Federal officials charge former Houston police officer for participating in U.S. Capitol riot

Federal officials charge former Houston police officer for participating in U.S. Capitol riot

Houston police officer Tam Pham.

Houston police officer Tam Pham, an 18-year veteran of the department, has received federal charges for his role in the U.S. Capitol riot.

Federal agents have charged the former Houston police officer who joined a violent mob that invaded the U.S. Capitol with knowingly entering a restricted government building and engaging in disruptive and disorderly conduct, according to media reports Tuesday. An affidavit written by FBI Special Agent Amie C. Stemen named the previously unidentified officer as Tam Pham.

In a press conference last week, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said he had notified federal authorities about Pham’s presence at the Capitol riot after seeing Facebook photos linking Pham to the pro-Trump supporters. Pham then agreed to meet with FBI agents at his home in Richmond on Jan. 12.

According to the affidavit published by media organizations, Pham told the agents that he had traveled to D.C. from Houston on Jan. 5 for his wife’s business trip. He initially denied entering the Capitol, but admitted to attending the Trump rally earlier in the day. However, federal officials found photos of Pham standing in the Capitol rotunda in the deleted photos section of his phone. One agent warned Pham about making any false statements, and Pham agreed to cooperate for the rest of the investigation.

Pham also denied being a member of any far-right social media groups that had advertised the Jan. 6 rally, saying that he learned about the gathering on Facebook and attended because he wanted to “see history,” court documents show. After the president’s speech to the crowd that morning, he followed others to the Capitol, eventually climbing over toppled fences and barricades along the way. The photographs on Pham’s phone place him in the rotunda between 2:50 and 2:55 p.m. Eastern Time on Jan. 6.

Pham told FBI agents that he spent about 15 minutes inside the Capitol, where “he looked at the historical art on the walls and took photographs and videos inside.”

Acevedo announced last Thursday that Pham had resigned pending the federal investigation.

Since last week, political news site The Appeal has been tracking law enforcement officers who participated in the pro-Trump riot that left five people dead. As of Tuesday, the site has identified over 30 officers from departments around the country who joined the mob at the Capitol. The Washington Post also reported that ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, federal authorities are currently in the process of screening troops from the National Guard for any connections to extremist groups, a choice that Gov. Greg Abbott quickly decried on Twitter.

“This is the most offensive thing I’ve ever heard,” Abbott tweeted. “No one should ever question the loyalty or professionalism of the Texas National Guard. I authorized more than 1,000 to go to D.C. I’ll never do it again if they are disrespected like this.”

As part of this security screening process, officials have removed 12 members of the National Guard from helping secure Biden’s inauguration, the Associated Press reported Tuesday. All 12 troops either had links to far-right extremist groups or had posted violent or extreme views on online platforms. It’s not known what units the 12 members served in.

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Source: Texas Tribune