took him into custody, Mike Cialini, commander of VFW Post 8495, said in an interview.

“No motive, no nothing. Once he was subdued, he was making sounds. They were just weird noises,” Cialini, who said he witnessed the incident, said.

Zeldin spokesperson Katie Vincentz said that Zeldin, along with Alison Esposito who is running for lieutenant governor, and other members of the campaign are safe. Zeldin finished his remarks and thanked law enforcement, she said.

New York GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy said Zeldin was “was targeted in a violent attack at a campaign rally stop in Monroe County,” and he hailed the actions of bystanders who subdued the man.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, said she was relieved that Zeldin was not hurt and the suspect was in custody.

“I condemn this violent behavior in the strongest terms possible — it has no place in New York,” she tweeted.

Zeldin, of Suffolk County on Long Island, was a state senator and was elected to Congress in 2014.

He won the Republican primary for New York governor in June, beating a trio of opponents, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s son Andrew Giuliani. Zeldin will face Hochul in November’s gubernatorial election.

Thursday’s campaign event was being hosted at the VFW Post 8495, Cialini said, but the organization is apolitical.

Perinton is southeast of Rochester.

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