The kidnapping of Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, was only the latest act of violence against people who work on Capitol Hill, adding a long list of instances involving other legislators and staff employees.
Cuellar, a moderate Democrat in the House who was carjacked by three armed attackers while parking his car Monday night, told reporters Tuesday that the heist took place in Washington’s Navy Yard neighbourhood, less than two miles south of the Capitol.
“Three guys came out of nowhere, and they pointed guns at me,” Cuellar said, explaining they did not harm him and were only after his car. “I looked at one with a gun and another with a gun out the one behind me. So, they said they wanted my car, and I said, ‘Sure.’”
The Cuellar incident is part of a disturbing trend of violence against not only D.C. residents but also Capitol Hill employees and other members of Congress.
After returning from the Congressional Baseball Game, an unidentified congressional worker for Minnesota GOP Rep. Brad Finstad was attacked at gunpoint near his house in D.C. in June.
Following the attack, Finstad outlined the assault by the armed shooter in a statement, noting that the staffer would be “able to make a full recovery” and that the “extent of his physical injuries was minor.”
“In Washington, D.C. and cities across the country, anti-police, soft-on-crime policies have created lawless societies that endanger the public and empower criminal behaviour,” Finstad wrote at the time.
Similarly, Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul announced in March that a member of his crew was “brutally attacked” on the streets of Washington, D.C. by a criminal wielding a knife.
“This past weekend a member of my staff was brutally attacked in broad daylight in Washington, D.C.,” Paul said in a statement at the time. “I ask you to join Kelley and me in praying for a speedy and complete recovery and thanking the first responders, hospital staff and police for their diligent actions.
“We are relieved to hear the suspect has been arrested. At this time, we would ask for privacy, so everyone can focus on healing and recovery.”
The identity of the staff member who was attacked was not confirmed by Paul’s office. The victim, according to a news release released by the Metropolitan Police Department following the incident, was an adult male with “life-threatening injuries.”
The statement also stated that a suspect, 42-year-old Glynn Neal, was arrested “in reference to an Assault with Intent to Kill (Knife) offence,” and that the incident took place on the 1300 block of H Street, NE, less than 112 miles from the Capitol.
In 2017, Paul was attacked by a neighbour and suffered significant injuries. He fractured six ribs, three of which were dislocated, and his recuperation was hindered by fluid and blood around the lungs, as well as recurrent pneumonia.
A mob previously attacked Paul and his wife on their way to a hotel during Donald Trump’s 2020 Republican National Convention acceptance speech at the White House. At the time, one individual was charged with assaulting a police officer near Paul, but the charge was eventually withdrawn.
Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn., was assaulted in the lift of her Washington, D.C. apartment building in February.
In June, Kendrid Khalil Hamlin pled guilty to attacking a member of Congress and assaulting law enforcement personnel. He was accused of assaulting two police officers who were attempting to apprehend him for the assault.
Craig was drinking coffee in the foyer of her apartment building when she observed a man pacing. In court filings, a U.S. Capitol Police special agent said, “He got into the lift with her and said he needed to use the bathroom and that he was going to enter her apartment.”
Prosecutors claim that when she refused to let him enter her flat, he hit her in the face and held her neck before she poured a hot cup of coffee at him.
Craig’s chief of staff, Nick Coe, said the congressman contacted 911 after the incident as the attacker escaped, and there was no evidence the attack was political in nature.
A number of other major crimes against MPs have occurred in recent years.
James T. Hodgkinson, a far-left former volunteer on Sen. Bernie Sanders’, I-Vt., presidential campaign, opened fire on a group of Republican politicians practising for the annual Congressional Baseball Game in June 2017. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., was shot and gravely injured during the incident, necessitating life-saving surgery.
According to Metropolitan Police Department data, the nation’s capital has experienced a crime rise in recent years, reaching a nearly two-decade high of 226 homicides in 2021. Homicides fell in 2022 but still exceeded 200, and acting D.C. Police Chief Pamela Smith revealed Tuesday that the city has achieved its 200th murder this year after a teenager was shot and murdered, putting the city on track to have one of the worst annual body counts since the 1990s.
Overall crime in D.C. reduced between 2021 and 2022, but certain offences remained higher than before the pandemic. According to police figures, total violent crime is on the rise again in 2023, up about 40% from the previous year. Property crime is also on the rise, with car thefts up 106% and robberies up 65%.
Despite the increase in crime, federal prosecutors in the nation’s capital declined to prosecute 67% of persons detained last fiscal year in cases that would normally have been tried in D.C. Superior Court, according to The Washington Post in March. This figure has nearly doubled since 2015, although new data is due soon as fiscal year 2023 concludes.
For the first time in nearly three decades, Congress intervened in March to reverse a D.C. criminal code that had been criticised for being soft on crime and designed to cut penalties for crimes such as carjackings and burglaries.
In reaction to the rising violence, the city council passed an emergency public safety measure in July, increasing penalties for certain offences such as public gunfire and carjackings. The bill also makes it easier for judges to keep violent crime defendants in custody while they await trial.