Maryam Khan
Rep. Maryam Khan, D-Windsor, at a press conference on June 26, 2023. Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

Hartford police have arrested a New Britain man on charges he assaulted state Rep. Maryam Khan as she and her family were leaving a Wednesday morning Eid al-Adha prayer service at the XL Center.

Police charged Andrey Desmond, 30, with 2nd-degree unlawful restraint, 3rd-degree assault, breach of peace, and interfering with police in connection with the incident. 

Responding officers found Desmond being detained by bystanders and determined he had made unwanted advances towards a public official before assaulting her and trying to prevent her from leaving, according to a statement from Hartford police. 

Khan, a Democratic state representative from Windsor, had attended the Muslim holiday service with her three children and sister, according to a press release from the Connecticut chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Khan, her sister, and oldest daughter were each wearing Muslim headscarves called hijabs.

The release describes the attacker as approaching the family and making “vulgar and obscene gestures” before hitting Khan and throwing her to the ground. Another attendee of the service intervened in the assault, chased and then restrained the attacker until law enforcement arrived. According to police, Khan suffered minor injuries.

Public officials condemned the attack in statements Wednesday night. Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said he was “deeply sorry” for the incident Khan and her family endured at the Hartford religious celebration.

“I was in attendance at the Eid al-Adha prayer service with Representative Khan this morning, and it was a beautiful, peaceful gathering of families coming together in faith and community,” Bronin said. “I’m deeply troubled by the assault that she endured following the prayer service.”

House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, and Majority Leader Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, said State Capitol Police had assured them they would work in coordination with Hartford officers to conduct a thorough investigation of the incident.

“It is especially painful that Rep. Khan was attacked on a holy day of peace and prayer. On a day she should be spending with her friends and family,” Ritter and Rojas said. “Rep. Khan is an amazing leader and person who is committed to faith, love and service – we are sending our well-wishes and support tonight to Maryam and her family.”

Desmond has been convicted of a handful of misdemeanor offenses over the last decade including low-level assaults, larceny, and breach of peace.

CAIR-Connecticut Chair Farhan Memon encouraged police to investigate whether bias was a motive for the attack. Memon said the size of Wednesday’s prayer service warranted a greater police presence.

“All too often we have seen American Muslims, or those perceived to be Muslim, targeted by hate because of their attire, race, or ethnicity,” Memon said. 

In a statement Thursday, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz encouraged police to investigate whether bias motivated the assault. She said she was “sickened” by the attack.

“Such hate and violence is never acceptable, but the fact that this happened on a holy night, in front of her three young children and her sister, is particularly vile,” Bysiewicz said.

Khan, whose district includes Hartford, South Windsor, and Windsor, is the first Muslim member of the House. She was first elected in a 2022 special election to replace former Rep. Brandon McGee, who resigned to work on Gov. Ned Lamont’s re-election campaign and now serves as a deputy commissioner of the Housing Department. Khan was re-elected to serve a full term last year.