A man armed with a baseball bat and demanding to see Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., attacked and injured two employees in a rampage inside the congressman’s office in Fairfax, Virginia, the latest in a spate of violence. politics across the country. the country.
Xuan Kha Tran Pham, 49, of Fairfax, was facing charges of one count of aggravated malicious wounding and one count of malicious wounding, according to the City of Fairfax Police Department. He was being held without bail.
Police said they had not yet identified a motive, and Capitol Police said in a statement that they did not know the suspect.
Sergeant Lisa Gardner, a spokeswoman for the Fairfax City Police, said at a news conference Monday afternoon that the shooter entered Mr. Connolly’s office after 10:30 a.m. with what appeared to be a bat. metal baseball and hit two staff members on top. body.
Both staff members were conscious when police arrived about five minutes after a 911 call, he said. Mr Connolly said in a statement that the individual had committed “an act of violence” and that the two aides had been taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Later Monday, Mr Connolly said they had been released from hospital.
“You could absolutely tell that the people inside were scared; they were hiding,” said Sgt. Gardner.
“It’s downright terrifying that someone could walk up to an office with a baseball bat and just start beating up innocent victims,” he added.
Mr. Connolly represents a swath of suburban northern Virginia west of Washington, D.C. He was first elected to Congress in 2008. In a sentence after the attack, he said he had “the best team in Congress.”
“My district office staff make themselves available to voters and members of the public every day,” said Mr. Connolly. “The idea of someone taking advantage of the accessibility of my staff to commit an act of violence is unconscionable and devastating.”
Mr. Connolly told CNN the attacker hit one of his top helpers over the head with the metal bat and struck an intern, on her first day on the job, in the side.
While members of Congress are protected on Capitol Hill by the United States Capitol Police, their district offices generally do not receive such protection unless there is a specific known threat to the member.
In Monday’s attack, the assailant caused substantial damage to Mr. Connolly’s office, breaking glass in a conference room and smashing computers.
Mr. Pham was arrested five minutes after the police arrived on the scene.
Last year, Pham filed a federal lawsuit in Virginia against the CIA alleging that the agency had imprisoned him for decades in a “physics-based lower perspective called the world of books” and demanding $29 million. The handwritten lawsuit claimed the agency was “brutally torturing” him with a “degenerative disability” of the “fourth dimension.”
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the top Democrat in the House, called the attack “horrific.”
“We are grateful for the members of law enforcement and medical professionals who acted quickly to apprehend the suspect and care for the affected members of our Capitol Hill community,” said Mr. Jeffries. “The safety of our members and our staff continues to be of the utmost importance, particularly given the rise in cases of political violence in our country.”
Mr. Jeffries said he asked the House sergeant-at-arms and the Capitol Police to “take all available precautions to protect members and our staff, who serve the American people with patriotism and passion and deserve to do so. without fearing for your safety. ”
Chairman Kevin McCarthy said he contacted Connolly after the attack. “We are all praying for the speedy recovery of the injured employees and grateful for the quick actions of law enforcement in apprehending the suspect,” Mr. McCarthy said.
The attack occurs in the middle an increase in threats and violent political speech against members of Congress in recent years. In October, an intruder bludgeoned Husband of Congresswoman Nancy PelosiPaul, with a hammer inside his San Francisco home after the attacker yelled, “Where’s Nancy?”
Last month, Capitol Hill Police Chief J. Thomas Manger testified on Capitol Hill about the heightened threat climate across the country.
Last year there were more than 7,500 threats against members of Congress. In 2017, there were fewer than 4,000 such threats.
“One of the biggest challenges we face today is dealing with the huge increase in the number of threats against members of Congress, approximately 400 percent in the last six years,” he said. “Over the past year, the world has continually changed, becoming more violent and uncertain.”
catie edmondson and Stephanie Lai contributed reporting.