Houston, TX – A veteran Houston police officer has been federally charged for allegedly entering the U.S. Capitol building during the Jan. 6 riot.
Houston Police Department (HPD) Officer Tam Pham is further accused of trying to erase photos he took inside the Capitol and lying to federal investigators about having entered the building, The Texas Tribune reported.
During a press conference on Jan. 14, HPD Chief Art Acevedo announced that he had he had been told over the weekend that one of his officers “may have been in D.C. for the protest and that they may have participated in the attack on the Capitol,” KTRK reported.
“This individual has been determined that, on his own time to not only have attended a rally, which is their First Amendment right, but this individual is determined to have actually penetrated the Capitol,” Chief Acevedo said at the time.
The chief said he contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and notified them that Officer Pham, a 48-year-old, 18-year department veteran with no history of disciplinary issues, had allegedly participated in the riot, KTRK reported.
Chief Acevedo said he turned Officer Pham in after he personally saw images of him on Facebook that linked him to supporters of President Donald Trump, according to The Texas Tribune.
Officer Pham agreed to meet with FBI agents at his Richmond home on Jan. 12, and told them he had traveled to Washington, DC for his wife’s business trip on Jan. 5, according to investigators.
He admitted he attended the pro-Trump rally on Jan. 6, but initially denied having entered the Capitol building, The Texas Tribune reported.
But when the agents asked Officer Pham to open the deleted images folder on his phone, they allegedly spotted pictures that showed him inside the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, according to the Huffington Post.
According to investigators, the veteran officer ultimately confessed to having climbed over fences and around barricades in order get inside the Capitol building after the rally.
He allegedly told the agents “that once he was on the inside of the Capitol, he went into the Rotunda, where he looked at the historical art on the walls and took photographs and videos inside” for 15 minutes or less before leaving, the Huffington Post reported.
Officer Pham said he is not a member of any far-right fringe groups, according to investigators.
He was placed on administrative leave on Jan. 13, KTRK reported.
“There’s a high probability that this individual faces federal charges,” Chief Acevedo predicted last week. “I’ll be surprised if they show up Friday to [the disciplinary hearing].”
Houston Police Officers’ Union President Douglas Griffith said he does not support Officer Pham, and expected he would resign before he could be fired, KTRK reported.
“It was completely horrible those people overtaking the Capitol and that group should all be held accountable,” Griffith said last week. “Every single one of them.”
Officer Pham ended up resigning from HPD on Jan. 14, Chief Acevedo confirmed in a tweet that morning.
The @houstonpolice officer in question tendered his resignation this morning. The Department will release his name upon the conclusion of our joint ongoing criminal investigation with @FBI and @TheJusticeDept. https://t.co/5HlwgGuIJf
— Chief Art Acevedo (@ArtAcevedo) January 14, 2021
The now-former officer has since been federally charged with knowingly entering a restricted government building and engaging in disruptive and disorderly conduct, The Texas Tribune reported.
“It was more curiosity to see the President’s speech with a large group of people,” Pham’s attorney, Nicole Deborde, told KTRK. “He was curious what the President had to say. It’s something that spun out of control. He’s not an individual who desires to be seen at a violent protest, or an avid Trump supporter willing to stop at nothing to create a change in the election. That’s not his goal at all.”