A botched inspection on a gay bar is
turning into a public relations nightmare for the Fort Worth Police
Department, even as the department opens an investigation into what
The department, along with Texas
Alcoholic Beverage Commission agents, raided the Rainbow Lounge,
located at 615 Jennings Street, at about 1AM Sunday. The police
rolled up to the newly reopened bar with paddy wagons in tow and
proceeded to handcuff and arrest people. Seven men were arrested.
One man, Chad Gibbons, remains hospitalized after suffering a
critical injury to the head.
Hours later, an estimated 150 to 200
people turned up at the police headquarters to demand answers from
the police; the protesters called the raid police harassment.
“This looked like random harassment,
plain and simple,” said Todd Camp, who was present during the raid
and called for the rally.
The department initially defended its
actions, called the inspection routine, and attempted to justify its
heavy-handedness with accusations of sexual impropriety, a claim
patrons have denied.
“While walking through the Rainbow
Lounge, an extremely intoxicated patron made sexually explicit
movements toward the police supervisor. This individual was arrested
for public intoxication. Another intoxicated individual also made
sexually explicit movements towards another officer and he was
arrested for public intoxication. A third individual inside the
lounge assaulted the TABC agent by grabbing the TABC agent's groin.
He was escorted outside and arrested for public intoxication.”
Statements made since Sunday continue
to undermine the police version of events.
On Wednesday, a second man came forward
to claim being injured during the incident. George Armstrong told
gay weekly the Dallas
Voice that he suffered a severe bruising and muscle strain in
his shoulder and back during the raid.
Armstrong, who was arrested and pleaded
not guilty to a charge of public intoxication, said he smiled and
flashed the peace sign at an officer, prompting the officer to
forcibly tackle him to the ground.
“When the guy tackled me in the bar,
I landed on my shoulder,” Armstrong said. “My shoulder and back
took all the force of the fall. … I was in a lot of pain.”
Armstrong, 41, also said arresting
officers appeared quite pleased with themselves and he was not given
a sobriety test.
“They never asked me to take a
breathalyzer, which I would have been happy to do, and they didn't
ask me to walk a straight line or stand on one leg or any of those
On Wednesday, the Texas Alcohol
Beverage Commission issued a statement admitting that 26-year-old
Gibson had been in their custody when he was injured. Earlier, a
police spokesman had identified Gibson as the man who grabbed an
agent's crotch. Gibson says he does not recall details of the
Gibson's sister, Kristy Morgan,
disagreed with the police. She told the Star-Telegram
that her brother is not a big drinker and, at 150 pounds, is unlikely
to grope a police officer. She also questioned the care he received
while in police custody, pointing to a 15 minute lag between being
processed for public intoxication and when the policed placed a call
for an ambulance. (Eye-witnesses say Gibson sustained his injury
inside the bar, while officers say he hit his head while throwing up
As more stories leaked out throughout
the week, lawmakers began calling for an outside agency to
investigate. The pressure mounted when about 100 people gathered
for a candlelight vigil outside the bar for Gibson Wednesday night.
And by Thursday, Police Chief Jeff
Halstead was reeling back comments he had made on the incident,
shifting from “take a deep breath” to announcing suspension of
all joint operations between the Fort Worth police and the Texas
Alcohol Beverage Commission, and calling for a review of
“multicultural training” for officers.
Police officers involved in the raid
have been reportedly desked. They include: Officer K. Gober, Officer
J. Ricks, Officer M. Marquez, Officer J. Jenson, Officer J. Back,
Officer J. Moss and Sergeant Morris.
The raid came on the day most people
recognize as the birth of the modern gay rights movement, June 28.
In 1969, the patrons of Greenwich Village's Stonewall Inn revolted
against an aggressive New York City police department. For five
days, thousands joined in protesting against police who often raided
gay bars. Stonewall has become synonymous with gay rights.