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.

Leonard Drake

July 1st, 2009

Furthermore, who were people wearing the “State Police” uniforms? This was mentioned in a Box Turtle post earlier in the week, but I have yet to hear any comment from the Ft. Worth police about this. Were these shirts worn by TABC officers? FWPD and TABC have a hell of a lot of explaining to do. NOW!


July 1st, 2009

Wouldn’t it be standard ER proceedure to run a full tox-screen on someone comming into the ER with a head injury from raid on a bar, especially if it is suspected they have alcohol poisoning? My guess is his BAC at the time of admission is in his medical records.

Richard W. Fitch

July 1st, 2009

According to other reports, the TABC wears shirts marked “State Police” because most citizens don’t know what the agency is. The difficult part is that the marking is only on the back of the shirt, not the front, so people being approached only see an angry dude in a tan shirt. Also it appears that TABC has the discretion of arresting anyone for suspicion of PI without any kind of breathalyser or sobriety check. Again, it’s shoot first and ask questions later. With regard to the ER tox report, that falls under patient confidentiality and will require release by Chad Gibson when he recovers to the point of being capable. A lot of valuable info is being posted on Facebook “Rainbow Lounge Raid”.
The page was started by Todd Camp, artistic director of Q Cinema, who is also facilitating the fund for Chad’s medical expenses. I tried to get info for online donations thru Frost Bank, but the CSR was in Corpus Christi and didn’t have the necessary details. The acct nbr at Frost is 608439230 which belongs to Q Cinema, for tx-exmpt purposes. I’m just about cross-eyed trying to keep up with all the info. People from across the US, Canada, UK, Germany, et al, have reacted to this event. Let’s all keep Chad in our prayers.

David C.

July 1st, 2009

My guess is his BAC at the time of admission is in his medical records.—John

And there a laws against disclosing that to just anybody.

When this comes under investigation, as it surely will, that information will become material testimony in the investigation. If it turns out that Chad’s BAC was nothing approaching that of intoxication, there will indeed be a lot of explaining to do.

There is a lot of explaining to do no matter what.

Richard W. Fitch

July 1st, 2009

Fort Worth – TV CH-11 interview including Chad’s father and sister. They have disclosed that Chad was well under the legal/medical definition of alcohol poisoning:


July 2nd, 2009

While .2 is over twice the legal limit for driving, this man was not driving anywhere. I’m in law enforcement and I have always thought it was wrong to give someone a Public Drunk charge if they are inside a bar. I feel like that charge is meant more for intoxicated people wandering down a street or something. If he was in a bar, he wasn’t causing a nuisance by the simple act of being intoxicated.

Christopher Waldrop

July 2nd, 2009

There’s a lot of explaining the police need to do but they seem to be very little of that. That’s what’s frustrating about this whole situation. The police are refusing to acknowledge that there was anything wrong about their actions and they’re instead trying to put the blame on the victims.


July 2nd, 2009

I think it necessary to make this VERY public. Everyone should contact departments of Texas Tourism, your Better Business Bureaus, your county and state representatives and tell them you won’t put up with this type of police brutality.


July 3rd, 2009

I have to wonder if Gibson’s BAC was correctly reported. For a 160-pound male to achieve a BAC of .215 (Gibson didn’t arrive at the hospital until at least an hour after he was arrested, and metabolism reduces BAC by about .015 per hour), he’d have to drink roughly 8 drinks over the period of an hour, 9 over 2 hours, or basically 7 plus one per hour. That’s a whole lot of drinking, and not consistent with reports of people who observed him. No bartender who wanted to keep his job would serve a patron that many drinks in that short a time (it’s of course possible that he had been drinking before he arrived at Rainbow). And someone with that level, which roughly corresponds to “totally smashed” for most people, would have been quite visibily intoxicated for quite some time.

This makes me wonder if the real value wasn’t .02, which would be consistent with around two drinks (which would in turn be consistent with the reports).

Also note that .4 isn’t the threshold for alcohol poisoning; it’s the level that would be fatal to half the population. Levels in the .3+ range could lead to coma. Still, even .20 is nowhere close to the threshold.

Jim Burroway

July 3rd, 2009


Those were my thoughts at first. But since Chad’s sister is quoted as repeating the .08 legal limit while giving Chad’s level at .2 and comparing it to a level of .4 for alcohol poisoning. Since she recited all three numbers, I suspect that she didn’t misspeak by saying .2 when she meant to say .02.

Her report is second hand. Because medical records are private due to patient confidentiality, we can’t rule out that Kristy might have gotten the figure wrong. But without any other countering evidence, this is the best we have. I, for one, would like a lot more clarification on this.

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