North Dakota lawmaker who used homophobic slurs during DUI arrest has no immediate plans to resign

Body camera video captured North Dakota Republican lawmaker Nico Rios using profanity and homophobic slurs toward Williston police officers and threatening to call the state’s attorney general during a DUI stop on Dec. 5, 2023, in Williston, N.D. Rios said he was leaving a Christmas party before the traffic stop. (Williston Police Dept. via AP)
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By JACK DURA

Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota Republican lawmaker has no plans to immediately resign, despite party leaders’ calls for him to step down after he railed against police with profane, homophobic and anti-migrant language during a recent traffic stop that ended in his arrest on a charge of drunken driving.

In a statement Wednesday, Republican state Rep. Nico Rios, of Williston, said he is “seriously mulling all aspects” of his future.

“As I weigh my future in the legislature, I am going to spend the next few months addressing my issues with alcoholism and getting the help I need,” he said in a statement. “Any decision I make going forward will be made with a sober mind and deliberative clarity. To do so, I will be prioritizing breaking my chemical dependency on alcohol, improving the interpersonal relations I have strained, and listening to our community.”

Rios also said he takes responsibility for his “disgusting actions” during the Dec. 15 traffic stop, and apologized “to those I have hurt and disappointed,” including law enforcement officers. He added that he is “100% committed to making repairs for my actions and straightening out my life.”

Police body camera footage requested by and provided to the AP shows Rios cursing an officer, repeatedly 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.”

Rios’ statement comes a day after Republican House Majority Leader Mike Lefor and state party officials publicly called on him to resign.

“There is no room in the legislature, or our party, for this behavior,” Lefor said Tuesday. The AP left him a phone message on Wednesday seeking comment on Rios’ decision.

Rios has said he was leaving a Christmas party before police pulled him over. 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 unopposed in 2022 to a four-year term in 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.