NATIONAL NEWS

Man in custody after baseball bat attack hurts 2, including intern, at congressman’s Virginia office

May 15, 2023, 11:29 AM | Updated: 2:36 pm

FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — A man with a metal baseball bat walked into the northern Virginia office of U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly on Monday, asked for him, and struck two of his workers with the bat, including an intern in her first day on the job, police and the congressman said.

The attack marked the latest in a sharp uptick in violence aimed at lawmakers or those close to them.

Fairfax City Police said officers arrived within minutes and took the man into custody without incident and that the two staff members were being treated for injuries that were not life-threatening.

The congressman, who wasn’t in the office at the time, said he knew of no motive for the attack, calling it “unconscionable and devastating” in a post on Twitter.

Connolly said in an interview that the suspect was known to police in Fairfax, adding, “he’s never made threats to us so it was unprovoked, unexpected and inexplicable.”

“I have no reason to believe that his motivation was politically motivated, but it is possible that the sort of toxic political environment we all live in, you know, set him off, and I would just hope all of us would take a little more time to be careful about what we say and how we say it.”

Connolly said the two people attacked were an intern, who was struck in the side, and his outreach director, who was hit on the head.

“Both of them are conscious and talking. They’re both are in shock. Their families were with them too,” Connolly said.

The U.S. Capitol Police and Fairfax City Police identified the suspect as Xuan-Kha Tran Pham, 49, of Fairfax. He was being held without bond at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center on charges of malicious wounding and aggravated malicious wounding.

It was not immediately clear if the man had an attorney who could speak for him.

“At this time, it is not clear what the suspect’s motivation may have been,” Capitol Police said in a news release announcing a joint investigation with the Fairfax City Police Department.

Special Agents with the Capitol Police Threat Assessment Section have been sent to Fairfax.

Fairfax City Police spokesperson Sgt. Lisa Gardner said police received a call about the attack at Connolly’s district office in the Virginia suburb of the nation’s capital at about 10:50 a.m.

“You could absolutely tell that the people inside were scared. They were hiding. Someone swinging a bat around, I would be scared as well,” Gardner said.

Police arrived in about five minutes and located the suspect in the office, quickly detaining him without further incident, Gardner said.

Police said in a news release that one police officer required treatment for a minor injury.

Last month, United States Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger testified about the heightened threat climate across the country.

“One of the biggest challenges we face today is dealing with the sheer increase in the number of threats against Members of Congress — approximately 400% over the past six years,” said Chief Manger. “Over the course of the last year, the world has continuously changed, becoming more violent and uncertain.”

Connolly, a Democrat currently serving his eighth term in Congress, represents Virginia’s Fairfax County-based 11th District in the Washington suburbs. He told CNN that his office sustained damage, including broken windows.

Other elected officials from Virginia swiftly condemned the violence.

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner retweeted Connolly’s statement, calling the attack an “extraordinarily disturbing development.”

“Intimidation and violence – especially against public servants – has no place in our society,” he said.

“The coward who did this should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” tweeted Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, a Republican.

Since the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, threats to lawmakers and their families have increased sharply. The U.S. Capitol Police investigated around 7,500 cases of potential threats against members of Congress in 2022. The year before, they investigated around 10,000 threats to members, more than twice the number from four years earlier.

In October, a man broke into the San Francisco home of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, demanding to speak with her, before he smashed her husband, Paul, over the head with a hammer.

In July, a man accosted New York Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Republican who was running for governor of New York, as he spoke at a campaign event and told Zeldin, “You’re done.” Zeldin wrestled the man to the ground and escaped with only a minor scrape.

“Violence does not belong in our political system and my prayers are with Rep. Gerry Connolly’s staff for a speedy recovery,” said Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican. “We’ve seen this against our judiciary, we’ve seen this against our legislative branch and it has no place in our Commonwealth.”

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Man in custody after baseball bat attack hurts 2, including intern, at congressman’s Virginia office