A Connecticut man has been arrested and charged with assaulting a Muslim state representative outside of an Eid al-Adha prayer service.
Rep. Maryam Khan, who became first Muslim elected to Connecticut’s House of Representatives last year, was leaving a prayer service Wednesday in downtown Hartford when Andrey Desmond, 30, allegedly approached her making lewd comments, tried to kiss her and then struck her and threw her to the ground, police told NBC News.
Police said Khan sustained minor injuries and received treatment at the scene.
Desmond, of New Britain, Connecticut, was detained by civilians at the scene and was later arrested and charged with third-degree assault, unlawful restraint, breach of peace and interfering with police, the police statement said. He’s being held on a $250,000 bond and is expected to appear in court again on July 17.
No plea has been made, but during Desmond’s arraignment Thursday, his attorney said Desmond had a history of mental health issues, including spending six months at an in-patient facility in New York.
Khan's team told NBC News that she isn't commenting on the incident at this time.
Connecticut Speaker of the House Matt Ritter and Majority Leader Jason Rojas said in a joint statement that they’ve been in contact with her and that she’s prioritizing recovery.
“This traumatic event has been challenging for Representative Khan and her family, and she is currently focused on receiving medical care and is surrounded by her loved ones,” they said.
Muslim civil rights leaders in Connecticut expressed disappointment that a hate crime wasn’t among Desmond’s charges, and they’re calling for authorities to look deeper into the possibility that the attack was motivated by Khan’s faith.
Connecticut’s hate crime crime statute includes threatening, harassing or harming someone based on their perceived race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.
“Representative Khan and her family were wearing hijabs, Muslim headscarves,” said Farhan Memon, chair of the Connecticut Council on American-Islamic Relations. “One doesn’t have to say the words, ‘I’m attacking you because you’re a Muslim.’ ... We hope that instead of simply treating this as an assault, that the state actually brings bias charges.”
Desmond’s attorney didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Two officers had been stationed at the event the morning of the 4,000-person prayer service, police confirmed, but Memon feels police should have had more of a presence in the area.
“We as an organization feel very strongly that there was inadequate police protection, given an event this size,” he said. “The cops were nowhere to be found when this incident was happening.”
But Hartford Police Lt. Aaron Boisvert said the attack occurred almost an hour after the event had ended, and the officers’ shifts had ended by then. Those that ultimately responded were from a different division, he said.
“The officers had already concluded their detail,” he told NBC News.
Memon says the Muslim community in Connecticut is shaken by the incident.
“People are fearful,” he said. “If you identify visibly as a Muslim, whether it’s by wearing a headscarf or having a beard or wearing a kufi hat, is there someone that’s going to come and say something, do something? We also live in a time where people can carry guns without permits. So all these things rolled up together make people very apprehensive about being out in the public as Muslims.”