A Connecticut man has been arrested and charged with assaulting a Muslim state official outside an Eid al-Adha prayer service.
Rep. Maryam Khan, who became the first Muslim elected to the Connecticut House of Representatives last year, was leaving a prayer service Wednesday in downtown Hartford when Andrey Desmond, 30, allegedly approached her to made lewd comments to her, tried to kiss her and then hit her and threw her to the ground, police told NBC News.
Police said Khan suffered minor injuries and received treatment at the scene.
Desmond, of New Britain, Connecticut, was detained by civilians at the scene and later arrested and loaded with third-degree assault, unlawful restraint, breach of the peace and interference with police, according to the police statement. He is being held on $250,000 bond and is expected to appear in court again on July 17.
No plea has been made, but at Desmond’s arraignment on Thursday, his attorney saying Desmond had a history of mental health problems, including spending six months in an inpatient facility in New York.
Khan’s team told NBC News that she will not comment on the incident at this time.
Connecticut House Speaker Matt Ritter and Majority Leader Jason Rojas said in a joint statement that they have been in contact with her and that she is prioritizing recovery.
“This traumatic event has been challenging for Representative Khan and her family, and she is currently focused on receiving medical care and surrounded by loved ones,” they said.
Muslim civil rights leaders in Connecticut expressed disappointment that a hate crime was not among Desmond’s charges, and are calling on authorities to further investigate the possibility that the attack was motivated by Khan’s faith.
Connecticut hate crime crime statute includes threatening, harassing, or harming someone based on their race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
“Representative Khan and her family were wearing hijabs, Muslim headscarves,” said Farhan Memon, president of the Connecticut Council on American-Islamic Relations. “You don’t have to say the words, ‘I am attacking you because you are a Muslim.’ … We hope that instead of simply treating this as assault, the state will actually press charges of bias.”
Desmond’s attorney did not respond to requests for comment.
Two officers had been stationed at the event the morning of the Prayer service for 4000 peoplePolice confirmed, but Memon feels the police should have had more of a presence in the area.
“We as an organization strongly believe that there was inadequate police protection, given an event of this size,” he said. “Cops were nowhere to be found when this incident was taking place.”
But Hartford police Lt. Aaron Boisvert said the attack occurred nearly an hour after the event ended and officers’ shifts were over by then. Those who did respond were from a different division, he said.
«The officers had already finalized their detail,» he told NBC News.
Memon says the Muslim community in Connecticut is shocked by the incident.
«People are afraid,» he said. “If you visibly identify as a Muslim, whether it’s by wearing a headscarf or having a beard or wearing a kufi hat, is there someone who is going to come up and say something, do something? We also live in a time when people can carry guns without permits. So all these things together make people very apprehensive about being out in public as a Muslim.»