“I’m fine,” Zeldin said in a statement after Thursday’s assault. “Fortunately, I was able to grab his wrist and stop him for a few moments until others tackled him.”
A Monroe County Sheriff’s spokesperson said David Jakubonis, 43, was arrested after attempting to attack Zeldin and was later charged with attempted second-degree assault. He was released without bail. It is unclear if Jakubonis has an attorney who can speak for him. A message requesting comment was left at a number listed for Jakubonis.
Jakubonis is an Army veteran who deployed to Iraq in 2009 as a medical lab technician.
The incident came as Zeldin, who is challenging incumbent Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul in November, was addressing a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in the town of Perinton, outside Rochester.
The attacker took to a low stage where the congressman addressed a crowd of dozens, flanked by bales of hay and American flags. Video posted to Twitter shows the pair falling to the ground as others attempt to intervene.
The assailant brandished a sharp metal object in the shape of a cat’s head, photos from the scene show.
The assailant swung the gun at Zeldin’s neck and told him, “You’re done,” according to sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Brendan Hurley.
Jacob Murphy, a spokesman for Zeldin’s congressional office, said Friday that Zeldin was slightly affected by the incident. He said that Zeldin hadn’t received any specific threats recently.
In response to a question about security at the event, Murphy said: “Congressman Zeldin had private security at the event and law enforcement arrived on the scene within minutes. Security will be enhanced from our first event this morning.”
Among those who helped subdue the assailant was Zeldin’s running mate, former New York Police Department assistant inspector Alison Esposito, Murphy said.
In a statement, Hochul condemned the attack and said she was “relieved to learn that Congressman Zeldin was not injured and the suspect is in custody.”
Langworthy asked Hochul to issue a security detail for Zeldin to protect him during the campaign trail.
“It could have been a lot worse. It really could have ended horribly tonight and that’s unacceptable,” he said.
Hochul’s publicist, Avi Small, referred questions about providing Zeldin with a security detail to the New York State Police.
Zeldin, an Army Reserve lieutenant colonel who has represented Eastern Long Island in Congress since 2015, is a staunch ally of former President Donald Trump and was among the congressional Republicans who voted against certification. results of the 2020 elections.
He has focused his campaign on fighting crime but faces an uphill battle against Hochul. He will have to persuade independent voters – who outnumber Republicans in the state – as well as Democrats in order to win the general election.
Democrats should focus on Zeldin’s vocal defense of Trump during his impeachment and objection to the election results.
Associated Press reporter Karen Matthews contributed to this report.
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