Now, a slight young man is in the hospital with severe head trauma, several other people were seriously injured and witnesses are decrying police brutality. Hard to believe that this is 2009. As reported in the NY Times last week,
Fort Worth’s police chief, Jeffrey W. Halstead, initially stood behind his officers, saying Monday that patrons had provoked the scuffle by making sexual gestures toward officers.
Ah, yes. The old "gay panic" defense. Because of course a bunch of gay guys in a bar are stupid enough to assault a policeman. Or somehow going to make a big strong policeman feel sexually threatened.
But as the week went on, Chief Halstead backed away from that stance. By Thursday, he had ordered an inquiry, suspended operations with the state beverage commission and promised to give police officers “multicultural training.” He declined a request for an interview.
Witnesses claim that no one was drunk, the kid with the head injury had a bottle of water, and despite requests for breathalyzer tests, the cops refused.
A columnist at The Dallas Morning News:
First, witnesses say the officers showed up ready to make arrests, their fists full of plastic zip-cuffs.
"They were hyped up. They were loaded for bear," said Todd Camp, a veteran journalist who was there celebrating his birthday with friends. "They were just randomly grabbing people, telling them they were drunk."
Camp told me he has been in bars during TABC/police "checks" before, "and it was never anything like this." Usually, he said, officers discreetly walk through, looking for anybody who has had too much. This was different.
"They were shoving patrons," Camp said, "asking, 'How much have you had to drink?' "
Maybe you can call that a difference in perception, a disagreement over the degree of aggressiveness on both sides.
But there are flat contradictions about how Chad Gibson was injured. The Dallas Voice reported Monday that Gibson is hospitalized with bleeding around his brain.
"He was taken down hard," said Camp, with "four or five" officers wrestling him to the floor inside the club.
Cellphone photos shot by patrons and posted to blogs show a person being held facedown by officers in a short hallway inside the club, then show a dent in the wall where his head was apparently banged.
But a Fort Worth police spokesman told me Gibson was injured outside , when he fell and struck his head because he was so drunk.
"He was the one that groped the TABC agent," said Sgt. Pedro Criado. "He was injured by falling and hitting his head.".....
What Camp says, and what other people who claim to have been there say in comments posted to news stories, is that they were scared.
"I hate to say I was afraid of my own police department, but I was," Camp said.
His description of frightened, distraught patrons just does not seem to square with police accounts of being subjected to a drunken, groin-grabbing gantlet during a routine "bar inspection."