A man wielding a metal bat entered the district office of Virginia Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly on Monday, injuring two of the congressman’s staffers, one of them in the head.
The assailant, identified by US Capitol Police as 49–year–old Xuan Kha Tran Pham of Fairfax, was arrested and charged with one count of aggravated malicious wounding and one count of malicious wounding.
A law enforcement source confirmed that prior to the attack in the congressional office, Pham had confronted a woman in Fairfax County, damaging her vehicle with a baseball bat.
Connolly told CNN that the attacker caused wide damage in his office, shattering glass and destroying computers. The congressman said he didn’t believe there was any specific motivation for the attack, adding, “I think we are talking about real mental illness.”
Pham’s father, Hy Xuan Pham, told CNN his son is schizophrenic and hadn’t taken his medication for three months. He said that he had tried to get his son mental health treatment but hadn’t been able to.
The suspect had previously been charged with assaulting a law enforcement officer before the charge was subsequently dropped, records show. Furthermore, last year, someone with the same name and city of residence as Pham filed a federal lawsuit against the CIA, alleging in a short handwritten complaint that the agency was guilty of “wrongfully imprisoning me in a lower perspective based on physics called the book world since 1975,” and “brutally torturing me with a degenerating disability consistently since 1988 till the present from the fourth dimension.”
Monday’s attack comes amid a string of incidents in which members of Congress, their staff and their families have been attacked in recent months. In March, a staffer for Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky was stabbed in Washington, DC. In February, a man assaulted Democratic Rep. Angie Craig of Minnesota in the elevator of her apartment building also in Washington.
In response, Connolly said that there needs to be more security funding for members’ offices in their districts.
“If you’re a member of Congress and your office happens to be in a federal building, in the courthouse, you’re gonna have security. But if you’re in a commercial office space like me, you have no security. None. And what could go wrong with that? Well, we learned the answer to that this morning,” said Connolly.
The congressman’s two aides were taken to the hospital with non–life threatening injuries and Pham is now in custody. The motives behind the attack remain unknown, but it serves as a reminder of the importance of security and mental health awareness.