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Posts for August, 2009

Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission Fires Three Over Rainbow Lounge Raid

Jim Burroway

August 28th, 2009
Police making an arrest from inside the Rainbow Lounge (Dallas Observer)

Officers and agents arresting Chad Gibson during the Rainbow Lounge raid in Ft. Worth, Texas (Dallas Voice)

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission fired three agents who were involved in the June 28 raid on the Rainbow Lounge in Ft. Worth, Texas. That raid left bar patron Chad Gibson seriously injured with bleeding on the brain, following rough treatment by TABC and Ft. Worth police officers who slammed Gibson against the wall and onto a brick floor.

TABC announced that they fired Agent Christopher Aller, Agent Trainee Jason Chapman and Sgt. Terry Parsons this morning. Alan and Chapman accompanied Ft. Worth police officers on the night of the raid. Two others were disciplined. They were Capt. Robert “Charlie” Cloud, who oversaw the Dallas and Ft. Worth TABC offices, and Lt. Gene Anderson, who was Sgt. Parsons’ direct supervisor. Cloud received a written reprimand and Anderson was suspended without pay for three days and placed on six month’s probation.

TABC also made some administrative changes and instituted new training requirements beginning January 2010. A separate TABC investigation into the issue of the agents’ excessive use of force is still ongoing.

Last month, TABC administrator Alan Steen apologized for the agency’s role in the raid and blasted his agents for falling to “follow the damn policy.”  Ft. Worth police have suspended joint operations with TABC and have announced policy changesto deal with bar checks in the future. FWPD’s internal investigation is continuing.

Rainbow Lounge Investigation Reveals 19 State Policy Violations

Jim Burroway

August 6th, 2009

The Texas Alcoholic Beverages Commission has released the results of its internal affairs investigaton on the June 28 Rainbow Lounge raid in Ft. Worth, Texas. That report finds that two TABC agents and their supervisor committed a total of 19 policy violations during that raid. The Dallas Voice has the details:

Violations committed by the two agents include participating in a joint operation with Fort Worth police without approval from a supervisor; failing to submit a complaint card against the Rainbow Lounge; conducting bar inspections in unapproved attire; failing to follow bar inspection procedures; failing to report the use of force and injuries involving Chad Gibson, a Rainbow Lounge patron who sustained serious head injuries; and disrupting business during a bar inspection.

The violations committed by [Sgt. Terry] Parsons, who was not at the scene of the raid and has since reportedly retired form the agency, involve failing to take appropriate action against Aller and Chapman; failing to ensure Aller and Chapman filed the necessary reports; and failing to notify the sergeant’s supervisors of the raid.

The Dallas Voice has the full TABC press release.

TABC Chief Apologizes For Rainbow Lounge Raid, Says Agents Failed To “Follow The Damn Policy”

Jim Burroway

July 16th, 2009

Update: The Dallas Voice has posted audio of the interview. Please go and listen. It’s a very rare and wonderful example of a public official having the cojones to step up and take responsibility.

TABC Administrator Alan Steen

TABC Administrator Alan Steen

Some amazing new information on the ongoing investigations over the June 28 Rainbow Lounge raid in Ft. Worth are reaching the light of day. The Dallas Voice has an exclusive scoop:

In an exclusive phone interview with Dallas Voice on Wednesday, July 15, TABC Administrator Alan Steen also said the supervisor directly responsible for the two agents — a sergeant in TABC’s Fort Worth district office — announced his retirement last week in the wake of the raid and amid an ongoing internal investigation. Steen didn’t identify the sergeant or the agents by name.

“I don’t think you have to dig very deep to figure out that TABC has violated some of their policies,” Steen said. “We know that, and I apologize for that. …”

Steen told The Dallas Voice that he doesn’t believe there was sufficient cause for the “inspection”. He also said that the eight officers and a paddy wagon likely constituted an excessive show of force. With all that, he said that TABC had no business conducting an inspection at the Rainbow Lounge that night. Steen added in characteristically Texan fashion, “If our guys would have followed the damn policy, we wouldn’t even have been there.”

"State police" (Dallas Voice)

"State police" (Dallas Voice)

And those “State Police” uniforms that we asked about, knowing that there is no such thing as a “State Police” agency in Texas? It turns out that those are “special events uniforms” which TABC policy prohibits during bar inspections. Steen said that agents are typically in plain clothes during inspections.

Steen also suggested that the TABC was interested in appointing a liason to the LGBT community, similar to the position recently announced by the Ft. Worth Police Department.

You can read all the details of the interview with the TABC Administrator at The Dallas Voice.

Rainbow Lounge Raid Proves The Dangers Of A Kiss

Jim Burroway

July 16th, 2009

We’ve covered several examples before describing the provocative temerity of a kiss. It looks like that monstrously dangerous act also played a role in the June 28 raid on the Rainbow Lounge by Ft Worth Police and agents from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. Dallas’ WFAA-TV reports:

A police radio recording revealed that an officer called for help after they went inside the Rainbow Lounge.

“I need help in here,” he could be heard saying. “I’m by the restroom.”

That call came when officers said a customer blew a kiss at the officer, and then struggled with police as they tried to arrest him. The customer told News 8 his arm was injured.

The same report suggests that the Rainbow Lounge may have been singled out because of a public intoxication arrest two days before:

Ever since Chad Gibson was injured and others arrested in a raid at the gay bar, one of the biggest questions for many was why did officers target the Rainbow Lounge in the first place?

According to police records, a cruiser video showed a man arrested for public intoxication two days before the controversial raid. In a police report, officers said they saw the man leave the lounge very intoxicated earlier in the evening and told him to get a ride.

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.

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.

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.

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.

“He Fell and Hit His Head”

Timothy Kincaid

June 29th, 2009

CBS Channel 11 is reporting the most bizarre story yet about how Chad Gibson came to be in intensive care with bleeding on the brain:

Police Chief Jeff Halstead said Gibson had grabbed at the agent’s groin and was so drunk he was vomiting and fell and hit his head. Gibson was one of those arrested but was taken to the hospital instead of jail.

They also provide this first-hand account:

George Armstrong, 41, said he had been at the Rainbow Lounge about 30 minutes and had ordered one drink when officers stormed inside. He said as on officer passed him, he smiled and flashed the peace sign, but then he was suddenly grabbed and tackled to the floor with his arm twisted behind his back.

“He was yelling at me to stop resisting arrest, but I wasn’t doing anything. It was horrible. I really thought he had broken my shoulder,” Armstrong told The Associated Press on Monday. “I’ve never been so embarrassed and humiliated. I didn’t do anything to him.”

Armstrong was arrested, but he said no officers advised him of his Miranda rights or administered any tests to determine his blood-alcohol level.

He said he noticed that other people who were arrested were injured or said they had been tackled by police.

When Armstrong was released from jail the next day, he went to the hospital, where his arm was put in a sling after X-rays determined his shoulder and back were severely bruised and strained, he said.

Armstrong said he never saw anyone inside the Rainbow Lounge make lewd gestures at or grab the officers. He said the raid happened very quickly at the club that had just reopened.

“To me it seemed like they were trying to make a point,” Armstrong said.

Five Eyewitness Accounts Of The Rainbow Lounge Raid

Jim Burroway

June 29th, 2009

The Dallas Voice’s Tammye Nash has been doing a great job reporting on last weekend’s raid on the Rainbow Lounge by Ft. Worth police. Her latest report includes eyewitness reports from five different people who didn’t know each other. She found their descriptions remarkably similar. Todd Camp went to the Rainbow Lounge to celebrate his birthday with friends:

Camp said an officer “shoved me out of the way to grab the guy in front of me” in line at the bar. The officer “told the man, ‘You’re drunk,’” and took him out of the bar, Camp said. …Camp said straight friends who were there with him were frightened to the point of tears by what they saw.

Justin McCarty was working security at the Rainbow Lounge when an officer asked him how much he had to drink.

“I told him I was working and hadn’t had anything to drink, and that’s when he told me, ‘Then you need to make yourself scarce.’ So I did. I went to the back out of the way. I took that as a threat that if I didn’t, I would be arrested, too,” McCarty said.

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.”

At last report, Chad Gibson is in intensive care for treatment of a brain injury.

One thing that many longtime gay bar patrons have noticed is that gay bars are very popular with young straight couples that’s often where they’ll find the best DJ’s and dance floor in town. That’s what drew Brandon Addicks and his girlfriend and some of her friends to the Rainbow Lounge. But they saw more than just a fabulous dance floor:

“I saw a cop walk up behind a guy who was sitting at a table. The cop told him to stand up, and when the guy asked what for, the cop said, ‘You’re intoxicated,’ Addicks said. “Then there was that guy getting the crap beat out of him there in the back. I have been in bars before when police have come in, and I have never seen anything like this,”

Another patron, Alison Egert, told an officer that she had had several drinks, but she had a designated driver. The officer let her go despite her admission of “public intoxication.” When police threw Chad Gibson against a wall, that’s when she noticed that police were only arrested men and “they seemed to be targeting the smaller men.”

General manager Randy Norman had a strange conversation with one of the officers. The officer denied that the bar was singled out because it was a gay bar, but added, “I don’t partake in being gay, but I don’t care if you do.” That sounded like a very odd statement to Randy. Sounds strangely defensive to me.

If you’re in the Dallas area, Todd Camp and another eyewitness, Chuck Potter, will speak at BuzzBrews on Lemmon Avenue tomorrow at 8 p.m. But if you’re in Dallas, you should already know this because you’re keeping track on the Dallas Voice’s indispensable Instant Tea blog, right?

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