TABC clears agents of excessive force, says they didn't target Rainbow Lounge

Agents from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission didn’t target the Rainbow Lounge because it was a gay bar and didn’t use excessive force against three patrons who were arrested during the raid, including one who was seriously injured, according to a report that will be released by the state agency later today.

The agents, Christopher Aller and Jason Chapman, were fired along with their supervisor in August based on the findings of TABC’s first investigation into the June 28 raid, which dealt with policy violations. However, TABC’s second and final investigation clears Aller and Chapman of allegations that they targeted the bar and used excessive force against patrons Chad Gibson, Jose Macias and George Armstrong. Gibson was hospitalized for a week following the raid with a head injury.

“Although the evidence did not show that our agents targeted the bar or used excessive force, it does not take away from the fact that the agents violated several policies that night,” TABC Administrator Alan Steen said. “I want to take another opportunity to say that this is not how we treat people, and we have been looking at this from every angle to find ways to make sure it does not happen again.”

I’m told that TABC’s full 74-page use of force report, which I haven’t seen, will be available later today online, and we’ll post the link as soon as it’s available. You can read the full press release about the report, which was sent out first thing this morning, after the jump. For more coverage, see Friday’s Dallas Voice.

—  John Wright

TABC to release use-of-force report Thursday, the same day FWPD unveils its findings

Carolyn Beck from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission sends along official word this evening that the agency will release the findings of its second and final investigation into the Rainbow Lounge raid on Thursday, Nov. 5.  TABC most recently had said its second investigation, which deals with agents’ use of force against patrons injured in the raid, wouldn’t be released until mid-November. Tonight’s announcement means TABC will release the use-of-force report on the same day that the Fort Worth Police Department unveils findings from its investigations into the Rainbow Lounge raid. TABC released its first investigation, which dealt with policy violations by employees, in August. All in all, this should make for a long, interesting day on Thursday, but we plan to have full coverage in Friday’s Voice if it kills us.

—  John Wright

TABC pushes back release of report on agents' use of force at Rainbow Lounge

Last week, the Fort Worth Police Department announced that the release of its Rainbow Lounge investigation report has been pushed back until next month, prompting criticism from some in the LGBT community. Today, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission announced that the release of the agency’s second investigation into the June raid has also been delayed. The second TABC report, which previously was scheduled to be released by late October, is now scheduled to be released in mid-November. TABC released its first report, which dealt with policy violations, in August. TABC’s second investigation deals with agents’ use of force against Rainbow Lounge patron Chad Gibson, who was injured in the raid. Here’s the full statement we received today from agency spokeswoman Carolyn Beck:

TABC recently communicated that the Use of Force investigation related
to the Rainbow Lounge would be complete by October 15, 2009.

Today, the investigator requested, and was granted, an extension on the
report. The additional time is needed to review recently received
documents and to consult with the agency’s force instructor.

The investigator expects to be finished with the report by October 30th.
At that time, it will be forwarded to the General Counsel who has ten
days to review and approve the report.

At this time, we expect the investigation to be complete and the
findings released by mid-November.

—  John Wright

Bennett Cunningham on TABC — tonight at 10

Michael Spann and Bennett Cunningham
Michael Spann and Bennett Cunningham

Michael Spann, the partner of CBS 11 investigative reporter Bennett Cunningham, sent along word today that Cunningham’s latest piece — about the Texas Alcholic Beverage Commission, of all things — is scheduled to air at 10 tonight. I’ve been hearing rumblings about this piece for weeks, so it’ll probably be worth a look. To read about Spann, Cunningham and their two new babies, go here.

Speaking of the TABC, the Rainbow Lounge is on the commission’s agenda for its monthly meeting on Tuesday in Austin, although agency spokeswoman Carolyn Beck told me today she’s not sure what aspect of the raid or investigation commissioners plan to discuss. The agenda item says “Rainbow Lounge Completed Investigation,” which indicates that they may talk about TABC’s recent report on policy violations related to the raid. Beck said today that disciplinary action against the employees involved in the raid is still pending, and that the agency’s investigation into its agents’ use of force during the raid is still ongoing, which would seem to rule out those two subjects. As always, stay tuned.

—  John Wright

It's safe to say TABC will be avoiding gay bars at all costs on June 28 from now on

After the Rainbow Lounge raid, the reminder may not be needed for years to come — perhaps not until the 50th anniversary in 2019. But the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is now distributing a daily e-mail to supervisors that lists important dates in history, including the June 28 anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion. TABC Administrator Alan Steen told Dallas Voice last week that he’s convinced neither his agents nor Fort Worth police officers knew it was the 40th anniversary of Stonewall when they went into the Rainbow Lounge on June 28.

“It’s embarrassing to say, but we had no clue, and I truly believe Fort Worth had no clue,” Steen said. “We do have a mechanism in place now to have a clue.”

TABC spokeswoman Carolyn Beck said this week the mechanism Steen was referring to is a Texas Homeland Security Briefing sent out by the Department of Public Safety’s Bureau of Information Analysis. It’s unclear whether DPS’s e-mail briefing already included the Stonewall anniversary or whether it was added following the Rainbow Lounge raid, but in any case the briefing wasn’t being used by TABC until now, Beck said.

There’s no word on whether the Fort Worth Police Department plans to implement a similar reminder.

—  John Wright