Suspect in Zeldin attack arrested on federal assault charge

Northeast

In this image taken from video provided by WHEC-TV, David Jakubonis, center, is taken into custody by Monroe County Sheriff deputies after he brandished a sharp object during an attack on U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, as the Republican candidate for New York governor delivered a speech in Perinton, N.Y., Thursday, July 21, 2022. Jakubonis, 43, has been charged with attempted assault, arraigned and released, a Monroe County sheriff’s spokesperson said. (WHEC-TV via AP)

(NewsNation) — The suspect in the attack of U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, Republican candidate for New York governor, was arrested Saturday on a federal assault charge, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of New York announced.

David Jakubonis, 43, made his first court appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Marion W. Payson Saturday.

Jakubonis was taken into custody by Monroe County Sheriff deputies after he brandished a sharp object as Zeldin delivered a speech during a campaign rally in Perinton, N.Y., on Thursday. He had been charged with attempted assault, arraigned and released after the attack, a Monroe County sheriff’s spokesperson said.

Zeldin said Friday he wasn’t immediately alarmed when a stranger joined him onstage because the man wore a hat indicating that, like Zeldin, he’d served in the military.

The episode left Zeldin with a minor scrape.

The attack has sparked broader questions about the safety of public officials and political candidates in today’s environment of extreme political polarization. Supreme Court justices in particular have come under increased levels of danger since the court struck down Roe v. Wade.

“In this environment there definitely needs to be security around these politicians,” said security expert Charles Marino. “Especially during large events.”

Marino said the 2011 assassination attempt of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was a moment in history that sparked U.S. Capitol Police to play a larger role in the security of public officials around the country, particularly for large events.

He called the incident at Zeldin’s event in New York a “failure in security.”

“If security wasn’t there, they should have been. And if security was there, then they failed,” Marino said. “There’s no way that individual should have made it onto the stage with the Congressman.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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