FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — A man with a metal baseball bat walked into the office of U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly in Fairfax, Virginia, asked for him — and then struck two members of his staff in the upper body with the bat, police said. It was the latest attack amid a sharp uptick in violence directed at lawmakers and their families.
Fairfax City Police in northern Virginia said in a tweet that a suspect is in custody and the victims are being treated for injuries that are not life-threatening.
In a statement posted on Twitter, Connolly said the man entered his district office Monday morning and asked for him before “committing an act of violence” against two staff members.
“The thought that someone would take advantage of my staff's accessibility to commit an act of violence is unconscionable and devastating,” Connolly said.
Fairfax police spokesperson Sgt. Lisa Gardner said police received a call about the attack at Connolly's district office at about 10:50 a.m. Connolly was not working in that office on Monday, she said. Gardner said some staff members hid during the attack.
Officers got to the office within five minutes and located the suspect in the office, Gardner said. He was taken into custody quickly without further incident, she said.
Connolly, a Democrat currently serving his eighth term in Congress, represents Virginia’s Fairfax County-based 11th District in the Washington suburbs. He told CNN that his office sustained damage, including broken windows.
Other elected officials from Virginia swiftly condemned the violence.
U.S. Sen. Mark 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.
“The coward who did this should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” tweeted Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, a Republican.
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.
In July, a man accosted New York Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Republican who was running for governor of New York, as he spoke at a campaign event and told Zeldin, “You’re done.” Zeldin wrestled the man to the ground and escaped with only a minor scrape.
“Violence does not belong in our political system and my prayers are with Rep. Gerry Connolly’s staff for a speedy recovery," said Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican. "We’ve seen this against our judiciary, we’ve seen this against our legislative branch and it has no place in our Commonwealth.”
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