BOSTON (AP) — A man suspected of stabbing a rabbi several times near a Jewish day school in Boston was held without bail Friday at his arraignment pending a hearing to determine whether he is a danger to society.
Khaled Awad, 24, pleaded not guilty to assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon and assault and battery on a police officer in connection with the Thursday afternoon stabbing of Rabbi Shlomo Noginski in the city’s Brighton neighborhood.
The attorney who represented Awad on Friday could not be reached for comment. A number for Awad, who’s from Brighton, could not be found.
The hearing to determine whether he’s a danger is scheduled for July 8. Awad has no record in Massachusetts but has faced charges of battery and theft in Florida and was sent to a mental health facility there, prosecutors said.
The motive for the stabbing remains unclear, and police are still investigating. District Attorney Rachael Rollins said at a vigil in support of Noginksi on Friday her office has opened a civil rights investigation to determine whether the stabbing is a hate crime.
“We have to recognize that antisemitism is on the rise, and we need to hold people accountable when they do this, so that they are made an example of,” Rollins said at the vigil not far from the stabbing site, attended by several hundred people.
The suspect approached the rabbi with a gun and a knife while he was talking on the phone, sitting on the steps of the school, according to prosecutors and Rabbi Dan Rodkin, executive director of Shaloh House. The suspect allegedly demanded the rabbi’s car keys, and Noginski ran across the street to a park where he was stabbed.
According to the court documents, when police located the suspect, he pointed what appeared to be a firearm at them. Three officers drew their firearms and ordered the suspect to drop his weapon multiple times, authorities said. The suspect then lowered his weapon and threw it to the ground.
The suspect kicked one of the officers in the stomach as he was being assisted into a transport vehicle for booking, police said.
As soon as the school became aware of the stabbing, the facility went into lockdown and no children were ever in danger, Rodkin said in a Facebook post.
Noginski is an Israeli citizen who came to the Boston area as an emissary to spread the Chabad message, Consul General of Israel to New England Meron Reuben told the Boston Herald.
“We are horrified by what has happened,” Reuben said.
Noginski, who spoke to Lubavitch.com from his hospital bed, has since been released from the hospital.
“I am grateful to the Boston Police Department for their rapid response, and relieved that the perpetrator is in custody. I am looking forward to returning to my work as soon as possible,” he said.
Some who attended Friday’s vigil held in a steady rain think the stabbing was a hate crime.
“I don’t think there’s a member of our Jewish community who did not hear about this stabbing and think to themselves, ‘Oh my God, it’s happened here in Boston,’” said Marc Baker, president of Combined Jewish Philanthropies.
The attack on the rabbi was an attack on the entire city, acting Mayor Kim Janey said: “I believe that an attack on any member of our community is an attack on all of us.”