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Former police officer who climbed over fences to get into Capitol during riot claims he was there to see art

Gustaf Kilander
·3-min read
<p>At least 13 off-duty law enforcement officers are suspected of being part of the mob that overtook the Capitol.</p> (AP)

At least 13 off-duty law enforcement officers are suspected of being part of the mob that overtook the Capitol.

(AP)

A former police officer admitted to climbing over fences to get into the Capitol during the 6 January riot but then claimed he only went inside because it was a rare moment to view historical art pieces.

Ex-officer Tam Dinh Pham was arrested Wednesday for unlawful entry of the Capitol and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, The Washington Post reported.

He's one of at least 13 members of law enforcement who are suspected of being members of the mob that overtook the Capitol.

After 18 years working for the Houston Police Department, he stepped down on January 14, Chief of Police Art Acevedo announced on Twitter.

On 20 January, Chief Acevedo put out a statement saying that they were "auditing arrests" by Mr Pham to "ensure there are no irregularities".

Federal investigators interviewed Mr Pham at his home in Richmond, Texas on 12 January. One agent asked to see the images on his phone. On the regular camera roll, there were no images of Mr Pham at the Capitol. When the agent checked the "deleted" folder, however, multiple images were showing that Mr Pham was on the scene, including an image of him posing in front of a statue of former President Gerald Ford with a Trump 2020 flag attached to it.

The agent showed the images to Mr Pham, and reminded him of the illegality of lying to a federal agent. Mr Pham immediately changed his story – that he was in DC on business, had joined the protest on a whim and had not entered the Capitol – but still claimed he was only in the building to view pieces of art.

Court documents say that he told agents that he "had no intention of committing any act of violence or vandalism at the Capitol,” that he didn't belong to any social media group where the 6 January rally was being advertised, didn't meet up with any Trump supporters upon arriving in DC and that he didn't bring a weapon with him. He saw officers protecting the building, but "did not engage with them,” the documents say.

He said he spent between 10 and 15 minutes in the Rotunda, which was confirmed by the metadata in his phone.

Mr Pham's lawyer, Nicole Hochglaube, said in an email to NBC News that he "is deeply saddened to be associated with the domestic terrorists who attacked our Capitol on 6 January, believes strongly in the rule of law, and that the election choosing President Biden was fair and free".

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