The US is shocked by dual attacks against religious groups on final weekend of 2019
2019 ended with two, apparently unrelated, attacks that rattled religious communities across the United States.
The first occurred on Saturday, December 29, when a man entered the home of a rabbi in New York and stabbed five people.
The second attack occurred the following day when a man interrupted a church service in Texas and fatally shot two people.
The two attacks closed out a year in which authorities around the world have noted a rise in crimes motivated by anti-religious bigotry.
A machete attack in New York and a shooting in Texas
On Saturday, the seventh night of Hanukkah, Grafton E. Thomas entered the house of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg as his Orthodox Jewish congregation were celebrating.
The home, in Mosney, New York, is just next door to the Congregation Netzach Yisroel synagogue. Thomas used a machete in an attack that left five injured, including one in critical condition.
Thomas fled the scene by car but his license plate was recorded by a witness and given to police. Thomas was captured less than an hour later as he attempted to enter New York City, 35 miles south of Monsey.
The following day, a shooting occurred in White Settlement, Texas, while worshipers were attending a Sunday morning service at West Freeway Church of Christ. A man identified as Keith Thomas Kinnunen entered the church with a shotgun and killed two people, Anton Tony Wallace and Richard White.
Members of the church’s security force in attendance returned fire. The gunman was fatally shot by Jack Wilson, the church’s head of security. The two victims were also part of the security team.
Motives for the attacks
Thomas, who is purported to have a history of mental illness and a police record, was charged with five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary. In full, the attempted murder charges are for “obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous…