NATIONAL NEWS

Connecticut lawmaker attacked after Muslim service says Hartford police downplayed assault

Jul 6, 2023, 1:02 PM | Updated: 3:20 pm

Connecticut state legislator Rep. Mayram Khan, second from right, with her right arm in a sling and...

Connecticut state legislator Rep. Mayram Khan, second from right, with her right arm in a sling and surrounded by friends, family and fellow lawmakers, in Hartford, Conn., Thursday July 6, 2023, gives a harrowing account of her attack last month as she left a Muslim prayer service. (AP Photo/Susan Haigh)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Susan Haigh)

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut lawmaker who was attacked last month while leaving a Muslim prayer service accused police in Hartford of downplaying the assault and called Thursday for a federal investigation of the department’s handling of violent crimes, especially against women.

Rep. Maryam Khan, the first Muslim member of the Connecticut House, wore a sling on her right arm at a news conference and was surrounded by friends, family and fellow state legislators as she gave a harrowing account of her ordeal. She called the attack much more violent and shocking than how it was described in a police report.

Khan said she was later diagnosed with a concussion and is now awaiting an MRI after losing feeling in her right arm and shoulder. She recalled having to convince emergency responders at the scene that she was physically injured and emotionally traumatized.

“All I keep thinking in these last few days is what happens to women in the city of Hartford that call the police when they are assaulted, when they experience what I experienced, when they experience sexual assault, when they experience physical assault,” she said in the appearance at the Legislative Office Building.

“Because if this is what’s happening to me and this is the best we can do, as a state representative who represents the city of Hartford, I cannot be OK with that. I’m not okay with that,” she said.

Khan, a Democrat, lives in the Hartford suburb of Windsor. Her legislative district includes Windsor and a part of Hartford, Connecticut’s capital.

Hartford Police Chief Jason Thody expressed his sympathy for the legislator in a statement and said the department is taking the assault “very seriously,” noting both the Intelligence and Major Crimes divisions were immediately assigned the case.

“What Representative Khan experienced is awful, and I am so sorry for her and her family,” he said. The chief said his detectives have “supplemented the initial report with additional information and context” and have shared it with prosecutors. He said the department “will review every aspect of our response” to Khan’s assault, noting “we always want to get better and better.”

Thody said the case remains under investigation and the department is prepared to release as much information — including video and police body camera footage — “as the law allows and Representative Khan requests.”

Khan described Thursday how she and her family were taking photos June 28 outside a Hartford arena where the prayer service was held. She said a man approached and said he “intended to have sexual relations” with one of them, including Khan’s 15-year-old daughter.

He then followed them inside and Khan said he started to pursue her in particular, grabbing at her face and shirt and demanding a kiss. Khan said the man followed her back outside and tried to grab her face again but became angry when she “dodged him” and slapped her across the face. She said he later held her in a “chokehold” and held up his hand and mimicked having a gun before slamming her body into the ground.

“I knew in that moment my body went numb, and I thought I was going to die,” she said.

The Associated Press doesn’t generally identify people who report attempted sexual assaults unless they publicly identify themselves, as Khan has done.

There was no immediate response to an email seeking comment from the U.S. Department of Justice about Khan’s call for a federal probe.

The department originally said Khan suffered “minor injuries” after a man, who made lewd comments and tried to kiss her, slapped her face and let go of her neck, causing her to fall to the ground. Khan noted the police report did not mention how her children were present for the attack or that she was a Muslim marking Eid al-Adha, the end of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage by Muslims to Mecca.

She said her family regularly attends the annual prayer service at the XL Center, an arena in downtown Hartford, which drew roughly 4,000 people to the June 28 gathering. Information provided by Mayor Luke Bronin’s office said the XL Center hired one sergeant and two officers to work at the prayer service, which has been held there for many years without incidents.

“Without a legitimate reason, a larger police detail can drive up the expense for events and can make attendees uncomfortable and feel overpoliced,” the mayor’s office said.

The suspect, Andrey Desmond, 30, who was chased down and held by two bystanders, was held in lieu of $250,000 bond at his arraignment last week on charges including misdemeanor assault, unlawful restraint, breach of peace and interfering with police. Authorities have said he could still face additional charges.

Emails were sent Wednesday and Thursday seeking comment from Desmond’s public defender, but there was no immediate response.

Khan won a special election for her seat in March 2022.

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Connecticut lawmaker attacked after Muslim service says Hartford police downplayed assault