HPD reviewing past arrests made by former HPD officer who faces Capitol riot federal charges

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Thursday, January 21, 2021
Federal charges brought against former HPD officer in Capitol riot
An FBI affidavit stated the former officer denied being at the Capitol when it was rioted, but a deep dive of his phone revealed photos of him inside.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Hours after a former Houston police officer was taken into federal custody on charges related to the U.S. Capitol riots, authorities announced they're reviewing arrests he made during his career.

"We are also auditing arrests made by this former officer to ensure there are no irregularities, to include the review of his body worn camera footage related to his arrests," Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said in a statement mentioning the department's joint investigation with the FBI into Tam Pham, an 18-year HPD veteran.

Pham, 48, turned himself in to authorities Wednesday morning and was awaiting word on an initial court appearance, defense attorney Nicole Deborde told ABC13.

He's facing charges of knowingly entering a restricted government building and engaging in disorderly and disruptive conduct.

Pham was interviewed at his home in Richmond last Tuesday by agents of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force.

In the document, Pham initially told agents he was in Washington for business reasons between Jan. 5 and 7, but denied taking part in the incident.

Pham agreed to hand over his cell phone to investigators who found no photos for Jan. 6. Court documents stated the agents asked to look in his "Deleted Items" folder where they found multiple pictures and videos of him inside the Capitol building.

The photos above were two of five seen in an FBI affidavit against former HPD officer Tam Pham in connection with the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021.

After the agents reminded Pham that it's illegal to lie to the FBI, the documents state he admitted to entering the Capitol when others had stormed it, but denied any involvement in the violence.

Pham claimed he followed people heading to the Capitol, climbed over some fences that had already been knocked over, walked around some barriers, and never engaged with any officers present at the Capitol.

Pham told agents he went into the Capitol rotunda to look at the art on the walls and take photos, remained there for 10-15 minutes, and then left and didn't return.

The FBI affidavit stated there was probable cause to charge Pham with engaging in disorderly conduct to disrupt government business in a restricted building and engaging in disorderly conduct to disrupt a session of Congress.

PREVIOUS VIDEO: HPD officer was part of Capitol storm, chief says

An 18-year veteran of the HPD was placed on administrative leave after he was identified as one of the many protesters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Pham resigned from the Houston Police Department soon after his presence at the Capitol was revealed.

"It was more curiosity to see the President's speech with a large group of people," said Deborde. "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."

RELATED: Houston police officer was part of Capitol storm, chief says

During his time with HPD, Pham had no disciplinary problems, according toChief Art Acevedo.

RELATED: No public access to US Capitol on Inauguration day, as FBI warns of armed protests in all 50 states

Five people died during the Jan. 6 ordeal, including a U.S. Capitol police officer.

Since last week, political news site The Appeal has been tracking law enforcement officers who participated in the pro-Trump riot. 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 screened 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.

Additional reporting on this story comes from ABC13's partners at the Texas Tribune.

The video above is from previous reporting.

Disclosure: Facebook has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Chaos at the Capitol: Minute-by-minute video shows how riots, violence unfolded

"Unfortunately, we can now add Jan. 6, 2021 to that very short list of dates in American history that will live forever in infamy," said Sen. Chuck Schumer. See how things escalated in our minute-by-minute video as chaos erupted.
Pierre Thomas has more on a warning from the FBI about possible armed protests planned in all 50 states over the next 10 days.