U.S. attorney asked to investigate Texas gay bar incident

Fort Worth Star-TelegramJuly 22, 2009 

FORT WORTH, Texas — City Council members repeated their call Tuesday for a federal investigation into the arrests at a gay nightclub last month.

A man was seriously injured after police and Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission agents conducted a "bar check" of the Rainbow Lounge on June 28. Five other people were arrested on suspicion of public intoxication.

The incident sparked protests from gay-rights groups, who question whether the newly opened bar was singled out because its patrons are mostly gay. The council passed a resolution Tuesday asking the U.S. attorney's office to conduct its own investigation "due to the conflicting reports" about the incident.

Police said in a report that the patrons made suggestive motions at officers and commission agents and that the injured man, Chad Gibson, touched a commission agent's groin before he was arrested. Witnesses at the club dispute those allegations and said they play to anti-gay stereotypes. They’ve also questioned why 15 other people were cuffed and questioned but not charged.

"Allowing these outlandish, unsubstantiated claims to continue circulating is not the Fort Worth way," said David Mack Henderson, a member of the group Fairness Fort Worth.

The group, along with the Tarrant County Bar Association, has sponsored meetings at a church where witnesses can talk to investigators from the Police Department and the TABC in a neutral environment. Still, some witnesses are afraid to come forward, Henderson said.

"Imagine if you were one of these four witnesses who saw 21 people carted out of the club," Henderson said.

Mayor Mike Moncrief and Councilman Joel Burns both said they have confidence in Police Chief Jeff Halstead but want the outside investigation as an extra level of comfort.

"What people have said over and over is they want a reassurance that this investigation is thorough," Burns said.

Read more at Star-Telegram.com

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