A former Houston police officer who has been arrested on federal charges for allegedly taking part in the violent attack on the US Capitol earlier this month told FBI agents he was there just to view the historical art.
Tam Dinh Pham, an 18-year veteran on the force, was charged with knowingly entering a restricted government building and engaging in disruptive and disorderly conduct.
A federal judge on Thursday set Pham’s bond at $50,000, and ordered him to surrender his American and Vietnamese passports.
Tam Dinh Pham, an 18-year veteran of the Houston Police Department (left), was charged with knowingly entering a restricted government building and engaging in disruptive and disorderly conduct over his role in the US Capitol siege. The photo on the right shows him in the Capitol Rotunda on January 6
The FBI interviewed Pham on January 12 and discovered images in his deleted photos album on his phone showing him inside the Capitol, after he initially claimed he had not gone inside
According to court filings, Pham initially told FBI agents during an interview on January 12 that he was in Washington, DC, from January 5-7 for business purposes, and that he only briefly attended President Donald Trump’s rally on January 6, but he denied going to the Capitol building.
But Pham changed his story and admitted to entering the Capitol after the agents, with his permission, went into the deleted photos album on his phone and discovered pictures and videos that were ‘readily identifiable’ as having been taken inside the Capitol.
One photo included in the affidavit shows Pham in a face mask posing in front of a statue, while in another he is seen standing without a mask under a ‘Trump 2020’ flag. Other images show him with the Capitol Rotunda behind him.
‘The metadata associated with each of these photographs indicates that they were created on January 6, 2021 between 2:50 p.m. and 2:55 p.m.,’ the document states.
Pham admitted that he, his wife and a friend were in Washington for business when he learned about Trump’s rally on Facebook and decided to attend to ‘see history,’ according to the affidavit.
Pham told the feds he attended Donald Trump’s rally on January 6 to ‘see history’ and then followed a crowd to the US Capitol
The veteran cop insisted that he did not travel with any weapons and had no intention of committing any acts of violence or vandalism.
Pham said he and the others went to the rally at 7am, but by that time the crowd was so big that he found himself far away from the stage and had a hard time hearing Trump.
In his speech, the outgoing president urged his supporters to march to the US Capitol as the Congress was in the process of certifying Joe Biden’s election victory.
After the rally concluded, Pham said he saw people walking towards the Capitol and he followed. Neither his wife nor his friend joined him.
‘Pham stated that he climbed over some fences, which had been previously knocked over, and walked around some barricades,’ according to the court documents. ‘He stated he saw police officers, but he did not engage with them.’
The ex-cop allegedly admitted to entering the Capitol and heading to the Rotunda, where he said he looked at ‘historical art’ and took pictures and videos.
After 10-15 minutes, Pham said he walked out of the building and did not return.
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said he received a tip last week about Pham’s suspected involvement in the Capitol riots and immediately contacted the FBI, reported KHOU11.
Images from Pham’s phone show the Houston cop taking selfies in the Capitol Rotunda on the day of the deadly riots
‘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,’ Acevedo’s statement said. ‘While our community and members of our department are understandably upset about this breach of trust, all should be heartened by our swift, decisive, and transparent action.’
Pham resigned from the force on January 14, two days after being interviewed by FBI agents at his home in Richmond, Texas.
Pham’s attorney, Nicole DeBorde, described him as ‘a very devout Buddhist’ and ‘a very peaceful man’ who ‘ended up getting swept up in the crowd.’ She also claimed that he feels ‘a great deal of shame for what happened.’
DeBorde added that Pham does not dispute that President Biden won the election and ‘wishes him well.’