A suspect looking for a Virginia congressman attacked two of his staffers with a baseball bat. What happened?

·4-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

A Democratic congressman’s office is reeling after two staffers were attacked by a baseball bat-wielding man who was allegedly looking for the lawmaker.

Xuan Kha Tran Pham was arrested on Monday for the attack at the district office of Rep Gerry Connolly in Fairfax, Virginia.

Authorities are now working to determine the suspect’s motive as the two staffers recover from non-life-threatening injuries to the staffers.

It’s believed that Mr Connolly was the intended target - while the lawmaker himself said he doesn’t think the motive was political.

“I have the best team in Congress,” Mr Connolly said in a statement. “My district office staff make themselves available to constituents and members of the public every day. The thought that someone would take advantage of my staff’s accessibility to commit an act of violence is unconscionable and devastating.”

Here’s what we know so far:

What happened at Rep Connolly’s office?

US Capitol Police and the Fairfax City Police Department said Xuan Kha Tran Pham, 49, of Fairfax entered the office around 10.49am on Monday with a metal baseball bat and assaulted the two staffers.

The suspect allegedly visited the politician’s district office and asked for the congressman while holding the baseball bat before attacking the two staffers.

One of the staffers was an intern workinig on her first day in the office, who was hit on the side, while another was an outreach director who was hit on the head with the bat.

Police reportedly arrived around five minutes after the attack began, and took the suspect into custody.

“Connolly was at a ribbon cutting at the time for a food bank when the assailant drove to his district office and entered the building. The congressman estimates it took police about five minutes to respond to the emergency call for help,” CNN journalist Manu Raju tweeted following an interview with Mr Connolly.

Shocking video captures second alleged attack

Video footage taken from a doorbell camera on a home close to Mr Connolly’s district office shows a man holding a baseball bat chasing a woman who screams and flees into what appears to be a nearby garden.

In the video, the woman can be heard shouting: “What is he doing, call the police.”

Police are questioning Xuan Kha Tran Pham over the incident, which reportedly unfolded when the woman was sitting in her car and was approached by a man holding a bat.

The man asked her whether she was white, before hitting her windscreen with the bat and chasing her when she fled her vehicle, Sky News reported, and was then seen fleeing on a nearby doorcam.

What we know about the suspect

Police confirmed that they had taken Xuan Kha Tran Pham into custody following the attack. The 49-year-old Fairfax resident was not known to Mr Connolly, the politician said.

The suspect is being held without bond at Fairfax County Adult Detention Center after police secured warrants for felony aggravated malicious wounding and malicious wounding. They have not yet established a potential motive for the attack.

Mr Connolly told AP following the attack: “I have no reason to believe that his motivation was political … 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.”

Mr Pham previously launched a lawsuit against the CIA for $29m in 2022. According to the complaint, he said at the time that “the C.I.A. has been guilty of wrongfully imprisoning me in a lower perspective based on physics called the book world since 1995,” also accusing the agency of torturing him “from the fourth dimension”.

His father, Hy Pham, said in an interview with The Washington Post that Mr Pham was a schizophrenic who had been struggling to access mental health care. He also told the newspaper that his son had been strggling with mental health issues since he was a teenager.

Lawmakers condemn political violence

Other elected officials from Virginia condemned the violence, among them US Senator Mark Warner.

Mr Warner retweeted Mr 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 January 6 attack on the Capitol, threats to lawmakers and their families have increased sharply. The US 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 contributed to this report