Helping Hero: Man who stopped Zeldin attacker tries to get him VA help for mental illness

Chenelly quickly subdued Jakubonis before Zeldin could be harmed

Updated: July 22, 2022 - 10:54pm

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After New York Republican state assembly candidate Joe Chenelly subdued the man who attacked Lee Zeldin at a campaign event, he turned to the VA to get Zeldin's would be assailant mental health support.

Police arrested and charged David Jakubonis, an Iraq War veteran who was reportedly drunk, after he allegedly attempted to storm the stage while Zeldin was speaking and brandished what appeared to be pointed brass knuckles. Chenelly quickly subdued Jakubonis before Zeldin could be harmed. Jakubonis was released within hours under New York's no bail law.

Chenelly said that after he and other rally attendees subdued him, Jakubonis had to be held on the ground for almost five minutes and that he was clearly in a poor mental state. "Finally, when the police got there, and they put him in actual handcuffs, as they're starting to walk him away, he turned to me and to a few of us and said that he was an Iraq war veteran," he said on the "Just the News, Not Noise" television show.

"And my mind shifted instantly from trying to make sure this, this guy doesn't hurt others or myself to vector A veterans advocate. And that's what I do. As my day job. I'm the National Executive Director for AMVETS, National Veterans Organization, and instantly put the veterans advocate hat back," Chenelly continued.

"And I told him then said, you know, if you need help, if you need services, they're out there. You've done something pretty serious tonight, you're going to have to deal with this," he said, adding "but we're going to make sure you get the services and the care you need. And I want you to reach out to me once you're through this process."

Chenelly said he spoke with other veteran advocates and learned what he could about Jakubonis. "We found that he's a veteran Army veteran with a couple of deployments to Iraq, in the medical corps of the army, which you know, can often mean, he's seen some of the worst," he said. "So we've we've been working to make sure he has the services provided. Talk to the Secretary of the VA today, in that regard to ensure that if he wants help, there'll be help available for him."

The AMVETS director, who is also seeking election to the New York State Assembly, said he has not been able to contact Jakubonis since his release.

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