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Fort Worth fallout as community rallies
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Fort Worth fallout as community rallies

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

As the Fort Worth LGBT community prepares to rally on Sunday in protest of the June 28 police raid on the Rainbow Lounge Gay bar, Fort Worth city and Texas state officials were busy blaming one another for the incident.

Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead announced last week that his department was suspending all operations with the Texas Alcoholic Beverages Commission (TABC) until he gains a "better understanding" of the events that occurred during a joint raid on the Rainbow Lounge.

Halstead's action came immediately after TABC admitted that Chad Gibson had sustained serious brain injuries while in its custody.

Gibson, 26, remains hospitalized with a blood clot behind his right eye, but is recovering and has spoken with reporters. While admitting he could not recall many details of the June 28 raid, he bluntly dismissed police reports that he accidentally injured himself while drunk.

"They have blamed it on me, that I was drunk [and] that I hit my head," he told WFAA-TV reporters. "I groped the officer. I did this. I did that. You know what, no. ... Accept responsibility."

"You used excessive force and that's why I got hurt," he said.

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."

A second man, George Armstrong, has also come forward saying he suffered bruises and a back sprain during the raid. Armstrong says he was arrested by Fort Worth city police, and was in their custody for about 12 hours. Seven people were reported arrested during the raid, but only five - including Gibson and Armstrong - have been charged.

In his statement admitting that his agents were involved in Gibson's injuries, TABC Administrator Alan Steen promised an investigation into the incident. "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," he said.

FWPD Chief Halstead has also promised an internal affairs investigation of his officers' conduct, and has backed away from his previous statements that they acted with restraint. On Tuesday, the FWPD announced that "an officer has stepped forward" to act as the department's LGBT liaison, and that Chief Halstead is working through the process of getting final approval for the position.

Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief has asked for a US Justice Department review of the police investigations.

"I have asked the acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, James T. Jacks, to independently review the findings of the Fort Worth Police Department's investigation to ensure the department has thoroughly and impartially carried out its obligation to all the citizens of Fort Worth. I encourage the TABC to follow the same course," Moncrief said in a letter released on July 4.

The U.S. Attorney's office told reporters for the local CBS affiliate that it will oversee both the Fort Worth and TABC investigations, and if necessary send the cases on to the US Department of Justice as a civil rights case.

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