Update 11:35 a.m. 1-15-21: The Houston Chronicle has confirmed that the HPD officer who took part in last week’s D.C. riot and resigned Thursday is Tam Pham, an 18-year department veteran who was assigned to Westside Patrol. While HPD will still not publicly confirm that Pham is the officer in question (citing its ongoing investigation), Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo retweeted a Chron.com article on Thursday night that quoted the Chronicle’s interview with Pham, in which the now-former officer admitted that he was present at the Capitol riot.
Update 4 p.m. 1-14-21: Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo has confirmed via Twitter that the HPD officer who was in the U.S. Capitol mob resigned Thursday morning, and that the Houston Police Department will release his name “upon the conclusion of our joint ongoing criminal investigation” with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo announced Wednesday that an off-duty Houston Police Department officer was a member of the mob of Trump supporters that stormed the Capitol in Washington, D.C. last week.
Acevedo didn’t name the officer, who he said was an Asian American man and an 18-year HPD veteran. After receiving a tip from a community member on Sunday about the officer’s involvement in the Capitol mob, Acevedo said he immediately reached out to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which opened an investigation into the matter that concluded Wednesday morning.
“This individual has been determined to actually have penetrated the Capitol,” Acevedo said. “That person has been placed on administrative leave this morning, and he was served with a 48-hour notice for a hearing with the Chief of Police on Friday.”
“Let me just say this: there is no excuse for criminal activity, especially from a police officer,” Acevedo continued. “I can’t tell you the anger I feel at the thought of a police officer, and other police officers, thinking they get to go storm the Capitol… It saddens me to report that we have that one officer, but I’m going to announce it here because it’s the facts.”
Acevedo said that “there is a high probability this individual will be charged with federal charges, and rightfully so," and said he doubts that the officer in question will show up to his Friday disciplinary hearing.
With President-elect Joe Biden’s January 20 inauguration on the horizon and amid warnings from the FBI that right-wing groups are planning more “armed protests” across the country, Acevedo said that HPD will be on “modified tactical alert starting at 6 a.m.” this Friday, and will stay on that heightened alert level through the inauguration. Officers will also not be allowed to submit any new requests for time off between Friday and the inauguration next week.
Although “Our region is a hotbed for militia-type groups and for even hate groups — the region, not specifically the city of Houston,” Acevedo said that so far, HPD hasn’t identified any local threats from such groups.
“The message we want to send out today is that there are no known threats to our city, and to our county,” Acevedo said. He explained that starting Friday, HPD officers will be “deployed throughout the city” to monitor government facilities and “other sensitive locations throughout the city.”
“Last week,” Acevedo said, “we witnessed a mob in the hundreds, if not a couple thousand, if not more, that attacked the nation’s Capitol. [It’s] something that if somebody would have told me that’s possible in our nation, I would have said not in this country… so please, if you hear of a threat, do not be dismissive and report it to us.”
Acevedo also waved off a question about a pending legal case on behalf of the family of Rhogena Nicholas, one of the Houstonians killed by HPD during 2019's deadly Harding Street raid. The Nicholas family's legal team has been trying to get a county court to order HPD to uncover additional evidence from the botched raid, but persistent stalling tactics from City of Houston attorneys have led to numerous delays in the case from moving forward.
"I'm not gonna sit here and talk about the legal machinations of something that has nothing to do with the police department. Our role in that was investigated.... so when it comes to that civil litigation, I'm not the lawyer for the city, so I'm not gonna speak to that," Acevedo said.
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