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Rep. Jamaal Bowman pleads guilty to falsely pulling fire alarm in Capitol Hill office building

Washington — Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman pleaded guilty Thursday to a misdemeanor charge for falsely pulling a fire alarm in a Capitol Hill office building before a last-minute vote to fund the government in September. 

Bowman will pay a $1,000 fine and serve three months of probation, after which the false fire alarm charge is expected to be dismissed from his record under an agreement with prosecutors.

The $1,000 fine is the maximum for the misdemeanor charge. He will also write an apology letter.

"Congressman Bowman was treated like anyone else who violates the law in the District of Columbia," a spokesperson for the Attorney General for the District of Columbia said in a statement on Wednesday. "Based on the evidence presented by Capitol Police, we charged the only crime that we have jurisdiction to prosecute." 

Bowman was ordered to appear in D.C. Superior Court on Thursday morning for his arraignment. He told reporters he would pay the fine and the charges could be dropped after three months if he abides by the conditions of his probation. He called the incident a "lapse in judgment." 

"I am responsible for activating a fire alarm, I will be paying the fine issued, and look forward to these charges being ultimately dropped," Bowman said in a statement. 

U.S. Capitol Police said Wednesday that the investigation into the incident is complete and referred the matter to prosecutors.

"Our agents gathered all the evidence, packaged it up, and sent the entire case with charges to prosecutors for their consideration," the agency said in a statement. 

Bowman has admitted to activating the fire alarm that led to the office building's evacuation. He said he was "rushing to make" the vote and "came to a door that is usually open for votes but today would not open."

Rep. Jamaal Bowman leaves the U.S. Capitol on May 23, 2023.
Rep. Jamaal Bowman leaves the U.S. Capitol on May 23, 2023. Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images

In an affidavit for an arrest warrant, a Capitol Police officer investigating the incident said there were three signs near or on two doors that said "emergency exit only," and "emergency exit only push until alarm sounds (3 seconds) door will unlock in 30 seconds." 

When Bowman tried opening the doors and failed, he then turned to the fire alarm on the wall that had a warning that said "FIRE push in pull down" and triggered it, the affidavit said. 

"Immediately afterwards, the defendant turned to his left, away from the exit doors," it said. "The defendant walked away from those doors without looking back at them or trying to push them open."

Security camera footage shows Bowman then jogging through the building and toward the Capitol, according to the officer. 

The officer said the defendant acknowledged that the doors stated "emergency exit only push to open." The officer said Bowman admitted to hearing the alarm and did not tell anyone at the time about pulling the alarm. 

"The defendant advised that usually when votes are called, all doors are open, and that door is usually open," the affidavit said. "The defendant further stated that this door was a usual door he uses." 

The officer also asked Bowman whether he meant to trigger the alarm "to which he stated 'no,'" the affidavit said. 

"The defendant was asked if he intended to disrupt or obstruct a Congressional proceeding of federal administrative procedure, to which he stated 'no,'" the affidavit said. 

Bowman then said he had been advised to obtain a lawyer and not answer further questions. 

Republicans accused Bowman of triggering the alarm in an effort to delay the House vote on a short-term spending bill, which Bowman denied.

"I want to be very clear, this was not me, in any way, trying to delay any vote," Bowman said. "It was the exact opposite — I was trying urgently to get to a vote, which I ultimately did and joined my colleagues in a bipartisan effort to keep our government open." 

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