SALEM, Ore. — Security camera footage from inside the Oregon Capitol shows a Republican state representative opening the door to the building, allowing armed far-right demonstrators to get inside during a one-day special session last month.
Oregon State Police (OSP) launched a criminal investigation into Rep. Mike Nearman (R-Independence) after the closed building was breached on Dec. 21.
House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) announced the investigation to reporters Thursday morning, saying OSP confirmed Nearman opened the door to let demonstrators into the building. She called it a "serious, serious breach of public trust."
The demonstrators had gathered that day for a protest organized by far-right group Patriot Prayer in opposition to statewide COVID-19 mandates. Some were later seen kicking in doors and spraying officers with chemicals.
KGW reached out to Nearman for comment Thursday morning. He has not responded.
The revelation comes as lawmakers prepare to ramp up safety protocols at Oregon’s Capitol building. Calls for such an effort came in the wake of the December demonstration and got louder after armed Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol Wednesday.
Lawmakers and staff at Oregon’s Capitol are scheduled to undergo elevated safety training next week, Kotek said. It will focus on “notifications for folks, safety planning within the building, knowing your evacuation routes, knowing the things that could happen within the building during a demonstration.”
Speaker Kotek said House leaders are reviewing all options, as are police.
“We have consulted employee services as well as the Legislative Equity Office about ‘Is this a hostile workplace violation? Should it go through the conduct committee?’ That's a potential,” Kotek said. “First, we've been waiting to give a little bit of space for Oregon State Police to conduct their criminal investigation.”
A spokesman for OSP said charges in this case would be up to prosecutors.
It's worth noting, amid the pandemic, most lawmakers and staff are working remotely. An exception will come Monday, when lawmakers are scheduled to convene on chamber floors to be sworn in, in person.
Moving forward, keeping the Capitol largely closed gives OSP a couple months to weigh security upgrades to entrances, which have always been open to the public.
WARNING: Strong language