New York Democratic Representative Jamaal Bowman has been charged with a misdemeanor for triggering a false fire alarm amid a House vote on spending legislation to prevent a partial government shutdown.
The 47-year-old congressman was set to be processed by Capitol Police on Thursday, facing the accusation of intentionally setting off a false fire alarm, an offense that could lead to a six-month imprisonment and a fine of up to $1,000.
Per an agreement with DC Attorney General Brian Schwalb, as stated by Bowman’s office, the congressman’s charges could be dismissed within three months, conditional upon his formal apology to Capitol Police and payment of a $1,000 fine.
An affidavit from a Capitol Police investigator presented in the Washington, D.C. Superior Court revealed that Bowman considered the emergency exit as a regular doorway he used during votes.
Bowman refuted claims of intending to trigger a fire alarm, cause a security issue, or disrupt Congressional proceedings.
According to the investigator, the sign on the door in the Cannon House Office Building stated: “Emergency Exit Only Push Until Alarm Sounds (3 Seconds) Door Will Unlock in 30 Seconds.”
Security footage showed Bowman jogging down a staircase away from the door he attempted to open and walking casually as he exited the building. The footage also revealed that Bowman passed several Capitol Police officers without reporting his actions, leading to an evacuation of the House office building for approximately 90 minutes.
Based on the evidence, the investigator deduced probable cause to believe Bowman knowingly activated a false fire alarm.
In response to the charge, Bowman stated, “I’m thankful from the District of Columbia Attorney General’s office on this issue and grateful that the United States Capitol Police General Counsel’s agreed I did not obstruct or intend to obstruct any House vote or proceedings,”
He added, “I am responsible for activating a fire alarm, I will be paying the fine issued, and look forward to these charges being ultimately dropped.”
The fire alarm activation incident has incited significant criticism from Republican members, who allege that Bowman intentionally triggered the alarm to obstruct a crucial House vote intended to avert a government shutdown.
The congressman has dismissed these allegations as “Complete BS.”
House Administration Committee Chairman, Representative Bryan Steil, doubted Bowman’s version of events, stating, “Bowman’s excuse does not pass the sniff test. After pulling the fire alarm, Representative Bowman fled the scene, passed by multiple Capitol Police officers, and had every opportunity to alert USCP of his mistake.”
New York Representative Nicole Malliotakis was also drafting a resolution to seek Bowman’s expulsion from Congress.
However, plans for House actions against Bowman hit a roadblock due to the unseating of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Representative Bowman’s office had earlier distributed a set of talking points suggesting that Republicans should focus more on addressing the presence of “Nazis” within their ranks rather than fixating on the fire alarm episode.
Subsequently, the congressman expressed regret over the language used in the memo, clarifying that it was released “without my consent.”
Representing New York’s 16th Congressional District, Bowman faces at least two Democratic primary challengers next year.
One of his challengers, Michael Gerald, a former New Jersey state trooper and Baptist church pastor, criticized Bowman’s actions as “the height of idiocy,” noting his experience with fire drills as a former middle school principal.