By Matthew Barakat
A man with a metal baseball bat walked into the northern Virginia office of U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly on Monday, asked for him, then 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 an uptick in violence aimed at lawmakers or those close to them.
Fairfax City Police said officers arrived minutes afterward and detained the man. The two staff members were treated for injuries that were not life-threatening.
The veteran Democratic congressman, who wasn't in the office at the time, said in an interview that the suspect was known to police in Fairfax County, 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,” he said.
Connolly said the two women attacked — an intern struck in the side and an outreach director hit on the head — were treated and released from a hospital.
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 he had an attorney.
“At this time, it is not clear what the suspect’s motivation may have been,” Capitol Police said in a statement announcing a joint investigation with Fairfax City Police.
Police said the man is suspected in a separate attack a short time earlier Monday.
Fairfax County Police said a man later identified as Pham approached a woman parked in her car about five miles (eight kilometers) away from Connolly’s office at 10:37 a.m. The man asked the woman if she was white, then hit her windshield with a bat and ran away, according to police. The woman wasn't injured.
A video recorded on a neighbor’s home camera system showed a man chasing a woman with a bat at the site where police said the earlier incident occurred. The woman can be heard screaming and a man is shown chasing her up a small hill before giving up and turning around. Dan Ashley, the homeowner, said it was “troubling to see this sort of thing happening in the neighborhood.”
Pham’s father, Hy Pham, told The Washington Post his son was schizophrenic and had dealt with mental illness since his late teens.
Hy Pham told the newspaper he had been unsuccessfully trying to arrange mental health care for his son. The father could not immediately be reached by The Associated Press.
In May 2022, a person whose name and community of residence matches Xuan-Kha Pham’s sued the Central Intelligence Agency in federal court.
In a hand-written complaint, the plaintiff alleged the CIA had been “wrongfully imprisoning me in a lower perspective” and “brutally torturing me with a degenerating disability consistently since 1988 till the present from the fourth dimension.”
Last year, officers responded to a Fairfax home after a man called dispatch saying he wished to harm others, Fairfax County Police said in a statement. Pham assaulted responding officers and attempted to take a firearm, according to the statement, adding the officers sustained minor injuries.
Pham was taken into custody and charged with assault on a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest and attempting to disarm a law enforcement officer. Those charges were eventually dropped.
A person with the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office, who spoke on condition of anonymity because Pham now has an ongoing criminal case, said the charges were dropped because they stemmed from a mental health crisis and that the defendant entered an agreement designed to ensure he received mental health treatment. The person complied with conditions requiring him to seek treatment from his arrest in January through a nine-month period when the charges were dropped in September.
Fairfax City Police spokesperson Sgt. Lisa Gardner said police received a call about the attack at Connolly's Virginia office at about 10:50 a.m. Monday. Police arrived in about five minutes and located the suspect in the office and detained him, Gardner said. One police officer received a minor injury and was treated.
Connolly, a Democrat currently serving his eighth term in Congress, represents Virginia’s Fairfax County-based 11th District in the Washington suburbs. He said windows were broken at the office during the incident.
Other elected officials from Virginia condemned the violence, among them U.S. Sen. Mark Warner.
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.
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.
Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro and Kevin Freking in Washington, and Sarah Rankin in Richmond, contributed to this report. Lavoie reported from Richmond.
UPDATE: This story has been updated with the condition of the victims, background on the suspect and additional information.