The carjacking of Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, was just the latest act of violence committed against those who work on Capitol Hill, joining a string of incidents involving other lawmakers and staff members in recent years.
Cuellar, a moderate Democrat in the House who was carjacked by three armed attackers while parking his car Monday night, told reporters Tuesday the robbery happened in Washington’s Navy Yard neighborhood, an area where other lawmakers live, less than two miles south of the Capitol building.
“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 incident involving Cuellar is part of an increasingly concerning string of violence that’s not only committed against residents of D.C. but Capitol Hill employees and other members of Congress.
In June, an unidentified congressional staffer for Minnesota GOP Rep. Brad Finstad was attacked at gunpoint near his home in D.C. after returning from the Congressional Baseball Game.
Finstad detailed the assault by the armed gunman in a statement following the attack and noted 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 behavior,” Finstad wrote at the time.
Similarly, Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul announced in March a member of his staff was “brutally attacked” by a perpetrator with a knife on the streets of Washington, D.C.
“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.”
Paul’s office did not confirm the identity of the staff member who was attacked. However, a press release issued by the Metropolitan Police Department after the attack noted the victim was an adult male who had “life-threatening injuries.”
The statement also announced the arrest of a suspect, 42-year-old Glynn Neal, “in reference to an Assault with Intent to Kill (Knife) offense,” and that the incident occurred on the 1300 block of H Street, NE, less than 1½ miles from the Capitol.
Paul was attacked by a neighbor and sustained serious injuries in 2017. He broke six ribs, including three displaced fractures, and his recovery was complicated by fluid and blood around the lungs and recurrent pneumonia.
Paul and his wife were also previously attacked by a mob as the pair made their way to a hotel after Donald Trump’s 2020 Republican National Convention acceptance speech at the White House. One man was charged with assaulting a police officer near Paul at the time, but the charge was later dropped.
Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn., also became the victim of a crime in February when she was assaulted in the elevator at her Washington, D.C., apartment building.
Kendrid Khalil Hamlin pleaded guilty in June to charges of assaulting a member of Congress and assaulting law enforcement officers. He was accused of assaulting two police officers as they were trying to arrest him for the attack.
Craig was getting coffee in the apartment’s lobby when she noticed a man pacing. He got into the elevator with her and said he needed to use the bathroom and that he was going to enter her apartment, a U.S. Capitol Police special agent wrote in court papers.
When she said he couldn’t go into her apartment, he punched her in the face and grabbed her neck before she threw a hot cup of coffee at him, prosecutors said.
Nick Coe, Craig’s chief of staff, said the lawmaker called 911 after the incident as the attacker fled and that there was no evidence the attack was politically motivated.
A number of other serious crimes committed against lawmakers have taken place 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 lawmakers in June 2017 as they practiced for the annual Congressional Baseball Game. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., was shot and critically injured during the attack, requiring surgeries to save his life.
The nation’s capital has grappled with a crime surge in recent years, hitting nearly a two-decade high of 226 homicides in 2021, according to Metropolitan Police Department data. Homicides dropped in 2022 but still surpassed 200, and acting D.C. Police Chief Pamela Smith announced the city had reached its 200th murder this year after a teenager was shot and killed Tuesday, putting the city on pace to have among the worst annual body counts since the 1990s.
Overall D.C. crime decreased between 2021 and 2022, but certain offenses remained higher than pre-pandemic levels. In 2023, total violent crime is on the rise again, up nearly 40% from last year, according to police data. Property crime is also surging, with motor vehicle thefts increasing 106% and robberies up 65%.
Amid the crime surge, federal prosecutors in the nation’s capital declined to prosecute 67% of people arrested last fiscal year in cases that typically would have been tried in D.C. Superior Court, The Washington Post reported in March. That number nearly doubled since 2015, but new data is expected soon as fiscal year 2023 comes to a close.
In March, Congress stepped in for the first time in nearly three decades to overturn a D.C. criminal code that was criticized for being soft on crime and aimed to reduce penalties for crimes like carjackings and burglaries.
The city council later passed an emergency public safety bill in July, which increased penalties for certain offenses, including firing guns in public and carjackings, in response to the surging violence. The bill also helps judges to keep violent crime suspects in custody while awaiting trial.
Fox News’ Megan Myers, Louis Casiano, Brandon Gillespie and Lawrence Richard contributed to this report.