Texas officials investigate police raid at gay bar
By Angela K. Brown
FORT WORTH, Texas — Two city officials are seeking an investigation into a police raid at a gay nightclub that ended with the arrests of several patrons and the hospitalization of a man with a head injury.
"I've asked for as thorough a report as possible ... to reassure folks that the police are not singling out any group," Councilman Joel Burns said Monday.
He said he was particularly disappointed that the raid occurred on the 40th anniversary of New York City police raid on the Stonewall Inn. That 1969 raid touched off a riot and subsequent demonstrations that fueled the gay rights movement in the U.S.
Burns said Fort Worth police were unaware of the anniversary.
Mayor Pro Tem Kathleen Hicks, also calling for an investigation, said she was "very concerned" after hearing from patrons and others in the community about the early Sunday morning raid at the Rainbow Lounge.
More than 100 people gathered outside the Tarrant County Courthouse on Sunday evening to protest what they said was police harassment and abuse.
One of those arrested during the raid, Chad Gibson, 26, remains hospitalized with bleeding on the brain, his sister Kristy Morgan said.
Gibson is not violent, and "for anyone to come back and say he did something to provoke this is ludicrous," she told Dallas-Fort Worth television station KDFW.
Fort Worth police went to the Rainbow Lounge with Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission agents early Sunday as part of routine alcoholic beverage code inspections, said police Sgt. Chad Mahaffey. They first went to two other bars, where 10 people were arrested, he said.
Officers then went to the Rainbow Lounge, which had opened about a week ago. They encountered two drunk people who made "sexually explicit movements" toward officers and another who grabbed a TABC agent's groin, according to the police report.
No one was arrested for assault but about half a dozen people were arrested on charges of public intoxication, according to police records.
Police Chief Jeff Halstead said Gibson was the patron who grabbed at the agent's groin. Gibson was so drunk he was vomiting and struck his head when he fell, the chief said. Gibson was arrested, but was taken to the hospital instead of jail.
Halstead said he did not have additional details about how Gibson was injured.
The department has started an internal investigation into the raid, he said.
The TABC is waiting on a report from the Fort Worth office, but "given the concerns that have been raised, it would not be unusual" for an internal investigation to be done, said agency spokeswoman Carolyn Beck.
George Armstrong, 41, said he had been at the Rainbow Lounge about 30 minutes when officers stormed inside. He smiled and flashed a peace sign at one officer, but was then grabbed and tackled to the floor with his arm twisted behind his back, he said.
"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 said Monday. "I've never been so embarrassed and humiliated. I didn't do anything to him."
Armstrong, who was arrested, said he noticed that other people who were arrested were injured or said they had been tackled by police.
Armstrong said he was released from jail the next day and went to a hospital, where his arm was put in a sling after X-rays determined his shoulder and back were severely bruised and strained.
Armstrong said he didn't see anyone inside the Rainbow Lounge make lewd gestures or grab the officers.
"To me, it seemed like they were trying to make a point," he said of the police.