Rep. Maryam Khan
Rep. Maryam Khan during a press conference on July 6, 2023 as she described being attacked Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

Connecticut state Rep. Maryam Khan called Thursday on the federal Justice Department to investigate the Hartford Police Department’s response to an attack she endured last week after attending a Eid al-Adha prayer service at the XL Center. 

Khan appeared wearing an arm brace during a press conference Thursday afternoon when she recounted the harrowing details of the incident, which resulted in the arrest of 30-year-old Andrey Desmond of New Britain on 2nd-degree unlawful restraint and 3rd-degree assault charges. 

Khan, a Democrat from Windsor and the first Muslim member of the House, described stepping outside the XL Center after the widely attended prayer service to take a family picture with her children when she was approached by the attacker.

“As we were trying to get inside, he made comments stating that he intended to have sexual relations with someone – one of us – and he looked at each one of us including my 15-year-old daughter and my 10-year-old daughter,” she said.

Despite attempts to de-escalate the situation, Khan said she was physically abused by the attacker, who at times slapped her face, restrained her in a chokehold, and slammed her to the ground.

“I have been diagnosed with a concussion so I don’t know exactly what physically happened to me in that moment but emotionally what I felt in that moment and what I knew in that moment – my body went numb and I thought I was going to die,” she said. 

Khan detailed multiple grievances about the police handling of the incident. She took exception with how the department characterized the attack in its report. She recalled feeling like she had to convince police that she had been injured despite reporting pain. After walking several blocks to give a statement, she said police left her family to walk back to their vehicle without an escort.

She questioned why police and security were on hand to direct attendees of the prayer service through metal detectors, but none were available to intervene in the assault. If the man had to attack someone, Khan said she was glad it was her rather than another woman whose experience may not have prompted media attention. 

“What happens to women in the city of Hartford that call the police when they are assaulted, when they experience what I experienced, when they experience sexual assault, when they experience physical assault, what happens?” she said. “Because if this is what’s happening to me and this is the best we can do, as a state representative that represents the city of Hartford, I cannot be okay with that.”

Khan’s remarks were met with applause from supportive state officials who were in the audience.

A spokesperson for the Hartford Police Department did not immediately provide a response on Thursday afternoon.

Attorney General William Tong, who was in the audience during Thursday’s press conference, expressed support for Khan but declined to comment on how the investigation she was seeking would be achieved.

“Today is about her and her story and making sure people hear her story loud and clear,” Tong said. “We’ll consult with all the appropriate authorities and figure out what the next steps are.”

Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz was among a bipartisan group of elected officials who came to lend support. She called Khan’s experience “devastating.”

“Here you have someone that was attending a religious service with her children and her sister in our capital city and it took so long for someone to help her and to hear her story of how she was treated after, it’s just devastating,” Bysiewicz said.