A former Houston cop charged with storming the US Capitol changed his story in an interview with the feds. Now he says he was there to see 'historical art'

  • Ex-Houston officer Tam Pham allegedly told federal investigators he didn't enter the US Capitol. 
  • When pressed, he changed his story and said he joined rioters on January 6 to view 'historical art.'
  • Insider created a searchable database of those individuals charged for their participation in the riot.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Tam Pham, the ex-Houston police officer charged in the January 6 attempted insurrection at the US Capitol, allegedly changed his story several times before fessing up to federal authorities, according to court documents.

First, he said he was traveling to Washington, DC, for business and went to Trump's rally spontaneously, and then said he did not enter the Capitol. Later, when confronted with photo evidence, he admitted to the FBI that he in fact ventured inside the Capitol during the chaos, but said he only wanted to take photos of "historical art."

Last week, before being federally charged for knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, Pham resigned from the Houston Police Department and expressed regret to the Houston Chronicle, repeating a similar rationale to the paper.

"I shouldn't have done it," Pham told the paper. "I was there to take pictures."

On January 14, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo announced that Pham had tendered his resignation after 18 years on the force. And on Wednesday, after Pham was detained, Acevedo issued a follow-up  statement saying his department had worked with the FBI to investigate Pham, and that all of Pham's arrests and body cam footage would now be audited as well.

So far, more than a dozen off-duty police officers have been investigated or charged with allegedly taking part in the deadly riot at the Capitol on January 6.

According to court documents, federal agents interviewed Pham at his Richmond, Texas, home on January 12, where he initially denied entering the Capitol.

Pham then attempted to show agents that on his phone, there were no photos dated January 6, but when an agent asked to review the photos, they found a stash of incriminating images from January 6 in his "deleted" folder.

The photos and videos showed Pham inside the Capitol rotunda, with a Trump flag, posing with a statue of former President Gerald Ford, according to federal prosecutors. At that moment, the agent reminded him that it was illegal to lie to a federal agent, and Pham altered his story.

Pham then spoke about his desire to witness the "historical art" inside the Capitol and said that he eventually followed a crowd into the building from Trump's rally, climbed over a broken barrier, did not engage with police officers, and left the Capitol after about 15 minutes.

Pham said he was not carrying any weapons and "had no intention of committing any act of violence or vandalism at the Capitol," according to court documents. 

Pham's lawyer Nicole Hochglaube told NBC News her client was cooperative in the federal investigation and is "deeply saddened to be associated with the domestic terrorists who attacked our Capitol on January 6.″

Pham is set to appear in US district court on Feb. 11. 

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