North Dakota GOP leaders call on lawmaker to resign after slurs during DUI stop

Republican leaders have called on a North Dakota lawmaker to resign after he lashed out at police with homophobic and anti-migrant remarks during a traffic stop earlier this month for drunken driving.

Republican House Majority Leader Mike Lefor said Tuesday he called on Republican state Rep. Nico Rios, of Williston, to resign over the weekend. His statement cited a police officer’s report of Rios being “verbally abusive, homophobic, racially abusive and discriminatory” toward him “for the entire duration of the incident following road side testing.” Lefor also said Rios attempted to use his position as a lawmaker to intimidate police and avoid an arrest.

“There is no room in the legislature, or our party, for this behavior. I understand people make mistakes, but his comments and defiance to law enforcement are beyond the pale. In addition, any lawmaker attempting to use his or her elected position to threaten anyone or skirt the law is completely unacceptable,” Lefor said in a statement.

Rios did not immediately respond to an email for comment. His attorney did not immediately respond to a phone message.

In previous comments, Rios said his behavior toward the police was unacceptable, that he was sorry and vowed “to make sure this never happens again.”

North Dakota Republican Party Chairwoman Sandi Sanford joined Lefor, saying, “Rep. Rios’ actions and words fall short of the basic decency we expect from any of our neighbors. He endangered the community he was elected to serve and disrespected peace officers. This violates our core values as Republicans.”

Police body camera footage requested by and provided to The Associated Press shows Rios cursing the officer, questioning his English accent, and using homophobic slurs and anti-migrant language. He 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.” Forum News Service first reported on Rios’ comments.

Rios said he was leaving a Christmas party before the Dec. 15 traffic stop. He was charged with misdemeanor counts of drunken driving and refusing to provide a chemical test. He is scheduled for a pretrial conference on Feb. 5 in municipal court.

Rios, who works in an oil field position involved in the hydraulic fracturing of wells, was elected in 2022 to the state House of Representatives. He sits on the House Judiciary Committee, a panel that handles law enforcement legislation.

Republicans control the North Dakota House, 82-12.

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