WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman was charged Wednesday with a misdemeanor for triggering a fire alarm as lawmakers scrambled to pass a funding bill before a government shutdown deadline in September.
He is expected to plead guilty, formally apologize and pay a $1,000 fine. The false fire alarm charge would then be dropped if he successfully completes 3 months of probation.
The alarm forced the evacuation of a House office building for over an hour. The New York lawmaker has acknowledged pulling the alarm and said it was a mistake. He was in a rush to go to vote, tried to go through a door that was unexpectedly closed and wrongly thought pulling the fire alarm lever would help him open it, he said.
At the time of the evacuation, House Democrats were working to delay a vote on a funding bill to keep federal agencies open. They had said they needed time to review a bill that Republicans abruptly released to avoid a shutdown. The funding package was ultimately approved with most Republicans and almost all Democrats, including Bowman, supporting the bill.
Republicans criticized Bowman after the alarm, and on Wednesday introduced a motion to censure him. Rep. Bryan Steil, the chairman of the Committee on House Administration, referred the case to Capitol police. He called Bowman’s explanation an “excuse.”
He pointed out that Bowman passed several police officers after pulling the alarm without alerting them about it. Bowman, for his part, has said he was urgently trying to get to the vote and said Republicans would “attempt to distract everyone” with the case.
Prosecutors said Bowman was “treated like anyone else who violates the law” and has agreed to pay the maximum fine, according to a spokesperson for the District of Columbia attorney general’s office.
Bowman told police at the time he didn’t mean to disrupt any congressional proceeding, according to court documents. He said he didn’t immediately tell anyone about the alarm going off because he was in a hurry to vote.
Under an agreement with the D.C. attorney general, the charge will be withdrawn in three months if the congressman provides a formal apology to Capitol police and pays a $1,000 fine.
Bowman said he was grateful for the quick resolution in the case, and looking forward to putting it behind him. “I am responsible for activating a fire alarm, I will be paying the fine issued, and look forward to these charges being ultimately dropped,” he said.
Associated Press writer Farnoush Amiri contributed to this report.