A Houston cop was relieved of his duties on Wednesday morning, one week after the Capitol Hill riot. Officer Tam Dinh Pham is under investigation for participating in the riot after attending the rally with Trump supporters last week. A hearing was scheduled for today but Thursday he resigned from the Houston Police Department and hired a lawyer.
Tam Dinh Pham is 48 years old and an 18 year veteran of the Houston Police Department, assigned to the Westside Patrol. He traveled alone to Washington, D.C. on his off-duty time. He has no previous disciplinary issues. Houston Police Chief said that he received a tip Sunday of Pham’s possible involvement in the riot. He reviewed Pham’s social media and found photos that suggest Pham entered the Capitol building during the riot. Chief Art Acevedo contacted the FBI’s Houston Division which opened a federal investigation on Pham. Acevedo expects federal charges to be filed.
Acevedo predicted that Pham would not attend his Friday hearing. Pham handed in his resignation Thursday and hired criminal defense attorney Nicole Deborde, a former prosecutor at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
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
So, why would a veteran police officer with no previous disciplinary record travel from Houston to Washington, D.C. to go to a Trump rally and let himself get swept up in the march to Capitol Hill, including storming the building? His attorney says he was just curious and got caught up in the experience.
“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.”
This is inexcusable behavior from anyone, especially a law enforcement officer. He turned on his fellow law enforcement brothers by being a part of the people who didn’t just march to the Capitol but stormed the building. It may not have been his original goal but it’s what he (allegedly) did and then posted pictures on social media to record his participation. How stupid was that if he didn’t want to “be seen at a violent protest”? No one participates in that kind of violence and lawlessness without realizing exactly what is happening. How does an 18 year veteran of a big city police department just get caught up in such actions?
Deborde says Pham has spoken at length to the FBI. Acevedo thinks there are other Houstonians who participated in the violent actions that day, too.
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.
Acevedo penned an op-ed Thursday on the subject. He blames “nationalistic impulses” for such behavior. And white people, of course. Acevedo has frequently criticized President Trump and his supporters. He endorsed Joe Biden in the presidential election. Acevedo marched with BLM protesters during the Summer of Love, in case you were wondering about that.
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.”
Pham admits to the press that he was there and took photos but doesn’t admit to entering the building.
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.
The usual Democrats who the local press turn to for comments are giving their hot takes. Rep. Al Green submitted papers to impeach President Trump in the House in 2016 and beat that drum during the four years of Trump’s term in office.
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.
Mayor Sylvester Turner stated the obvious – public servants shouldn’t take part in such group action. No mention of his own involvement in BLM marches last summer, though, some of which turned violent.
On Thursday, Mayor Sylvester Turner made it clear that public servants in Houston are to be held to a higher standard.
“You can go where you want to go, but when you’re a governmental employee. You don’t want to be part of any insurgence group when you want to maintain law and order,” said Turner. “That was not a wise decision and there is accountability.”
The rioting was bad enough in itself. The stories coming out from it and the people who are under investigation for their participation in storming the building is truly sickening. Two Virginia law enforcement officers are part of a group of 32 people facing federal charges, so far. A retired Pennsylvania firefighter is suspected of hitting three U.S. Capitol Police officers with a fire extinguisher. And, a retired Air Force officer in Texas has been detained but a judge released him to home confinement. He documented his thoughts and actions on social media.
A retired Air Force officer who was part of the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol last week carried plastic zip-tie handcuffs because he intended “to take hostages,” a prosecutor said in a Texas court on Thursday.
“He means to take hostages. He means to kidnap, restrain, perhaps try, perhaps execute members of the U.S. government,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Weimer said of retired Lieutenant Colonel Larry Rendall Brock Jr. He did not provide specifics.
The prosecutor had argued that Brock should be detained, but Magistrate Judge Jeffrey L. Cureton said he would release Brock to home confinement. Cureton ordered Brock to surrender any firearms and said he could have only limited internet access as conditions of that release.
These examples of those who participated in the riot are not just random yahoos who couldn’t control themselves. They include law enforcement and military members who pledged to protect and service their fellow Americans. They all should be held to a higher standard and punished accordingly.