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Fort Worth police suspend 3 officers in gay bar raid

An inquiry finds policy violations, but the department clears them of allegations of using excessive force at the June 28 clash at the Rainbow Lounge.

November 06, 2009|P.J. Huffstutter

After a four-month internal investigation, the Fort Worth Police Department announced Thursday that it had suspended a sergeant and two officers in connection with a summer raid on a gay bar in which authorities clashed with hundreds of bar patrons.

Though the investigation found that the officers had violated department policies, the agency cleared them of allegations that they had used excessive force. The suspensions ranged from one to three days.

The Rainbow Lounge raid was conducted by Fort Worth police officers and agents of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission on June 28, on the 40th anniversary of the police raid on New York's Stonewall Inn, an event often regarded as the launch of the modern gay rights movement. Gay rights leaders said the Texas raid evoked memories of past conflicts with police.

Seven people at the bar were arrested, and witnesses said one man had his head slammed into a door by agents. Chad Gibson, 26, was hospitalized with a brain injury and released a week later.

The Police Department found that the officers had, among other things, used poor judgment in conducting the check on liquor licenses and other permits; failed to complete police reports by the end of the shift; and inappropriately arrested a patron for a "drunk look" and later released the person to a friend who worked for the department.

Police Chief Jeff Halstead told reporters Thursday that the department had instituted several policy changes -- including clarifying how officers conduct these "bar checks" -- to prevent future problems.

Also Thursday, the Texas liquor board released a 75-page report that cleared its agents of targeting the bar because of the sexual orientation of its clientele.

The report cleared agent trainee Jason Chapman and agent Christopher Aller of using excessive force. The agency fired Chapman and Aller in late August. Their supervisor, Sgt. Terry Parsons, who was not at the bar during the incident, was also fired.

The firings came three weeks after a commission report found that Aller and Chapman violated agency policies, including taking part in an operation without approval, failure to report that a patron was injured and disrupting business.

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p.j.hufstutter@latimes.com

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