Congressman carjacked in D.C. as big cities continue to battle perceptions, and realities, of crime

Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar's frightening encounter with armed assailants comes on the heels of similar high-profile attacks in New York and Philadelphia.

Representative Henry Cuellar talks to a member of the media during a campaign event.
Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas at a campaign event in San Antonio in 2022. (Eric Gay/AP) (AP)

The carjacking of Rep. Henry Cuellar in the Navy Yard section of Washington, D.C., on Monday evening was the second attack on a member of Congress in 2023: In February, Rep. Angie Craig was attacked in her apartment building. Earlier this year, a Senate staffer and a House staffer were also violently accosted in the heart of the nation’s capital in separate incidents.

Violent crime has been falling nationwide, after a spike that began in early 2020, coinciding with the coronavirus pandemic. But anxiety about public safety persists in many big coastal cities, fueled by troubling — if isolated — developments.

Read more on Yahoo News: Rise in California’s violent crime rates points to failure of Proposition 47 (Opinion), from the Modesto Bee


Josh Kruger speaks to someone at a tent encampment in Philadelphia in 2020.
Josh Kruger, then the communications director for Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services, at a tent encampment in 2020. (Jessica Griffin/the Philadelphia Inquirer via AP) (AP)

Last week, looters took advantage of a social justice protest to ransack 18 liquor stores and outlets of national retailers such as Apple and Foot Locker. Ultimately, 72 people were charged with burglary and criminal mischief, as well as other crimes, but the spree — which was recorded, with footage avidly shared on social media — fed into the long-standing criticism that progressive prosecutor Larry Krasner has not been tough enough in keeping Philadelphians safe.

Then, on Monday morning, the city was stunned by the killing of journalist Josh Kruger, who was shot seven times at his home in the Point Breeze neighborhood. Kruger had prevailed over difficult circumstances — he was homeless and used drugs daily for a number of years — to eventually land a job with Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and publish widely on a variety of topics in local outlets. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, “investigators have not identified a motive for the killing, but they believe the shooter was someone Kruger knew.”

Once again, Krasner has taken some of the blame, as progressive prosecutors have tended to in recent years, whether that blame is fairly apportioned or not.

Read more on Yahoo News: Can progressive prosecutors survive America’s crime wave?

New York

Two members of the NYPD Crime Scene Unit remove large paper bags of evidence from a day care where four children overdosed on fentanyl.
Members of the NYPD Crime Scene Unit remove evidence on Sept. 21 from a day care where four children overdosed on fentanyl. (Ellen Moynihan/New York Daily News/Tribune News Service via Getty Images) (TNS)

A former New York Police Department officer, Mayor Eric Adams was elected to City Hall on a public safety platform. And though his administration appears to have made progress, the combination of a fentanyl flood, the easy availability of illegal guns and the continuing social disruption of the pandemic continues to foster a sense of unease for many New Yorkers.

That sense was deepened with last month’s tragic death of toddler Nicholas Feliz-Dominici, whose Bronx day care doubled as a fentanyl-dealing operation. Nicholas and other children ingested the drug, though the others were saved. The horrifying episode highlighted the rise of fentanyl trafficking in New York. People addicted to the powerful opioid have also become more visible, especially in the city’s subways.

Then, early on Monday, social justice activist Ryan Carson was stabbed at a bus stop in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights, where he was standing with his girlfriend. “I was absolutely in disbelief,” said state legislator Emily Gallagher, a friend of Carson’s.

No suspects have been arrested.

Read more on Yahoo News: N.Y. social justice advocate is stabbed to death on street in front of his girlfriend, from People

Washington, D.C.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks at a podium during a news conference.
Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser at a news conference in 2022. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters) (Elizabeth Frantz / reuters)

Cuellar’s carjacking — the crime was committed by three armed individuals; Cuellar was unharmed — was only the latest episode in a city that has struggled with violent crime since the start of the pandemic — a dispiriting trend for Washington, which had spent three decades shedding its image of murder and violence.

Compared to last year, there have been sharp increases in carjacking (109%), murder (38%) and robbery (68%). Much of the crime trend is driven by juvenile offenders and exacerbated by the availability of illegal guns.

Last month the city implemented a curfew in some areas.

“Washington DC is a failed city,” went a recent headline. While hyperbolic, it nevertheless summed up the prevailing mood in the nation’s capital, where many blame a progressive council for social justice reforms and rhetoric that have undermined public safety.

A native of Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser has argued for a return to more assertive public safety policies, including giving judges more freedom to impose pretrial detention and the hiring of more police officers.

“There is no higher priority than the safety of our residents and those who work in and visit D.C.,” she said after the Cuellar carjacking. “We are using every tool available to reduce crime and support those tasked with enforcing the law and holding those accountable who break it. Although we are seeing some positive trends in recent crime statistics, we are troubled when any individual is in a situation that makes them feel unsafe in our city.”

Read more on Yahoo News: City Under Siege: Covering the crime epidemic in DC, from Fox 5