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Houston police officer charged in Capitol riot after FBI agents find deleted selfies on phone

NBC News logo NBC News 1/20/2021 Wilson Wong

A veteran Houston police officer was federally charged Tuesday in connection with the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol after agents said they searched his phone and found deleted selfies taken inside the building.

Tam Pham initially told authorities during a Jan. 12 interview at his Richmond, Texas, home that he traveled to Washington, D.C., for a business trip, according to an affidavit obtained Wednesday by NBC News. While he said he briefly attended President Donald Trump's rally after learning about it on Facebook, Pham denied following the crowd to the Capitol, FBI Special Agent Amie Stemen wrote in the affidavit.

a man wearing sunglasses driving a car: Houston police office Tam Dinh Pham. (Obtained by KPRC) © Provided by NBC News Houston police office Tam Dinh Pham. (Obtained by KPRC)

The search of his phone revealed otherwise. Agents found footage of him inside the Capitol in his folder of deleted photos. Among the images were portraits of the Capitol Rotunda, a selfie inside the historic building and a photo of him posing with a statue of former President Gerald R. Ford draped in a Trump 2020 flag.

The time stamp on the images and videos placed him inside the Capitol at the time of the siege, authorities said.

After investigators warned him it was illegal to lie, Pham admitted he joined rally attendees at the Capitol, according to the affidavit. He said he jumped barricades surrounding the building, but had no intention to enact violence or vandalism, Stemen wrote.

Pham told investigators he entered the Rotunda and remained there for about 10 to 15 minutes to “look at the historical art on the walls,” according to the affidavit.

He was charged with one count of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and one count of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, records show.

Nicole Hochglaube, Pham's attorney, told NBC News in an email on Wednesday that her client cooperated with the FBI and “prays for the success of the incoming Biden administration.”

“He is deeply saddened to be associated with the domestic terrorists who attacked our Capitol on January 6th, believes strongly in the rule of law, and that the election choosing President Biden was fair and free,” she said.

Houston police Chief Art Acevedo announced on Twitter that Pham resigned Jan. 14. He had been with the department for 18 years.

On Wednesday, Acevedo said in a statement on Twitter that he and the FBI immediately launched an investigation when they caught wind of Pham's participation in the riot.

He added that the department was auditing the arrests made by the former officer to ensure there were "no irregularities."

At a cadet welcome training on Tuesday, he reprimanded Pham and other police officers across the country who participated in the mob that stormed the Capitol.

“If anyone in this room right now believes that anyone needed to be in the Capitol building, you need to check out,” Acevedo said, referring to Pham’s actions. “You will not survive in this department with that mindset.”

He added the department was looking into other officers who stormed the Capitol, but he said no other cases were found.

Pham was among dozens of pro-Trump rioters who federal investigators were searching for after the Capitol riot, which left five dead, including a police officer.

Among others facing charges are two Virginia police officers, a West Virginia legislator, an Arizona QAnon supporter seen carrying a 6-foot spear and a Florida man photographed with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern.

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