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Posts for July, 2009

Ft. Worth Mayor Apologizes For Rainbow Lounge Raid; LGBT Police Liaison Announced

Jim Burroway

July 15th, 2009

About two dozen LGBT citizens and allies spoke before the Ft. Worth city council last night about the June 28 raid on the Rainbow Lounge by Ft. Worth police and agents from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. They were there to ask city council members to apologize for what happen and ensure that such a raid will never happen again:

One woman said she had traveled some 1,500 miles from San Francisco to lend her support. A few speakers said they were not gay, but that they wanted the council to know that it was not just the gay community concerned about the actions of Fort Worth and TABC officers that night.

One woman described in detail what she saw during the inspection.

“That was the first time I was ever afraid of the police,” said Sarah Bryant, who had been at the bar with her boyfriend that night. “After that, I was overwhelmed with disappointment and I guess a little bit disturbed. … We just need your help to move on.”

The violent raid on the Rainbow Lounge took place on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion. Chad Gibson was severely injured with a head trauma which resulted in him being sent to intensive care with bleeding in his brain. His full recovery may take as long as two years. FWPD and TABC are both conducting separate internal investigations into the raid, and the acting U.S. Attorney James Jack will independently review those investigations when they are completed. Meanwhile FWPD has suspended all cooperative activities with the TABC pending the outcome of these investigations,

One woman in the audience asked Ft. Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief why he hasn’t apologized for Gibson having to be hospitalized, “If you want an apology from your mayor, I am sorry for what happened in Ft. Worth. I am sorry,” Moncrief replied. According to the Associated Press, the crowd stood and applaused. The Star-Telegram merely said the apology drew “some applause.”

More than 250 people packed city council chambers for the meeting, with another 150 people gathered outside watching it on television monitors.

The meeting got off to a bad start when seven Dallas-based protesters from Queer LiberAction tried to disrupt the meeting. Those protesters were angry because the Rainbow Lounge discussion was placed last on the open discussion portion of the city council agenda — a normal spot when a particular topic is known to be of high interest and will likely generate a lot of discussion. Putting it last ensures that the other topics are discussed and gotten out of the way before the big one begins. But I guess there are always some people who are more interested in theater than action, demanding that their oppressed voices be heard when the topic is already right there on the agenda. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed:

While the outbursts from protesters brought a smattering of support, most at the meeting seemed bothered by the interruptions and broke out in applause when marshals escorted the men out and thanked Moncrief for working with the gay community.

DeeJay Johannessen approached the microphone and said he understood putting such speakers at the end of the meeting is a common practice.

“We are willing to wait. We’re going to be here. We look forward to talking to you. We looking forward to resolving this issue with you,” he said, prompting some to give him a standing ovation.

Real progress was made at the meeting. In addition to the Mayor’s apology, Ft. Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead announced the appointment of Officer Sara Straten as liaison to the city’s LGBT community. Officer Straten is a 17-year veteran of the police force. Meanwhile, the internal investigations continue, with the FWPD considering theirs a high-priority investigation, and have so far interviewed 33 eyewitnesses since the start of the investigation. They expect to complete the investigation in 30 days.

Rainbow Lounge Raid Inspires Police Improvements

Timothy Kincaid

July 14th, 2009

The raid on the Rainbow Lounge in Ft. Worth, Texas, has yeilded some positives. Inspired by the community outrage, Police Chief Halstead has gone from defending the action as having “restraint” to a finding solutions and preventing further abuse.

From PoliTex:

  • Internal affairs investigators have conducted interviews with 33 attendees at the Rainbow Lounge and expected to complete the investigation in approximately 30 days.
  • The Fort Worth police consider the investigation a priority, taking some internal affairs investigators off other cases to focus on the Rainbow Lounge incident, he said.
  • Halstead expects to update the police department’s policy regarding bar raids, after taking input from the community.
  • Soon after the incident, Halstead said he decided he needed a police officer to serve as a liaison to the city’s gay/lesbian/bisexual community, just as the department has people serving in a similar position for other minority communities. Officer Sara Straten, a neighborhood officer in north Fort Worth and 17-year veteran of the department, volunteered for the position.

Meanwhile our community must stay vigilant and follow up to be certain that those who abused their power are held accountable.

El Paso Police Chief Disavows Prior Statements, Pledges To Enforce Anti-Discrimination Ordinance

Jim Burroway

July 12th, 2009

El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen has issued a statement “to correct and clarify prior statements” concerning the eviction of five men from an El Paso restaurant after two of them kissed. The new statement calls prior statements an “incorrect recitation of the law” and recognizes the police department’s responsibility to enforce the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance. That 2003 ordinance bans discrimination in public accommodations based on sexual orientation.

This statement is in response to public outcry over actions by police officers who were called to Chico’s Tacos restaurant after a security guard threatened to remove five male customers because two of them kissed. The guard told the group to leave, saying that “faggot stuff” wasn’t allowed. The men called police over their pending removal, but instead of enforcing the city’s anti-discrimination law, a responding officer threatened the cite the kissing couple for violating a nonexistent law against “homosexual conduct” — one that presumably would go so far as to ban something as radically “faggotty” as a kiss. Later, an EPPD spokesperson compounded the problem over the non-existent law by saying that the five men at Chico’s Tacos could have been charged with criminal trespass instead.

Chief Allen’s statement now recognizes the police department’s responsibility to ensure “the opportunity of each person to obtain goods and services in all process of public accommodation without fear of discrimination.” The new statement “recognizes the negative impact that discrimination can have on a community”and requires that all police personnel “be courteous and respectful in their official dealings with the public.” Chief Allen requires EPPD personnel to “maintain a level of competence” in enforcing the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance, and warns that failure to do so “will result in appropriate discipline.”

Click here to read the El Paso Police Department Statement

Throw the Book (of Mormon) at Them

Timothy Kincaid

July 10th, 2009
Get fit in Salt Lake... unless you're gay.

Get fit in Salt Lake... unless you"re gay

It seems that the police in Texas are inspiring the Salt Lake Police Force. The story involves a couple walking along what used to be a public street.

In 1999 the City sold a block of Main Street to the Church. Because all public policy statements and documents emphasized the need for pedestrian traffic on this downtown grid, the City retained an easement for public passage and access. The Church placed restrictions on speech and behavior on the plaza.

Courts struck down these restrictions, so in 2003, the City of Salt Lake transferred the Main Street Plaza easement to the Mormon Church so as to facilitate their desire to eliminate criticism from that public thoroughfare. Now those that use this public thoroughfare are on private property. And gay people had better remember it. (Salt Lake Tribune)

Aune said the incident started when he and Jones were walking back to his Salt Lake City home from a Twilight Concert Series show at the Gallivan Center. The couple live just blocks away from the plaza in the Marmalade district of the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

The pair crossed the plaza holding hands, Aune said. About 20 feet from the edge of the plaza, Aune said he stopped, put his arm around Jones and kissed him on the cheek.

This kiss resulted in being thrown to the ground by security guards, hand-cuffed, and being issued trespassing citations when the police arrived. Oh, and they are banned from all church property for six months – including that which had previously been public streets owned by the taxpayers.

Now the Mormon Church will tell you that it doesn’t hate gay people. It loves them, but disapproves of their sin just as they would the sin of an adulterer or fornicator.

I don’t find that argument convincing.

Update on “Chico’s Five”

Timothy Kincaid

July 10th, 2009

The story of the five gay men kicked out of Chico’s Tacos in El Paso because they were gay has picked up momentum.

National news outlets, civil-rights lawyers from El Paso to Austin, El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen and City Council representatives all chimed in on the Chico’s five.

Also additional information has been presented.

The phrase the security guards used was, “Si seguian con sus payasadas, los vamos a sacar de aqui, no permitimos que anden haciendo cosas aqui de jotos.” Jotos is a pejorative term perhaps best translated as “faggot”.

Mirroring the situation in Ft. Worth, the police tried to defend their discriminatory actions – only making the situation worse.

But El Paso Police Detective Carlos Carrillo defended the officers actions, telling the paper that every business has “the right to refuse service to whoever they don’t want there.”

Well as it turns out, no the restaurant cannot refuse service due to sexual orientation discrimination. (El Paso Times)

Lisa Graybill, legal director of the ACLU of Texas, said a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court case determined that places of public accommodation cannot refuse to serve someone based purely on discrimination and must establish a reasonable basis for turning someone away.

Gay men and women have an additional protection in El Paso, where in 2003 the City Council adopted an ordinance that prohibits restaurants and other businesses from discriminating based on sexual orientation, she said.

Local civil rights groups are upset and some gay people are protesting.

Word of the altercation between the gay men and the security guard spread quickly through El Paso. A text-message and e-mail campaign on Thursday urged people in the gay community and others to participate in a peaceful protest at 5 p.m. today in front of the Chico’s on Montwood. Thursday night, about 35 people protested outside the Chico’s Tacos. Several held signs that read, “Equal rights,” and “I want to kiss in public” and “It was only a kiss.”

More Bigotry From Texas Police

Timothy Kincaid

July 8th, 2009

What is it about law enforcement in Texas?

Last Sunday night, Carlos Diaz de Leon and some friends stopped to have a bit to eat at Chico’s Tacos. Two of the guys kissed each other, which seemed to annoy the rent-a-cops.

“We went, sat down to eat our food and security guards came and said that if they kept doing that, they were going to throw us all out of the restaurant.”

Carlos said he then asked them why? Their response, according to Carlos: “They said ‘we didn’t allow that gay stuff to go on here.’ “

Carlos mistakenly thought that he and his friends have the right in Texas to be treated the same as straight people. So he called the police. But he didn’t get the response he expected. Rather than come to the support of Carlos and his friends, they were threatened with citation.

“Told us it was against the law for two males and two females to kiss in public, that they could cite us for homosexual activity.”

While there is a homosexual conduct ordinance in the state’s penal code, “We don’t enforce that law, there’s been court decisions about Texas’ law on that. We don’t enforce it and what happened there wouldn’t have even have met the elements of the offense, even if it had been enforceable,” said El Paso Police Department spokesman Chris Mears.

The police department admits the situation was not handled properly by a rookie police officer, but deny it was discrimination.

“Did he make a comment that he shouldn’t have made? Yeah, he did…but that comment I don’t think was discriminatory in nature, I think it was poor understanding of the law,” Mears said.

No, Mr. Mears, it isn’t just “poor understanding of the law.” If was official police harassment of a citizen of El Paso based on that citizen’s sexual orientation. It was discrimination. It was intimidation. It was bigotry.

In 2003 the Supreme Court of the United States told a state that its sodomy laws contrary to the US Constitution. And what state was that? It was Texas. It is simply not credible that there is a police force in the State of Texas that was not fully aware of Lawrence v. Texas and what it means.

Prior to the Court’s decision, it wasn’t as though the state was much in the habit of enforcing the law. They didn’t put folks in jail. That wasn’t its purpose.

The intent of the sodomy laws in Texas were to create a culture of intimidation, to leave gay persons under threat of being criminalized, to allow harassment without recourse, and to make it very clear that the State of Texas “didn’t allow that gay stuff to go on here.”

It seems to me like things haven’t changed much.

In light of the recent police brutality in a gay bar in Ft. Worth, it’s time to ask some questions.

  • Why don’t the police in Texas know that they don’t have enforceable sodomy laws?
  • Why does Texas still have sodomy laws on the books after they have been told by the Supreme Court that such laws are discriminatory and unconstitutional?
  • Why doesn’t El Paso’s Police Department consider the blatantly bigoted response of the officer to be discrimination?
  • Why would officers with the Texas Alcohol Beverage Control and with the Ft. Worth Police Department think it was “restrained” to bust heads, break ribs and thumbs, and harass 20 people selected arbitrarily and not associated with any obvious intoxication just because they were patrons of a gay bar?
  • And why is it still perfectly legal for Chico’s Tacos in El Paso, Texas, to refuse service to Carlos and his friends based solely on their sexual orientation?

I believe the answers to these questions are all the same.

Chad Gibson Calls For Prosecutions

Jim Burroway

July 6th, 2009
Chad Gibson (WFAA-TV)

Chad Gibson (WFAA-TV)

Chad Gibson, the patron who was severely injured during the June 28 raid on the Rainbow Lounge, spoke to a Dallas ABC affiliate yesterday and called for prosecutions of those who injured him.

Gibson was released Saturday after a spending week at John Peter Smith Hospital in Ft. Worth, suffering from bleeding in the brain. There is still a blood clot in his brain, behind his right eye. “I’m scared that something might happen,” Gibson said. “It might start bleeding.”

Gibson spoke to WFAA-TV yesterday, called the action by the city of Ft. Worth a cover-up. He’s particularly angry that the Ft. Worth police department used the blame-the-victim tactic in defending their actions:

Gibson said the city and officers have pointed the blame in the wrong direction.

“They have blamed it on me, that I was drunk [and] that I hit my head,” he said. “I groped the officer. I did this. I did that.  You know what, no … Accept responsibility.”

Gibson said he is also frustrated at the city pointing the blame at the TABC.

“Even if the Fort Worth Police didn’t touch me, they watched it,” he said. “They watched other people do that to me.”

Gibson denies groping the police officer. Several eyewitnesses at the bar that night say they didn’t see anyone make any sexual movements toward police officers. Police also say that Gibson received his injuries because he was so drunk when they arrested him that he fell. Gibson told a Dallas CBS affiliate that his doctors don’t buy it:

“A lot of the doctors I’ve talked to say you can’t get this kind of blow to the head from just falling, if I had just fallen like they said I did.”

Gibson is as surprised as anyone about the exercize of police brutality which took place at the bar:

?I was at the bar buying drinks for my friends and I. The next thing I remember is waking up in the ICU,” Gibson said. “I’m just appalled that they took it to the level that they did.”

…”It shouldn’t have happened to me and it shouldn’t happen to anyone else.”

Meanwhile, local activists protested for the second Sunday in a row, this time at Ft. Worth’s Sundance Square. Another protest is scheduled for next Sunday in front of the county court house.

More Details Emerge From Rainbow Lounge Raid

Jim Burroway

July 5th, 2009

More reports of injuries are coming to light from last week’s raid on the Rainbow Lounge in Ft. Worth, Texas. That raid resulted in Chad Gibson being sent to intensive care for a severe head injury with bleeding in the brain. Doctors say he will probably continue to experience severe headaches for the next two years.

The New York Times reports that another patron suffered broken ribs, and a third had a broken thumb resulting from aggressive actions by Ft. Worth police and agents from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. The Dallas Voice reports that another man who was taken in to custody experienced severe bruising and muscle strain in his shoulder and back. He was charged with public intoxication, even though he says he was not drunk and police did not perform any sobriety or blood-alcohol tests on him.

This practice of charging people without evidence goes against the very foundations of our country’s system of justice, but it is just one more example of how Texas policy on Public Intoxication is an open ticket for abuse. Ft. Worth Police Department has since announced that they are suspending operations with TABC.

The New York Times also provides more details about Gibson’s arrest:

Tom Anable, a 55-year-old accountant who said he was in the bar during the raid, said that for more than a half-hour the officers entered the bar repeatedly in groups of three and escorted people out. Then around 1:40 a.m., he said, the officers started to get rougher, throwing one young man down hard on a pool table.

Minutes later, one of the state agents approached Mr. Gibson, who was standing on steps to a lounge at the back of the bar with a bottle of water in his hands, and tapped him on the shoulder, Mr. Anable said. Mr. Gibson turned and said, “Why?”

Then the officer, who has not been identified, twisted Mr. Gibson’s right arm behind his back, grabbed his neck, swung him off the steps and slammed his head into the wall of a hallway leading to the restrooms, Mr. Anable said. The agent then forced Mr. Gibson to the floor, Mr. Anable said.

“Gibson didn’t touch the officer,” Mr. Anable said. “He didn’t grope him.”

Two police officers and a second state agent arrived and helped subdue Mr. Gibson, kneeling on his back. A lounge employee, Lindsey Thompson, 23, said she saw an officer slam Mr. Gibson’s head into the floor while he was prone with his hands cuffed behind him.

Ft. Worth police chief Jeffrey Halstead was adamant that Gibson suffered his head injury while in TABC custody. “They were not my employees,” he reiterated at a recent townhall style meeting. But witnesses are disputing that claim — as does this photo taken at the time of Gibson’s arrest:

Cell phone image of police arresting Chad Gibson after throwing him on the floor. (Dallas Voice)

Cell phone image of police arresting Chad Gibson after throwing him on the floor. (Dallas Voice)

TABC agents are in tan uniforms. The picture is grainy, but you can clearly make out a third person  between the kneeling tan-uniformed agent and the standing TABC agent against the back wall. That third person is wearing the dark uniform of the Ft. Worth police department. The gloved hand of a fourth agent can be seen just to the right of the bar patron’s pants leg. It’s impossible to tell whether that hand belongs to a Ft. Worth police officer or a TABC agent, but the NYT account describes two TABC agents and two Ft. Worth police officers. This photo is consistent with that account.

The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram reports that Ft. Worth residents are taking stock on how the raid reflects on their city. From my fifteen years of having lived in the D/FW metroplex, I think the article gives a good account of the differing cultures between Ft. Worth and neighboring Dallas. It’s worth noting that the Star-Telegram, long the home of the late Molly Ivins, was considered the “lib’ral” paper, with conservatives deriding it as the “Startlegram.” Ft. Worth was always the more laid-back, leave-’em-alone kind of place, and Dallas was always regarded as more hard-nosed conservative. But the Rainbow Lounge raid has shaken that up.

There will be a rally tonight in Sundance Square in downtown Ft. Worth tonight at 7:00 p.m, as well as another rally in front of the Courthouse on July 12 at 7:00 p.m. Local activists also plan to attend the Ft. Worth City Council meeting on July 14.

Ft. Worth Mayor Asks For Federal Review Of Rainbow Lounge Raid

Jim Burroway

July 3rd, 2009

While the Ft. Worth Fort Police Department and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission continue their own internal investigations into Sunday morning’s raid on the Rainbow Lounge, Ft. Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief has asked acting U.S. Attorney James Jacks to independently review those investigations once they are completed.

Moncrief said, “I have confidence that Chief (Jeffrey) Halstead is leading a thorough and professional investigation,” but he wants to make sure that the department “has thoroughly and impartially carried out its obligation to all the citizens of Fort Worth.” He also encouraged the TABC to do the same. City spokesman Jason Lammers reiterated that the mayor’s action should not be taken as a sign of a lack of confidence on the police department’s ability to conduct fair investigation.

FWPD Suspends Operations With State Agents After Rainbow Lounge Raid

Jim Burroway

July 2nd, 2009
Cell phone image of police arresting Chad Gibson after throwing him on the floor. (Dallas Voice)

Cell phone image of police arresting Chad Gibson after throwing him on the floor. (Dallas Voice)

The Ft. Worth Police Department is now trying to disentangle themselves from the mess they created when FWPD officers joined agents from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission on their Sunday morning raid of the Rainbow Lounge. Already, Ft. Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead has announced that Chad Gibson was injured with a severe head injury while in TABC custody. In fact, he was adamant that “They were not my employees,” even though a photo taken while Gibson was being handcuffed appears to show a Ft. Worth Police officer with three other officers holding Gibson down while he was being handcuffed. Now we learn that FWPD has sent out a press release announcing that it has suspended all operations with the TABC until the department gains a “better understanding” of the events surrounding the raid.

As I pointed out, the whole program of arresting individuals for Public Intoxication is a complete mess, as well as an open invitation for unchecked abuse with no accountability. It looks like FWPD is starting to see it the same way:

In an effort to establish ‘clearly defined roles and responsibilities’ of each organization, the chief will conduct meetings with TABC officials in the coming weeks. Halstead said the intent is to better serve the community in conducting inspections.  FWPD is also taking steps to ensure that multiculturalism training is provided to all police employees, specifically toward the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

TABC Reassign Two Agents To Desk Duty

Jim Burroway

July 2nd, 2009
About 100 people attended a vigil for Chad Gibson Wednesday night at the Rainbow Lounge. (Chastity Kirven/Dallas Voice)

As many as 250 people attended a vigil for Chad Gibson Wednesday night at the Rainbow Lounge. (Chastity Kirven/Dallas Voice)

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has reassigned two agents involved with the raid on the Rainbow Lounge to desk duty pending an internal investigation. TABC also acknowledges that Chad Gibson’s head trauma occured while he was in their custody:

“I take seriously all allegations concerning inappropriate or illegal behavior by our employees. We have in the past, and we will in the future, take action against any employee found to have violated agency policy or the law,” TABC administrator Alan Steen said in a statement. “We are saddened that this incident occurred and extend our sincere hope that Mr. Gibson recovers quickly.”

Meanwhile, estimates range from 100 to 250 for the size of the crowd that gathered for a vigil for Chad Gibson outside the Rainbow Lounge in Fort Worth last night.

Texas Public Intoxication Law Is An Open Invitation For Abuse

Jim Burroway

July 2nd, 2009

Two Texas state legislators yesterday called for an independent investigation into the Rainbow Lounge raid by Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and Ft. Worth police on Sunday morning. That raid resulted in Chad Gibson, 26, suffering a severe head injury while in TABC custody and landed him in Intensive Care. State Rep. Lon Burnam (D-FW) and state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-FW) met with TABC officials to discuss what happened.

Under Texas law, being intoxicated in public is a misdemeanor. Unlike in most states, it is against the law to be drunk, regardless of where you are or what you’re doing. You don’t have to be driving, fighting, or causing any other problems in order to be cited for Public Intoxication. And unlike drunk driving laws, Texas’ PI law doesn’t define what constitutes being drunk. This comes as a surprise to people who have been drinking but have a designated driver to take them home. Texas authorities have been taking full advantage of this ambiguous law, which is an open invitation for police abuse:

The TABC has been cracking down on public intoxication in bars and clubs because the law is on their side. According to the Texas penal code, public intoxication is when a person appears in a public place while intoxicated to the degree that the person may endanger the person or another. The law also says that a place licensed or permitted under the alcoholic beverage code is a public place.

So, what does ‘endanger’ mean?

Dallas defense attorney Toby Shook said the term is vague, at best. “You can arrest people on probable cause, but it’s very hard to prove that they are a danger to themselves or others,” said Shook.

Shook also believes that ‘public intoxications’ are sometimes issued to liberally. “If officers want to quell a situation, or if they get angry with people, they can be very quick to arrest them on PI,” he said.

TABC has been in trouble before over the open-ended nature of its PI enforcement. Their PI inspections program has been suspended twice since 2005 over eggregious abuse.

In April 2006 TABC announced that it was suspending its Sales to Intoxicated Persons (or SIPs) enforcement program, which sent undercover agents into bars. Originally intended to catch bartenders and servers who sold one (or two or three) too many drinks to clearly intoxicated patrons, SIPs operations instead ended up busting mostly drinkers. Between late 2005 and the spring of 2006, TABC issued more than 2,000 citations for public intoxication.

SIPs, which targeted bars based on DWI suspects’ self-reported claims of where they’d had their last drink before heading down the highway, was unpopular with taverns for obvious reasons. But it wasn’t until an agent busted a woman drinking in an Irving hotel bar that the program blew up. Although TABC had touted SIPs as a public safety measure because it prevented DWIs, the woman had a room at the hotel that night — meaning she was headed nowhere.

The Irving sting made national news and TABC officials were hauled in front of legislators to explain the program. At the time Administrator Alan Steen emphasized his commitment to SIPs, however, today the program effectively has been shuttered permanently, said agency spokeswoman Carolyn Beck. While TABC occasionally conducts an isolated undercover investigation at a bar, she said, it is uncommon and targeted toward establishments with a clear record of proven infractions.

Clear record of proven infractions? Rainbow Lounge had only been open for less than a week. So far, neither Ft. Worth police nor TABC will answer questions about why the Rainbow Lounge was singled out for a raid on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion.

The whole process of conducting these so-called “inspections” is a complete mess. Earlier this month, a TABC agent was accused of sexual misconduct with a teenager who was assisting a sting operation by posing as an underage drinker. That supposedly resulted in a second suspension of the SIP program, despite the Rainbow Lounge’s raid just a few weeks later.

Not only is the law itself ill-defined, but the run rules for who has responsibility for what seems to be very unclear. For example, TABC has now acknowledged that Chad Gibson was injured while in their custody. Ft. Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead added to that, saying “They were not my employees.”

Cell phone image of police arresting Chad Gibson after throwing him on the floor. (Dallas Voice)

Cell phone image of police arresting Chad Gibson after throwing him on the floor. (Dallas Voice)

And yet a cell-phone photo appears to show a Ft. Worth police officer with at least two TABC agents while they had Gibson pinned to the ground outside the men’s room. Look closely. On the left/center of the photo, you can see two officers in tan uniforms. Those are TABC agents. Between those two is a third officer in a dark uniform, which appears to be a Ft. Worth police officer. The gloved hand of a fourth officer can be seen just to the right of the bar patron watching them, but it’s unclear whether that hand belongs to a TABC agent or a police officer.

Everything about this suggests a program out of control, with no accountability, no definitions of responsibilities, no criteria for choosing targets, and no clear determination of what constitutes a violation of the Public Intoxication law. The law itself leaves to much to the discretion of an officer’s mood, temperment and biases. This entire program is an open invitation to unchecked abuse by authorities for whatever reason and needs to be put to an immediate halt.

Zero Proof: Why Hasn’t FWPD Produced Evidence That Chad Gibson Was Drunk?

Jim Burroway

July 1st, 2009

Update: Since this post went live, we now have a statement from Kristy Morgan, Chad Gibson’s sister:

Gibson’s sisters say her brother’s alcohol level was .2. “.08 is the legal limit. He was at .2. You have to be at .4 to have true alcohol poisoning and he was not close to that,” Morgan said.

So now we know Gibson was drunk, at more than twice the legal limit for intoxication, but well under the level for alcohol poisoning. So the next question is this: If someone is drunk, why would it take several police officers to wrestle a 160 lb young man to the ground? And why would it be necessary to slam him against a wall?

Blogging occurs in real time. We see things and gather information and get it out there when we can. When new information arrives, we need to acknowledge it and put it out there, even if (and especially when) it contradicts what we first understood to be true. There are still more answers the FWPD and TABC need to face, but this is an important piece of the puzzle.

I concluded the piece below with “the only plausible answer” in the absence of a critical piece of information. Now that we have that critical piece, there are now obviously other answers. I retract the conclusions I draw below. It is plausible that the symptoms officers observed were due either to his injuries or his level of intoxication.

But for the sake of transparency I will leave this post in place. That’s another component of blogging that I think is important: leave your errors out there, but have them duly noted. And in this post, I also believe the chronology is accurate based on eyewitness accounts, and that chronology is important in establishing culpability for Gibson’s injuries.


The Texas Alcoholic Beverages Commission and the Ft. Worth Police Department have some serious explaining to do.

They have accused Chad Gibson of two offenses in the media without providing a shred of evidence to back up either accusation. The first alleged offense, that Chad either groped or made a “sexually explicit movement,” we’ve dealt with before. Dan Savage put it best when he paraphrased Ft. Worth Police Chief Jeffery Halstead as effectively saying “that faggot had it coming.”

But the second alleged offense, that Gibson was literally falling-down drunk and exhibiting signs of alcohol poisoning is being put forward by both organizations with no evidence to back up their claims.

Before we look at what flimsy evidence they do have, let’s go to the online Merck Manual and compare their descriptions of severe head injury with severe alcoholic intoxication. First the severe head injury:

Severe Head Injury: People may have some of the same symptoms as occur with minor head injury. Some, such as headache, may be more severe. Also, symptoms often start with a period of unconsciousness that begins at the time of impact. How long people remain unconscious varies. Some people awaken in seconds, while others do not awaken for hours or even days. On awakening, people often are drowsy, confused, restless, or agitated. They may also vomit, have seizures, or both. Balance and coordination may be impaired. Depending on which area of the brain is damaged, the ability to think, control emotions, move, feel, speak, see, hear, and remember may be impaired—sometimes permanently. [Boldface emphasis mine.]

Now here’s their symptoms of alcohol intoxication:

  • 20 to 50 mg/dL: Tranquility, mild sedation, some decrease in fine motor coordination, and some impairment of driving ability
  • 50 to 100 mg/dL: Impaired judgment and a further decrease in coordination
  • 100 to 150 mg/dL: Unsteady gait, slurred speech, loss of behavioral inhibitions, and memory impairment
  • 150 to 300 mg/dL: Delirium and lethargy (likely)
  • 300 to 400 mg/dL: Often unconsciousness
  • ≥ 400 mg/dL: Possibly fatal

Vomiting is common with moderate to severe intoxication. Because people may be very drowsy, vomited material may enter the lungs (be aspirated), sometimes leading to pneumonia and death. Drinking large amounts can also cause low blood pressure and low blood sugar levels. [Boldface emphasis mine.]

Cell phone image of police arresting Chad Gibson after throwing him on the floor. (Dallas Voice)

Cell phone image of police arresting Chad Gibson after throwing him on the floor. (Dallas Voice)

Notice the overlap between the two. So what evidence do police have that Chad was showing symptoms of alcohol poisoning rather than a severe head injury? Is it this?

He was released to paramedics because of his extreme intoxication as he was repeatedly vomiting, police reported. [Boldface emphasis mine.]

Or Ft. Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead’s statement on Monday Morning?

“In the police report, it was stated that he was handcuffed and he exhibited signs of over-intoxication, possible alcohol poisoning, and he fell face first,” Halstead said. “If there’s an eyewitness to the contrary, then that is exactly the person we want to come forward to the Police Department.” [Boldface emphasis mine.]

Or the TABC’s statement?

At the Rainbow Lounge, TABC agents placed one individual under arrest, Chad Gibson who was injured while in the agents’ custody. Mr. Gibson was released to paramedics for treatment of alcohol poisoning and a head injury and transported to a local hospital.

Is that all the evidence they have? All they saw was that he vomited and fell.

I’m calling bullshit on this. People aren’t charged with drunk driving because they were weaving. They may be pulled over for it, but they are arrested and charged when they fail a legitimate test indicating blood-alcohol levels are above the legal limit. And when we read a news report of a traffic accident involving drunk driving, there is always some mention of blood-alcohol levels to substantiate the charge.

So if they are so convinced that Chad Gibson was falling down drunk, where’s his blood-alcohol level? Did the police or TABC even run a test on Chad? If so, why haven’t either of them released the figure?

Let’s reconstruct what really happened. Here’s our first eyewitness:

Club Manager Randy Norman said Gibson didn’t seem drunk and was walking from the men’s room, holding a bottle of water, when an officer pushed him against a wall and then pushed him to the ground. Some patrons said they heard Gibson ask the officer a question, but that he didn’t fight back. At least three officers were involved in handcuffing him.

Kayla Lane, a visitor from California, has a slightly different memory of where he was handcuffed, but she also reports seeing someone pulled to the ground who wasn’t drunk:

After this, we saw the policemen go into the men’s restroom, pull out at least two guys from handcuffs from there, and pull one onto the ground before forcefully removing him. What were they doing in there? Raucously disposing of their waste?! There was no reason for ANY of those arrests, at all. These people were NOT drunk, or even overly happy or silly.

We do know however that he was forcefully slammed against a wall:

“The first question I heard was, ‘How much have you had to drink?’” said Shane Wells, a dancer at the club. Gibson “said, ‘I don’t have to answer that question’ and they grabbed him and ran him against that little wall.’”

And then, according to Chuck Potter, Chad was very brutally thrown to the ground:

Chuck reported that Chad Gibson (who ended up in the Intensive Care Unit at John Peter smith Hospital because of his treatment) was tapped on the shoulder and told he was under arrest. When he asked why he was slammed against the wall, his head was pulled back so far that Chuck was worried that his neck might break. When they released him for a second, Chad tried to catch his breath and staggered as he did so. The police then slammed him to the ground and 5 cops were on top of him. A friend who was at a higher vantage point in the bar saw one cop with his foot on Chad’s neck on the floor.

Justin McCarty was working security at the Rainbow Lounge that night and he also saw what happened:

McCarty said that he saw officers throw Chad Gibson to the floor, adding that, “There were people standing there watching it happen and crying. They were scared. It was just brutal.”

So did Alison Egert:

It was shortly after that conversation, Egert said, that she saw a patron in the bar “thrown against the wall” and then pushed to the floor. (That man was later identified as Chad Gibson.)

“Here you had this gay man who looked like he weighed about 100 pounds thrown to the floor with six cops on top of him,” she said. “That’s when I started noticing that they were only arresting men, and they seemed to be targeting the smaller men.”

Another witness, Chris Hightower, told WFAA-TV that he saw Chad hit his head against the concrete step into the men’s room:

They spun him around this way and laid him out on the ground, and that’s when he hit his head on this step and got the head injury.

Floor and step at the Rainbow Lounge where Chad Gibson was thrown. (WFAA-TV)

Floor and step at the Rainbow Lounge where Chad Gibson was thrown. (WFAA-TV)

That’s a very solid brick floor and sharp step for Chad to be thrown onto.

TABC now say that after they took him outside, he fell again and that’s when he received his head injury. They’re clinging to that story so they can claim he was showing signs of “alcohol poisoning”  before he fell outside. And maybe he really did fall again outside; we don’t have any witnesses who said he didn’t. But if he did, it could very easily be because of his loss of balance due to the injury he sustained when his head hit the wall, the brick floor and/or the step.

TABC and FWPD are sticking to the “alcohol poisoning” excuse even though others in the bar didn’t even think he was tipsy. That’s a huge discrepancy. Someone on the verge of alcohol poisoning would look quite a bit more than  “overly happy or silly,” don’t you think?

Nobody has come forward with any convincing evidence that he was actually drunk, but what we do have is convincing evidence that he sustained a severe head injury, because that’s what he’s been in intensive care for since Sunday.

The only way this all comes together is that Chad was injured when he was thrown to the ground outside the men’s room. Given the large number of witnesses who describe that scenario, that looks like the only plausible answer. Unless, of course, TABC or FWPD can produce results from a blood-alcohol test. And they better do that fast or retract their statements. Otherwise, nothing they say or do will have any credibility.

Chad Gibson’s Mother Speaks Out

Jim Burroway

July 1st, 2009
YouTube Preview Image

According to the Dallas Voice’s Tammye Nash, Chad Gibson’s brain has stopped bleading, but he’s suffering terrible headaches.  The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram reports that Chad’s condition has been upgraded from serious condition to fair. They also have this statement from the Texas Alcoholic Beverages Commission

We are saddened that this incident occurred and extend our sincere hope that Mr. Gibson recovers quickly,” said TABC Administrator Alan Steen. “I have initiated an internal affairs investigation to answer questions about how these locations were chosen, to review the agents’ actions, and specifically to establish the facts surrounding Mr. Gibson’s injury.”

Notes From the Last Night’s Talk On Rainbow Lounge Raid

Jim Burroway

July 1st, 2009

John R. Selig attended the talk at BuzzBrews in Dallas last night featuring Todd Camp and Chuck Potter, who were eyewitnesses to the Rainbow Lounge raid by Ft. Worth police and Texas Alcoholic Beverages Commission (TABC) agents early Sunday morning. The following are rough notes taken by John and passed on via Rex Wockner. John Selig apologizes for not having had the time to organize them into a more orderly post.

At approximately 1:05 AM 6 members of the Ft. Worth Police Department and 2 TABC (Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission) Officers (number of officers reported in the media) raided the Rainbow lounge in Ft. Worth and terrorized the bar for 40 minutes. Chuck mentioned that he saw more than 8 officers in the bar. Terrorize is a strong word but it was one that all of the speakers used repeatedly and from their accounts they were not overstating their case. The TABC officers were wearing shirts that had State Police on their backs but you couldn’t tell they were police officers from the front.

Rainbow Lounge was raided to intimidate the patrons to help close the bar which had been open for just over a week. The police had been by the bar every night since it had be open patrolling the parking lot. The night before the raid the police were peering through the fence into the patio. The bar was disliked because it was LGBT and it had strippers (who all obeyed the law). The night of the raid two other bars were raided earlier (one of the speakers mentioned that he believed that the other bars were hit first as a cover for the real target which was the Rainbow Lounge which was the third and last bar raided. One of the bars hit was a Latino bar and the other had a mixed crowd. All three bars were in less than desirable neighborhoods

The raid on the Rainbow lounge was different from the raids on the other two bars in three significant ways

1) The Rainbow Lounge was the only raid that had a Paddy Wagon sitting outside. The police intended to make arrests and haul people outside.

2) The raid at the Rainbow Lounge was the only raid that resulted in bodily injury to one of the people arrested.

3) This was the only raid where the police brutally took down patrons and terrorized the people in the bar. “They came into the Rainbow Lounge full of adrenalin, pumped and ready for a fight.”

The speakers mentioned that this wasn’t a typical TABC raid. They had seen them before. When the TABC comes in usually the music is turned off and the lights are turned on. They go behind the bar and check records and licenses and ask patrons for ID. What happened at the Rainbow Lounge was nothing like that.

The media notes that seven arrests were made. However, at least 20 people were dragged outside before it was determined which ones would be arrested.

The police walked up to patrons of the bar and tapped them on the shoulder from behind. They took one look at the patron and said you are under arrest. If the patron asked any question like is was going on or why am I under arrest, they were slammed to the floor, handcuffs were put on and they were dragged outside.

Chuck reported that Chad Gibson (who ended up in the Intensive Care Unit at John Peter smith Hospital because of his treatment) was tapped on the shoulder and told he was under arrest. When he asked why he was slammed against the wall, his head was pulled back so far that Chuck was worried that his neck might break. When they released him for a second, Chad tried to catch his breath and staggered as he did so. The police then slammed him to the ground and 5 cops were on top of him. A friend who was at a higher vantage point in the bar saw one cop with his foot on Chad’s nexk on the floor. When a patron asked what was going on the police told him to move along or we will arrest you. When he saw the cop outside later the policeman told him that when I tell you to move along you move along and then grabbed him by the scruff of the neck. Chad was dragged outside and one cop watched him. Chad Gibson’s injuries were caused while he was in TABC custody (which the TABC is now admitting). The cops say that Chad’s injury was caused by Chad passing out when he was outside the bar because he was drunk. Eye-witnesses and doctors disagree with the police account. The police are also using the “Gay Panic” defense that they were groped by one of the people they arrested (I believe it was Chad Gibson. Chad was brutalized by the police and was dragged outside at 1:45 AM. The police wrote his ticket at 2:17 AM and the ambulance didn’t arrive until 2:25 AM.

Chuck had seen Chad in the bar before and described him as shy and timid. He visited Chad in the hospital today and again described him as being fairly quiet, humble, shy and timid. Because of Chad’s brain injury he doesn’t remember many details from the night but doesn’t believe he was drunk and there was no way that he would have assaulted a police officer. He wanted to thank everybody for their support and wishes.

Chuck mentioned that there were a number of heterosexual people in the bar that were shocked and outraged and three straight men were so shocked that they hugged Todd.

Patrons were traumatized by the brutality of the force used. One patron was approached (they all seemed to have been approached from behind). The cop told him that he thought the patron was drunk. The patron told the cop that he was drinking water and showed him the bottle. He was thrown against the pool table as the bottle fell to the floor and smashed. The patron’s arms were twisted behind his back and the cop told the patron that he, the patron, had just assaulted the cop. He was cuffed and taken outside. If anybody asked any question of the a cop they were taken outside.

Todd believes that the raid had nothing to do with the Stonewall anniversary. Chuck disagreed and said he definitely believed that there was a connection that they picked that night. They wanted to intimidate the patrons so that they would leave the bar and never come back. They want the bar to close.

Most of the police were large men and many of the guys arrested were 120-150 lbs (no match for the cops) and the brutality of the force used was definitely not needed and used to intimidate and terrorize.

The bar closed at 2 AM. People were scared to get into their cars for fear of the police pulling them over and charging them with DWI. Chuck made it home at 2:45 and immediately started texting everybody that he knew. Todd who had been at the Rainbow Lounge with several friends to celebrate his birthday contacted newspapers and broadcast media as quickly as possible.

FWPD Chief Addresses Concerns At Community Forum

Jim Burroway

July 1st, 2009

The Dallas Voice’s Tammye Nash attended Tuesday night’s community forum in Ft. Worth, Texas hosted by Ft. Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead. Chief Halstead answered a number of questions from the audience about the Sunday morning’s raid on the Rainbow Lounge:

First: after the meeting had started, Chief Halstead announced that the director of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission had just issued a statement acknowledging that Chad Gibson, who has been hospitalized with a head injury since the incident, was injured while in the custody of TABC agents.

Halstead, who only recently became police chief after moving to Ft. Worth from Phoenix, also announced that he wants to meet with LGBT leaders and will appoint an LGBT liaison. That leads me to believe that up until now, Ft. Worth hasn’t had one. If true, that would be a very disturbing condition for the nation’s seventeenth-ranked city, and one that I’m glad the Chief will correct. Halstead also announced that he intends to institute sensitivity training for the force’s officers, which would be another long-overdue reform for such a large police department.

Ft. Worth Police Used “Restraint”

Timothy Kincaid

June 30th, 2009

WFAA.com reports:

Monday, police chief Jeff Halstead said the officers’ actions are being investigated. However, he also said that officers that entered the bar during the scheduled inspection were touched inappropriately.

“You’re touched and advanced in certain ways by people inside the bar, that’s offensive,” he said. “I’m happy with the restraint used when they were contacted like that.”

Uh-huh. Because bleeding on the brain is the right, just, and appropriate consequence to being “advanced in certain ways.” We should just be thankful that his goons showed restraint and didn’t beat anyone to death for their “advances”.

The more I hear from Mr. Halstead, the more he demonstrates his discomfort with and utter contempt for those members of his community that are gay. In a city that valued its residents this man would be disciplined for “advancing” the gay panic defense, the officers would be pulled off duty until the investigation was complete, and a liason would be assigned to determine the extent of police brutality experienced by gay residents. And that would be showing restaint.

Update on Chad Gibson’s Condition

Jim Burroway

June 30th, 2009
Chad Gibson

Chad Gibson (WFAA-TV)

Dallas Voice editor Tammye Nash spoke with Kristy Morgan, Chad Gibson’s sister:

Kristy said the most recent CAT scans have shown that the blood clot on Chad’s brain has stopped growing, which is good news, but he is not out of the woods yet. She said doctors told the family that as long as the clot remains — whether it is growing or not — there is the chance that all or some of it could break loose and cause severe damage or death, or that the bleeding could start up again.

Right now, doctors do not want to remove the clot surgically. Instead, they hope to be able to allow the clot to be reabsorbed back into the body, a pricess that could take six months to two years. Plans are underway to set up a fund to help defray medical costs.

Gibson was thrown against a wall and to the ground during a raid by Ft. Worth police and Texas Alcoholic Beverages Commission agents on the Rainbow Lounge. Gibson suffered severe head trauma as a result of that assault by police. They then accused him of being “over-intoxicated” to the point of “alcohol poisoning” based on his confusion, unsteadiness and vomiting — all of which, according to the Merck Manual, are signs of severe head trauma.

Fort Worth Police Department Community Forum is Tonight

Jim Burroway

June 30th, 2009

For those of you in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex, you might want to check out the Ft. Worth Police Department’s monthly Community Forums held on the last Tuesday of each month. That means there will be one tonight at:

New Beginnings International Church,
2000 East Loop 820.
Tuesday, June 30, 7:00 pm-8:00 pm.
Contact info is Officer Sharron Neal at (817) 392-4215.

If you go, you might want to challenge the police chief’s “diagnosis” that Chad Gibson was falling-down drunk with “alcohol poisoning”, when his symptoms were actually consistent with a severe head injury.

FWPD: Gibson Had “Alcohol Poisoning,” Not A Severe Head Injury

Jim Burroway

June 29th, 2009
Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead. (Richard W. Rodriguez/Ft. Worth Star-Telegram)

Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead. (Richard W. Rodriguez/Ft. Worth Star-Telegram)

Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead spoke to reporters about Sunday morning’s raid on the Rainbow Lounge. Halstead denied that the raid was timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, and condescendingly advised everyone to “take a deep breath.”

He also claimed that Chad Gibson was so drunk he was vomiting, exhibiting signs of “over-intoxication, possible alcohol poisoning.” Others officers pointed to the fact that after Gibson was slammed against the wall and thrown to the ground, he was unsteady and vomiting. This is very telling. According to the Merck Manual’s online entry regarding severe head injuries:

People may have some of the same symptoms as occur with minor head injury. Some, such as headache, may be more severe. Also, symptoms often start with a period of unconsciousness that begins at the time of impact. How long people remain unconscious varies. Some people awaken in seconds, while others do not awaken for hours or even days. On awakening, people often are drowsy, confused, restless, or agitated. They may also vomit, have seizures, or both. Balance and coordination may be impaired.

Doesn’t that sound like severe drunkenness if one were predisposed to assume it? Here’s how Chief Halstead described the situation:

The police statement said one patron was so drunk he was vomiting. Morgan said her brother threw up because of his head injury.

She also questioned police efforts to summon medical help. The time on Gibson’s ticket for public intoxication is 2:10 a.m. An ambulance wasn’t called until 2:25 a.m.

Club Manager Randy Norman said Gibson didn’t seem drunk and was walking from the men’s room, holding a bottle of water, when an officer pushed him against a wall and then pushed him to the ground. Some patrons said they heard Gibson ask the officer a question, but that he didn’t fight back. At least three officers were involved in handcuffing him.

“The first question I heard was, ‘How much have you had to drink?’” said Shane Wells, a dancer at the club. Gibson “said, ‘I don’t have to answer that question’ and they grabbed him and ran him against that little wall.’”

Asked about Gibson’s injury, Halstead said he could speak only about what is documented in the police report.

“In the police report, it was stated that he was handcuffed and he exhibited signs of over-intoxication, possible alcohol poisoning, and he fell face first,” Halstead said.

“If there’s an eyewitness to the contrary, then that is exactly the person we want to come forward to the Police Department.”

Witnesses should contact the internal affairs division at 817-392-4270, he said.

As we’ve already documented, multiple witnesses have corroborated Shane Wells’ and Randy Norman’s descriptions of the officers’ assault on Gibson. Gibson remains hospitalized in Intensive Care with internal bleeding in the brain, which the Merck Manual would describe as a severe head injury, right down to its symptoms.

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