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Connecticut lawmaker attacked after Muslim service says Hartford police downplayed assault

State Representative Maryam Khan enters a press conference to tell the story of her assault in front of Eid services in Hartford.
Tyler Russell
Connecticut Public
State Rep. Maryam Khan enters a press conference to tell the story of her assault in front of Eid services in Hartford.

A Connecticut state legislator who was attacked last month as she left a Muslim prayer service made her first detailed public comments about the incident on Thursday, criticizing police and emergency medical services for their response on the scene and in the days following the attack.

“What was the most difficult these last few days was seeing that the report did not reflect everything that happened to me,” Rep. Maryam Khan said. “I thought I was going to die.”

The police report details that the alleged attacker, identified as Andrew Desmond, put Khan in a chokehold and attempted to kiss her, slapped her, and then “let go of her neck which made her fall to the ground.” The report described Khan’s injuries as “minor.”

Khan said police failed to ensure she received proper medical care, and that emergency medical services personnel at the scene did not respond with urgency.

“I had to convince them that I was injured,” Khan said.

During subsequent emergency room visits, Khan said she was diagnosed with a concussion and said she has also lost sensation in her right shoulder and arm, which her doctor is still investigating.

She said the police report also left out the Khan’s and witnesses’ testimonies about Desmond’s more explicit sexual comments, aimed at the entire group, including her daughter. Desmond’s legal team did not immediately responded to requests for comment.

“He made comments stating that he intended to have sexual relations with one of us,” Khan said, speaking in euphemism to disguise the alleged attacker’s explicit remarks. “And he looked at each one of us, including my 15-year-old daughter.”

Desmond was charged with assault and unwanted restraint, but not sexual assault. Authorities have said he could still face additional charges.

Khan also pointed out a discrepancy between security at the event, which included metal detectors and wands, and the lack of response to her repeated shouts for help at the venue.

“My 10-year-old daughter went through the metal detector, her bangles made them go off, and they wanded her,” Khan said. “But when we were screaming for help … inside and outside, nobody came to our aid.”

The police came to the scene after being called by two bystanders who apprehended Desmond after he had been chasing her.

During the assault Representative Khan was thrown to the ground. She received a concussion, developed neck pain and stiffness, and has numbness in her shoulder.
Tyler Russell
Connecticut Public
During the assault Rep. Khan was thrown to the ground. She said she received a concussion, developed neck pain and stiffness, and has numbness in her shoulder.

Khan declined to comment on whether she thought the attack was connected to her attendance at Hartford’s Eid celebrations, but did criticize the police for leaving out the nuances of the attack in their report.

“[No mention of] my children, this was not on Eid day, I was not a Muslim,” Khan said.

“I can’t speak to anyone’s motives,” Khan added. “I don’t know why I was the victim, which is why I think it’s important to have an investigation. … I do know that Muslim women are portrayed in the media as vulnerable [and] easy to subdue.”

Khan called for the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct an investigation of police handling of the incident. The DOJ did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Later on Thursday, Hartford Police Chief Jason Thody released a statement in response to Khan's press conference.

"What Representative Khan experienced is awful, and I am so sorry for her and her family. We take the assault against Representative Khan very seriously, and the investigation was immediately assigned to both our Intelligence Division and to the Major Crimes Division," Thody said. "We are continuing to investigate this assault thoroughly and we are working closely with the state’s attorney."

Thody said the department is prepared to release as much officer body camera footage as the law allows and Rep. Khan requests.

In the same statement, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin echoed those sentiments, and said nobody should have to go through what Khan experienced.

"Today is her day to tell her story as she experienced it, and I just want to respect that," Bronin said. "We take transparency very seriously, we welcome any inquiries and reviews, and we will release as much information and footage as we can and as Rep. Khan requests.”

Desmond was held in lieu of $250,000 bond at his arraignment last week on charges including misdemeanor assault, unlawful restraint, breach of peace and interfering with police.

This story was updated. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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