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Carjackers who took Cuellar’s Toyota also got away with his sushi dinner

Texas Democrat recounts how his black belt training factored into his response to three assailants Monday night

Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar leaves the House Democrats’ caucus meeting in the Capitol on Tuesday.
Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar leaves the House Democrats’ caucus meeting in the Capitol on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Henry Cuellar, a black belt in karate, said he analyzed the situation quickly when three masked men came out of nowhere as he got out of his car alone near his Navy Yard residence Monday evening.

There was one with a gun. Another with a gun. One behind him maybe with a gun. They were young. They demanded his car. His sushi dinner from Whole Foods was in the car.

Part of being a black belt, Cuellar told reporters Tuesday, is you know when to use it and when not to use it.

“My sensei would have been very proud of me,” Cuellar said.

“They wanted my car. I said, ‘Sure,’” Cuellar said. “You’ve got to keep calm in those situations. And then they took off.”

The carjackers had his car, his iPhone, his iPad, his Texas briefcase. “What really got me upset was they took my sushi,” Cuellar said.

But he was unharmed. “I’m good, I’m good,” Cuellar said when asked if the crime was affecting him emotionally.

And the car was tracked down within a few hours. “I certainly appreciate the good work that the police did last night,” Cuellar said. “Everything was recovered: my phone, my car and everything.”

He did not eat the sushi by the time it was returned to him. “It was 2 o’clock in the morning,” Cuellar said.

Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department said it had a report of an armed carjacking around 9:32 p.m. at the intersection of New Jersey Avenue and K Street Southeast.

The Capitol Police issued a statement Tuesday afternoon saying it is still looking for the perpetrators. A witness told investigators there were three Black males in knit caps and ski masks estimated at around 5 feet, 10 inches tall and around 16 years old, the department said.

“We have a number of leads,” Chief J. Thomas Manger said. “Our investigators are focused, determined and working around the clock.”

Capitol Police officers found Cuellar’s phone along the 2000 block of 14th Street Southeast. MPD and Capitol Police recovered Cuellar’s abandoned white Toyota crossover near 2600 Douglas Road Southeast. Capitol Police, MPD and the FBI’s Washington Field Office are working on the investigation.

Cuellar and Republicans made a point about the high level of crime in Washington and said it must be urgently addressed. The House Administration Committee released a security resource guide Tuesday with contact information for Capitol Police and the House sergeant-at-arms plus tips on how to reduce risk.

House Administration Chairman Bryan Steil, R-Wis., citing the Cuellar incident, posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that “crime in Democrat controlled cities is out of control.”

Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., said the carjacking was “extremely unfortunate” and he was glad that “Henry is safe.”

“The fact that the D.C. City Council tried to lessen penalties on this type of behavior speaks volumes to the mindsets of most Democrats across the country in major cities,” Lawler said. “They don’t think there should be consequences to criminal activity.”