The police officer who responded to an attack May 15 at a congressman’s office in Virginia ― in which a man allegedly hit two staffers with a baseball bat ― was a Marine veteran with multiple deployments under his belt.
Former Marine Staff Sgt. James Lewis, a master police officer with the City of Fairfax Police Department, was patrolling a Fairfax, Virginia, neighborhood when he heard over his radio about an incident at the nearby office of Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Virginia, he said in an emailed response to questions from Marine Corps Times on May 26.
Lewis determined that he was only a few blocks away from the office. So he put his lights and sirens on, and with the help of citizens on the scene, he was able to find the exact office quickly, he told Marine Corps Times.
“I had to get to the scene safely, find the threat, and stop the threat,” he recalled thinking.
When he opened the office door, Lewis heard “complete silence,” he wrote in the statement to Marine Corps Times.
“I announced myself and when the suspect appeared I gave them verbal commands,” Lewis wrote. “Other officers arrived on scene quickly and we were able to take the suspect into custody.”
Officers could provide to the media only “specific information on the case at this time due to the active investigation,” Fairfax City, Virginia, Police spokeswoman Sgt. Lisa Gardner told Marine Corps Times.
Gardner said that police received a call about the attack at Connolly’s Virginia office at about 10:50 a.m. May 15, The Associated Press reported.
Police arrived in about five minutes and located the suspect in the office and detained him, Gardner said. One police officer received a minor injury and was treated.
Lewis served as an active duty Marine from 2005–2013, according to information in his service record provided by Marine Corps spokeswoman Yvonne Carlock. Then he served in the Marine Reserve, which he left in 2016 as a staff sergeant.
He deployed to Iraq twice and Afghanistan twice. Although his military occupational specialty was automotive mechanic, he served during his deployments “as a mechanic, lead truck machine gunner, vehicle commander, 7-ton driver, and assisted in building fighting posts for the Afghan Army,” he told Marine Corps Times.
Lewis’ military awards include the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, four times; the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, twice; the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, twice; the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, three times; the Iraq Campaign Medal, three times; the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; the National Defense Service Medal; the Joint Meritorious Unit Award; the Presidential Unit Citation – Navy; the Navy Unit Commendation; and the NATO Medal – ISAF Afghanistan, according to the information from his service record.
“I definitely think that my Marine training coupled with my law enforcement training helped tremendously in this situation,” he told Marine Corps Times. “The Marine Corps constantly puts you in stressful situations and teaches you how to adapt and overcome.”
Xuan-Kha Tran Pham, 49, of Fairfax, Virginia, was arrested the day of the alleged attack on Connolly’s office and charged in state court with malicious wounding and aggravated malicious wounding after police say he struck two Connolly staffers with an aluminum bat.
He also was charged May 17 in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, with assaulting federal employees.
Pham had burst through the front door of the office and immediately struck Connolly’s outreach director in the head, according to an FBI affidavit accompanying the federal charges.
As Pham allegedly continued to strike the woman, an intern who was on her first day at the job tried to flee. Pham then struck her in the ribs, according to the affidavit. He then returned to hitting the outreach director, saying “I’m going to kill you” and “you’re going to die,” according to the affidavit.
The outreach director estimated that Pham struck her about eight times.
A witness to the attack said Pham was calling for “Gerry” and said he wanted to talk to Connolly, who was not at the office.
The two staffers were taken to the hospital after the attack and released later that day.
Pham had called the district office three times in February; a staffer said Pham’s words were “gibberish about DNA and God,” according to the affidavit.
Pham’s father told The Washington Post that his son has schizophrenia.
Connolly told Marine Corps Times, “My team and I are incredibly thankful for the swift and courageous response from law enforcement and emergency medical personnel.”
“The City of Fairfax Police Department was on the scene within five minutes and undoubtedly prevented a terrible situation from becoming even worse. They have my endless gratitude.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.