Man Charged in Attack on Congressional Staff Also Facing Hate Crime Charge
FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — A man charged with attacking two staffers for Rep. Gerry Connolly with a baseball bat in his district office is also being charged with a hate crime, accused of damaging a car and chasing a woman in a Virginia neighborhood less than an hour earlier.
Xuan-Kha Tran Pham, 49, of Fairfax was arraigned Tuesday by video hookup from the Fairfax County jail. Pham refused to appear, so a judge read the four counts against him while he huddled under a blanket in his cell.
The charges include aggravated wounding and malicious aggravated wounding for the baseball bat attack on two staffers at Connolly’s district office in Fairfax. They also include a misdemeanor hate crime charge, and a felony count of destroying property. ‘
Police say Pham approached a woman parked in her car Monday morning, asked if she was white, and then hit her windshield with a baseball bat. A video recorded on a neighbor’s home camera system shows a man with a bat chasing a woman who can be heard screaming.
The judge ruled Tuesday that he’ll be held without bond pending a preliminary hearing in July.
Pham’s father, Hy Pham, told The Washington Post his son was diagnosed with schizophrenia and has dealt with mental illness since his late teens. He told the Post that he had been trying without success to arrange mental health care for his son. The father could not immediately be reached by The Associated Press.
None of the injuries Pham inflicted were life threatening, but Connolly said it shows how vulnerable public servants are in an era when political rhetoric has become more bellicose.
“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,” the veteran Democratic congressman, who wasn’t in the office at the time, said in an interview.
Connolly said his staffers — an intern was struck in the side and an outreach director was hit on the head — were released after hospital treatment.
“It does underscore for all of us the vulnerability potentially of our district offices because we don’t have the level of security we have here on Capital Hill,” said Connolly, currently serving his eighth term representing a Fairfax County-based district in the Washington suburbs.
One Fairfax police officer involved in detaining Pham also received treatment, for a minor injury, police spokesperson Sgt. Lisa Gardner said.
“At this time, it is not clear what the suspect’s motivation may have been,” Capitol Police and Fairfax City Police said in announcing a joint investigation.
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, Pham assaulted responding officers and tried to take a firearm after calling dispatch saying he wished to harm others, Fairfax County Police said in a statement. It said the officers sustained minor injuries.
Pham was charged with assault on a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest and attempting to disarm a law enforcement officer, and then entered an agreement designed to ensure he received mental health treatment, according to 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.
Pham complied with conditions requiring him to seek treatment from his arrest in January through a nine-month period, and then the charges were dropped in September, the person 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, Virginia, contributed to this report. Lavoie reported from Richmond.