Houston officer resigns after being linked to Capitol attack
Chief Art Acevedo says the officer entered the Capitol and will likely face charges
By Nicole Hensley
HOUSTON — A longtime Houston Police Department officer believed to have joined a violent mob at the nation's Capitol resigned Thursday amid a growing federal probe into the insurrection.
The officer, Tam Pham, dropped off his resignation with Chief Art Acevedo ahead of his disciplinary meeting Friday with the top law man — though the chief earlier expressed doubt that the officer would attend.
The chief — after receiving a tip about Pham's possible involvement — reviewed the officer's social media and found photos suggesting that he entered the Capitol building during the deadly takeover. Acevedo said he then contacted the FBI's Houston Division, which opened a federal investigation into the officer's East Coast trip.
Acevedo expects federal charges to be filed against the officer.
The special agent in charge of the FBI's Houston field office stressed that federal investigators — without acknowledging the police officer — are using tips and "advanced technical and scientific tools" to tie local residents to the Capitol mob.
"Our agents and analysts have been gathering evidence, sharing intelligence, and working with federal prosecutors toward bringing appropriate charges," Perrye Turner said Thursday in a statement.
In Washington, the FBI there has spent more than week sharing dozens of photos of rioters in an attempt to identify and then arrest them. At least 32 people — including two Virginia police officers — have been charged federally in connection to the violent mob.
A tip on Tuesday led law enforcement to the latest arrest of a retired Boothwyn, Pa., firefighter in suspicion of hitting three U.S. Capitol Police officers with a fire extinguisher.
Discovering the officer's possible role in the Capitol attack — sparked by "nationalistic impulses" — dismayed Acevedo, he wrote in an opinion essay in Thursday's Houston Chronicle.
He pointed to Pham being Asian-American amid a mob of predominantly white participants as an indication of a larger issue in the country.
"I long hoped such threats wouldn't material here," Acevedo wrote.
"But the reach of this movement is broader than we may think," the chief continued. "Look no further than my own department."
[READ: Public employee speech and consequence of unlawful action]
Police union leaders on Wednesday expected Pham's resignation when the 18-year veteran was placed on administrative leave.
In a phone call, the Westside patrol officer confirmed he was among the thousands of people who gathered in Washington D.C. in support of President Donald Trump. He contends he was there to take pictures but stopped short of saying he entered the Capitol building as alleged.
"I shouldn't have done it," Pham told the Houston Chronicle.
In a statement, U.S. Rep. Al Green, D- Houston, addressed the scrutinized HPD officer and stressed that the FBI identify and punish "each individual who may have contributed to this treasonous act." Police officers should not be exempted, he continued.
"No one should be allowed to return to their home states and towns and simply assume their lives as usual, without penalty if they participated in this insurrection," Green said.
NEW: The Houston Police Department says they've identified one of their officers, an 18 year veteran of the department, as having penetrated the Capitol last Wednesday.— Tom Winter (@Tom_Winter) January 13, 2021
Chief Art Acevedo says there is a "high probability" the officer will face federal charges.
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
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