Crime /

Man Who Attacked Congressman Lee Zeldin at Rally Charged with Attempted Assault and Released

'I’m as resolute as ever to do my part to make New York safe again,' Zeldin said after the attack

The man who attacked Congressman Lee Zeldin during an event for his campaign for governor has been charged with attempted assault.

Zeldin, a Republican currently running for New York governor, was speaking at a VFW post outside of Rochester on July 21 when a man in a baseball cap and sunglasses came on stage.

“The first thing I saw was that he was wearing a hat that said he was a veteran,” Zeldin recounted during a news conference outside of Syracuse on July 22. “And my guard couldn’t possibly be more dropped. But at the same exact time, I noticed that he had a weapon in his hand.”

The man, David Jakubonis, was carrying a pointed metal tool shaped like a cat’s head and reportedly yelled “You’re done” at the congressman. The item is a keychain meant to be worn on the knuckles in the event of an attack.

“And obviously in that point, regardless of whatever’s on your hat, this was not a normal situation and there needed to be action taken,” Zeldin said during his statement.

The attack was caught on video. The man reached for Zeldin, swinging the tool toward his neck. Both men fell to the ground during the altercation. People present at the event, including Zeldin’s running mate, New York Police Department Deputy Inspector Alison Esposito, intervened and held Jakubonis on the ground.

Jakubonis, 43, was arrested at the scene and Zeldin returned to the stage to finish his speech.

Jakubonis was subsequently charged with attempted assault in the second degree. The Monroe County sheriff said in a statement that Jakubonis had been arraigned and released.

Jakubonis, an Army veteran, was trained as a medical laboratory technician and served in Iraq in 2009. 

Zeldin predicted his attacker would “likely be instantly released under NY’s laws” in a statement on Twitter at 1:30 A.M.

“Grateful for the attendees who stepped up quickly to assist and the law enforcement officers who quickly responded,” he said in another post. “I’m as resolute as ever to do my part to make New York safe again.”

New York Republican State Committee Chairman Nick Langworthy called on Governor Kathy Hochul to provide Zeldin with security detail for future campaign events, per AP News.

Hochul’s press secretary has referred the question to the New York state police.

The governor wrote on Twitter that she was “relieved to hear that Congressman Zeldin was not injured and that the suspect is in custody.” 

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

Hochul’s gubernatorial campaign sent an email to supporters ahead of Zeldin’s July 21 event that was titled “‘Big Lie’ Lee kicks off statewide ‘MAGA Republican’ bus tour.”

“On Thursday, July 21, 2022, ‘Big Lie’ Lee and his entourage of extremists kick off the statewide ‘MAGA Republican’ Bus Tour, which will make stops across the state peddling dangerous lies, misinformation, and his far-right agenda,” the email stated according to Fox News. “At stops during the tour, Zeldin will be joined by top anti-abortion advocates, NRA enthusiasts, and a cast of extremist groups.”

Zeldin, a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, has represented a district in eastern Long Island in the U.S. Congress since 2010. He has been a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump.

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