BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota lawmaker who serves on a panel that handles law enforcement legislation made homophobic and anti-migrant remarks to a police officer who arrested him on a charge of driving drunk, body camera footage shows.
Republican state Rep. Nico Rios of Williston was also charged with refusing to provide a chemical test. Both that and the drunken driving charge are misdemeanors under state law. Rios is scheduled for a Feb. 5 pretrial conference in municipal court.
Williston police pulled him over on Dec. 15 for failing to maintain his lane, according to an officer’s report. The officer wrote that Rios “was verbally abusive, homophobic, racially abusive and discriminatory” toward him “for the entire duration of the incident following road side testing.”
The homophobic slurs can be heard in body camera footage requested by and provided to The Associated Press. In the recording, Rios also said he would call the North Dakota attorney general about the situation. He told the officers they would “regret picking on me because you don’t know who … I am.”
He also cursed while riding in the patrol car, and questioned the officer’s English accent, asking him, “How many of your … friends and family members have been … brutalized and terrorized by … migrants?” Forum News Service first reported on Rios’ remarks.
Asked for comment, Rios replied in an email, “Inebriated or not my actions and words to law enforcement that night were absolutely unacceptable.”
The lawmaker said he was sorry and vowed “to make sure this never happens again.”
“Moving forward after this night I feel like I have to emphasize my complete and total commitment to supporting Law Enforcement,” he wrote.
Rio said he was leaving a Christmas party before the traffic stop, and has “only gotten support from my colleagues, although a few have yelled at me for sure I deserved it.”
Rios was elected last year to the North Dakota House of Representatives. He sits on the House Judiciary Committee, a panel that handles law enforcement legislation. He also is a wireline operator, an oil field position involved in the hydraulic fracturing of wells.
Republican House Majority Leader Mike Lefor said he hadn’t seen the video, “but I’ve heard enough about it.” He would not say whether he is asking Rios to resign, but said he is “looking at the options that are in front of me,” and wanted to speak with Rios before commenting further.
North Dakota Republican Party Chairwoman Sandi Sanford said in a text message, “We are deeply troubled by Rep. Rios’ dangerous decision to drive while intoxicated and his remarks to law enforcement officers. His behavior does not represent the values of the NDGOP.”
The state’s Democratic Party chair called Rios’ comments “reprehensible.”
Republicans control the North Dakota House, 82-12.
Jack Dura, The Associated Press