WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas was back at work on Tuesday after being carjacked the night before by three armed attackers less than a mile from the Capitol.
Cuellar said he was “good” and even joked about the frightening experience. He said the robbers “came out of nowhere, and they pointed guns at me.”
“I looked at one with a gun, another with a gun, and I felt one behind me,” he said. “They said they wanted my car, and I said, ‘Sure.’ You got to keep calm under those situations, and they took off.”
Cuellar’s chief of staff Jacob Hochberg released a statement Monday night saying: “As Congressman Cuellar was parking his car this evening, 3 armed assailants approached the Congressman and stole his vehicle. Luckily, he was not harmed and is working with local law enforcement.”
Monday’s carjacking was the second assault on a member of Congress in the District of Columbia this year. In February, Democratic Rep. Angie Craig of Minnesota was assaulted in her apartment building, suffering bruises while escaping serious injury. Her chief of staff said the attack did not appear to be politically motivated.
Cuellar thanked the U.S. Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police Department for their work, saying the “message is very simple: You’ve got to support law enforcement.”
Cuellar said the attackers were masked, but he could still see that they were young.
“They recovered the car, they recovered everything, but what really got me upset is they took my sushi,” he joked.
Cuellar spoke to reporters after attending a meeting with fellow Democratic members of the House. Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., said Cuellar was acknowledged by colleagues during that meeting, saying “we’re all grateful that he is safe.”
“It could have been so much worse,” Schneider said. “We just pray for him.”
White House press secretary Karine-Jean Pierre called the carjacking “unacceptable” and said President Joe Biden spoke to the congressman today.
“We will always continue to speak out against any sort of violence. We’ve been consistent here in this administration,” she said. “We are certainly grateful and relieved that the congressman is unharmed, and we are thankful to law enforcement for having reacted so quickly.”
The U.S. Capitol Police issued a statement saying they were working to find the carjackers and were being assisted by the Metropolitan Police Department and the FBI. The statement said that Cuellar’s car, a white Toyota crossover, was found abandoned and that crime scene technicians were processing the scene.
“We have a number of leads,” Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said. “Our investigators are focused, determined and working around the clock.”
The carjacking of the congressman reflects the increase in violent crime that has occurred in the nations’s capital this year. The latest data on the Metropolitan Police Department’s website states that the district has experienced 753 carjackings this year versus 360 during the same period last year. Also, of the 113 arrests that have occurred this year for carjacking, two-thirds have involved juveniles.