Hadi Matar, of Fairview, New Jersey, was taken into custody after allegedly storming the stage and stabbing the author at least once in the neck and abdomen at the Chautauqua Institution, Major Eugene J. Staniszewski told a press conference on Friday afternoon.
Several members of the staff rushed the suspect and took him to the ground before a state trooper and Chappaqua County Sheriff’s deputy took him into custody, Mr Staniszewski said.
The 75-year-old author was given emergency treatment by a doctor who was in the audience, before emergency responders arrived.
He was airlifted to a the UPMC Hamot hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania, where he remained in surgery late on Friday afternoon, said Mr Staniszewski.
Mr Matar has not yet been charged, as police are waiting to learn the extent of the author’s injuries.
Mr Staniszewski said they were not aware of a motive for the attack and believe he was acting alone. He had purchased a pass to the literary event.
Police seized several items belonging to the suspect, including a backpack and electronic devices.
An explosive detection K9 from the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s office checked the bag.
Police were awaiting a search warrant to examine the items, he said.
Officers are working with the Chautauqua County District Attorney to determine what charges the suspect will face.
Henry Reese, who was on stage with Rushdie at the time of the attack, was taken to hospital for minor head injuries.
Chautauqua Institution president Michael Hill told reporters that security “has been a top priority,” at the event, and they conducted assessments before all events.
“We’ll continue to look at providing the maximum security that we can,” Mr Hill said.
“This has never happened in our entire history. Chautauqua has always been an extremely safe place. We will continue to be working to keep that tradition going.”