Two staffers for Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) were hospitalized Monday after a man entered the congressman’s district office in Fairfax, Va., and assaulted them with a metal bat, underscoring the threats faced by lawmakers amid extreme political polarization in the U.S.
Connolly, who represents Virginia’s 11th Congressional District, said the assailant asked for him before attacking his staffers, who were taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
The Virginia Democrat said Monday evening that he had visited the staffers in the hospital and both have since been released.
The suspect struck a senior aide in the head and an intern in the side with the metal bat, Connolly told CNN. It was the intern’s first day on the job, Connolly said. The congressman told the network he was at a ribbon-cutting for a food bank when the assailant entered his office.
The alleged attacker — identified by authorities as Xuan Kha Tran Pham, 49, of Fairfax — is in custody and faces one count of aggravated malicious wounding and one count of malicious wounding.
“This morning, an individual entered my District Office armed with a baseball bat and asked for me before committing an act of violence against two members of my staff. The individual is in police custody and both members of my team were transferred to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries,” Connolly said in a statement.
“Right now, our focus is on ensuring they are receiving the care they need,” he continued, adding “The thought that someone would take advantage of my staff’s accessibility to commit an act of violence is unconscionable and devastating.”
Pham entered Connolly’s office, located on Main Street, at 10:49 a.m., according to the U.S. Capitol Police. Authorities took the suspect into custody at the scene within five minutes of police receiving a call, according to the Fairfax City Police Department. A spokesperson for the department said Pham will be taken to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center.
Capitol Police said the suspect’s motivation is unclear at this time. The congressman told CNN the alleged attacker is a constituent from his district whom he does not know. He said the assailant, who shattered glass and broke computers, was “filled with out-of-control rage.”
NBC reported Monday that Pham had filed a lawsuit against the CIA last year claiming the agency was “wrongfully imprisoning [him] in a lower perspective based on physics,” and that he was being “brutally tortured … from the fourth dimension.”
Capitol Police and the Fairfax City Police Department are investigating the incident.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) in a statement said he spoke with Connolly on Monday “to offer him and his staff the full support of the House Democratic Caucus family in the aftermath of this horrific attack.”
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) echoed that later in the day, saying he had called Connolly regarding the “heinous attacks.”
“We are all praying for the quick recovery of the staffers injured and grateful for the quick actions of the law enforcement who apprehended the suspect,” he said.
The attack at Connolly’s office is the latest violent threat faced by a lawmaker in recent months.
The U.S. Capitol Police’s Threat Assessment Section investigated 7,501 cases in 2022, which includes probes into concerning statements and direct threats. That was down from the 9,625 cases in 2021 and the 8,613 cases in 2020.
Despite the drop, Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger in January said the threats against lawmakers “are still too high.”
Jeffries echoed that sentiment Monday.
“The safety of our Members and of our staff remains of paramount importance, particularly given the increased instances of political violence in our country,” Jeffries wrote in a statement.
The Democratic leader said he has asked the House Sergeant at Arms and U.S. Capitol Police to continue to focus on collaborating with members.
“We must collectively take every available precaution to protect Members and our staff, who serve the American people with patriotism and passion and deserve to do so without fear for their safety,” he added.
The attack at Connolly’s office comes nearly seven months after a man broke into the California home of then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and hit her husband, Paul Pelosi, with a hammer, causing a skull fracture and other injuries that required surgery to repair.
According to charging documents, the alleged attacker, David DePape, was targeting the congresswoman when he entered the San Francisco residence. Pelosi at the time was second in line to the presidency.
DePape has since been charged with state and federal charges, including attempted murder, attempted kidnapping and assault. He has pleaded not guilty.
In February, Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.) was assaulted in the elevator at her apartment building in Washington, D.C. According to a police report filed with the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, the attacker punched Craig in the chin and grabbed her neck, and the congresswoman threw her hot coffee to defend herself.
Craig’s chief of staff said she “suffered bruising, but is otherwise physically okay,” and noted that there was no evidence of the incident being politically motivated.
Updated: 7:44 p.m.