Rep. Jamaal Bowman was criminally charged Wednesday with pulling a false fire alarm last month that forced the evacuation of the Cannon House Office Building as lawmakers scrambled to avert a government shutdown.

The D.C. attorney general’s office filed a misdemeanor charge of activating a false fire alarm, according to documents filed in D.C. Superior Court. Police said the office building, on Independence Avenue SE, was cleared for 90 minutes.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., on Capitol Hill in March. Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post

Bowman, D-N.Y., 47, was charged in a judicial summons, meaning he was not arrested. A court date was set for Thursday. The offense is punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail. In an affidavit filed in court, authorities allege that Bowman tried to open an emergency door and, when that failed, pulled a fire alarm and walked away, and did not report his actions to the police.

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, accused Bowman of intentionally pulling the alarm to delay a vote on a stopgap funding measure, and the Republican leadership pushed for an ethics investigation. Bowman voted in favor of the bill, which keeps the government funded through mid-November.

In a statement Wednesday, Bowman said, “I’m thankful for the quick resolution from the District of Columbia Attorney General’s office on this issue and grateful that the United States Capitol Police General Counsel’s office agreed I did not obstruct nor intend to obstruct any House vote or proceedings.”

“I am responsible for activating a fire alarm,” he said, adding that he has agreed to pay a $1,000 fine and issue an apology to Capitol Police. In return, the attorney general’s office said, it would move to dismiss the charge against him in three months.


A spokesman for the office, Gabe Shoglow-Rubenstein, said the congressman “was treated like anyone else who violates the law in the District of Columbia.” He added that Bowman “is pleading guilty and has agreed to pay the maximum fine.”

The D.C. attorney general’s office prosecutes juvenile crimes and some adult misdemeanors. More serious offenses are prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District.

At the time of the incident, Bowman denied he pulled the alarm on purpose, saying in a statement that he was rushing to vote. “I came to a door that is usually open for votes but today would not open,” he said in a statement at the time. “I am embarrassed to admit that I activated the fire alarm, mistakenly thinking it would open the door.”

Capitol Police said at the time that security video showed a man trying to exit a door about noon that Saturday and then pulling the alarm, prompting the building’s evacuation. Signage indicated that the door was secured and for emergency use only, police said.

Police issued a lookout for a man described as wearing a dark suit and dark tie with a pin in his lapel. A photo was sent out to police as they scoured the building and set up a command post.

In the affidavit filed in Superior Court on Wednesday, authorities said a person recognized the photo and directed officers to Room H-125, where they met with Bowman.


According to the affidavit, Bowman told police he was trying to exit the building. The congressman told police he saw a sign on the door that read “emergency exit only push to open,” the affidavit says. Bowman told police he “pushed on the door and pulled the lever next to it,” according to the affidavit. Bowman told them he believed that triggered the alarm. A few minutes later, he said, he heard alarms sounding and saw strobe lights.

The affidavit says Bowman told police “he did not want to miss the votes to keep the government funded.” He also said that the door he tried to open was usually open when votes are called, the affidavit says. He denied intentionally trying to trigger a security incident or disrupt a congressional proceeding.

Police said in the affidavit that there is a sign near the door with red and white printing stating “Emergency Exit Only.” Another sign on the door reads “Emergency Exit Only Push Until Alarm Sounds.” The sign also said the door would unlock 30 seconds after the bar was pushed.

In the affidavit, police said security camera video shows Bowman twice pushing the exit doors, once while grabbing the warning sign. When the door did not open, the affidavit alleges, Bowman “turned to his left, looked at the emergency fire alarm pull station, and upon seeing it, he reached out and pulled the fire alarm down.”

Police said that immediately afterward, Bowman “turned to his left, away from the exit doors,” and walked away “without looking back at them or trying to push them open.”

As Bowman later exited the building along with others who were evacuated, the affidavit says, the congressman walked by three Capitol Police officers without saying anything to them. When he returned to the building, the affidavit says, he again walked by police officers at the entranceway metal detector and then stood for 10 seconds “within feet of one of the United States Capitol Police officers” while waiting for an elevator, “and does not appear to be saying anything to the officer.”

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