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Texas liquor board fires agents over raid on Gay bar
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Texas liquor board fires agents over raid on Gay bar

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) fired two agents and their immediate supervisor, disciplined two other supervisors and revised its policies in the wake of a raid at a Fort Worth Gay bar that left one bar patron with a serious head injury, TABC officials announced August 28.

TABC agent Christopher Aller and agent trainee Jason Chapman, who participated in the June 28 raid at the Rainbow Lounge, were fired. Their supervisor, Sgt. Terry Parsons, was not at the bar that night, but was also fired. Parsons had previously offered to retire.

A TABC internal investigation released August 6 found that Aller and Chapman failed to report that they used force when arresting bar patron Chad Gibson or that he was seriously injured. The TABC report also accused them of participating in the raid without their supervisor's approval, disrupting the business during the raid, and wearing improper uniforms.

Sgt. Parsons' direct supervisor, Lt. Gene Anderson, was suspended without pay for three days and put on probation for six months for inadequate oversight of his employees and their activities, and failing to monitor Chapman's training.

Capt. Robert "Charlie" Cloud, who oversaw the Dallas and Fort Worth TABC offices, received a written reprimand for not following the incident notification policy, inadequately monitoring new agents' training, and inadequately supervising Fort Worth employees and their activities, TABC said.

The firings were to be effective September 2. The agents may appeal the disciplinary decisions by submitting a written grievance by September 10. TABC Administrator Alan Steen will make the final decision on any appeals.

The day before TABC announced its disciplinary actions, the Board voted to start an inquiry into remarks made by Steen during a July 16 interview with the Dallas Voice LGBT newspaper. The complaint was lodged by Christopher Aller, one of the fired agents, and alleges Steen's remarks prejudiced the TABC investigation.

"If our guys would have followed the damn policy, we wouldn't even have been there. & We have these conversations all the time and we don't participate in those kinds of inspections when there's not probable cause or reasonable suspicion or some public safety matter to be inspected," Steen told the Dallas Voice at the time.

Steen was also quoted as saying that Aller and agent trainee Chapman committed multiple "clear violations" of TABC policy, although he did not identify the agents by name at the time.

TABC also announced a revised "use of force" policy prepared by former Texas Ranger Chief Earl Pearson. According to TABC spokesperson Carolyn Beck, the new policy had been under discussion for some time and was not a response to the public outcry over the Rainbow Lounge raid.

The disciplinary decisions announced last week only involve violations of TABC policies. They do not address the question of whether the level of force used in the bar raid was justified. A separate "use of force" investigation is still pending, with a report expected later this month.

Fort Worth police, whose officers also participated in the raid, announced that a new policy on bar inspections would go into effect September 1. According to Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead, the new policy would ensure that "we never, ever have to come here again and explain how something like this happened."

In a report to the Fort Worth City Council on August 18, Halstead admitted that his department "led this effort [to inspect the Rainbow Lounge that night] and we asked for [TABC's] assistance." His previous remarks on the raid seemed to place the blame on TABC.

Halstead also admitted that in addition to the seven people arrested at the Rainbow Lounge that night, several other bar patrons were taken into custody, placed in restraints, and told they were under arrest for public intoxication, but then released. One eyewitness, Fort Worth CPA Tom Annable, told the Fort Worth City Council that he witnessed 21 patrons handcuffed and removed from the bar that night.

Two separate Fort Worth Police Department investigations are also under way. Halstead said that state law gives him 180 days, until December 28, to complete the investigations, but he hopes to have them finished by the end of September.

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