After Anable’s death, Fairness Fort Worth names Jon Nelson president

Jon Nelson

In Anna Waugh’s story in Friday’s Dallas Voice about the death of Thomas Anable, she mentioned that the board of Fairness Fort Worth planned to select a new president “in the near future.” Turns out that future was indeed very near, as the group announced in a press release Friday afternoon that Jon Nelson has been named Anable’s successor. Nelson was one of the founding members of Fairness Fort Worth and has served as the group’s spokesman since it formed in response to the Rainbow Lounge raid.

“Tom’s tireless efforts for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community created a firm foundation upon which we are eager to build,” Nelson said in the release. “The next chapter in obtaining full equality for all of our citizens begins today. We’re encouraged by the growing empowerment within our community and by the eagerness of allies in government, business and civic engagement who walk with us.”

A memorial service for Anable will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 25, at Celebration Community Church, at 908 Pennsylvania Ave. in Fort Worth.

Read Fairness Fort Worth’s full press release below.

—  John Wright

Photos and video from last night’s vigil for Tom Anable at the Rainbow Lounge

People who attended the vigil for Tom Anable Wednesday, Aug. 22, signed a photo of him afterward that was given to his family. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

As overhead lights shimmered across a mourning crowd Wednesday, candles were lit and tears were shed in sorrow and joy while celebrating the energetic and accomplished life of Thomas Anable.

The gay Fort Worth activist was respected in North Texas for his work throughout the Metroplex after the raid on of the Rainbow Lounge, but more than 100 friends who attended a vigil for him Wednesday remembered him as a friend who was funny, charming and, above all, a man who got what he wanted by finding a way to accomplish it.

“He was an anchor,” the Rev. Carol West said. “He was the voice of Fairness Fort Worth.”

West served on the board of FFW with Anable, who was president the past two years after quitting his job and dedicating himself full time to the organization.

Amid the underlying sadness that Anable left this earth too soon after taking his own life last weekend, West said it is time to “celebrate who he was and who he is and who he will always be in our hearts and in our minds.”

Jon Nelson with Fairness Fort Worth addressed the audience with a question of why Anable had devoted himself so fully after the raid, saying he finally found his voice when others couldn’t.

“He joined the fight and I can’t know for sure why he did that, but I think he did that for some of the reasons that you and I have,” Nelson said. “When he saw what he did, when he felt what he did that night, it may have brought back memories, memories that you have still today. The wrongs that were done to you, the wrongs that were done to him.”

Nelson said that Anable’s numerous accomplishments as president were attributed to FFW, but Anable was really the one who made them all happen.

“What he did, and make no mistake, what he did, he did. Not we did, he did,” Nelson said.

Friend Todd Camp said he couldn’t find words after learning of Anable’s death and he still feels lost without him.

“Tom lived his life his way,” Camp said before Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” was sung. “And he even left this world his way. Our way, unfortunately, is far more difficult. Our way comes with the challenge of fining meaning in the darkness, continuing a legacy that few could live up to and bringing hope and inspiration to a new generation of activist, allies and leaders.”

The audience then lit candles and listened to a rendition of the song, many holding hands and clinging to each other as they said goodbye to Anable.

A memorial service is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 25, at Celebration Community Church.

Video and more photos from Wednesday’s vigil below.

—  Dallasvoice

Tom Anable’s family, Fort Worth police chief release statements on his death

The family of Fairness Fort Worth President Thomas Anable reacted to his loss in a statement Monday through family spokesman Paul Valdez.

The statement mentions the shock of Anable’s sudden death after he took his own life this weekend, but focuses on the advocacy work that he’d held so dear since becoming an “accidental activist” after the Rainbow Lounge led him to pursue LGBT equality in Tarrant County and beyond.

“As we mourn his tragic death, we must always remember and celebrate what he accomplished, not only for Fort Worth and Dallas, but on a national stage for both advocacy and empowerment. He taught us about moving forward and making a difference,” the statement reads.

“Tom was a beautiful soul, with a heart of gold, and we are devastated by his loss. Though we may never fully understand his death, our family has chosen to celebrate his life and the amazing legacy he leaves to us all.”

Anable’s death has been ruled suicide by the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office. He died from a gunshot wound to the head. He was 58.

Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead also released a statement Monday, saying he was “very saddened to hear the news about Tom.”

“Tom was a personal friend, a trusted colleague, and an inspiration. His advocacy for the LGBTQ community opened many eyes, including my own,” Halstead said. “Tom worked passionately to improve police department’s ‘hate crime’ policies and investigative protocols.”

Fairness Fort Worth, which Anable helped launch and has led since June 2010, played an integral role in mending the relationship between the police department and the LGBT community after the Rainbow Lounge raid.

“The Fort Worth Police Department is forever indebted to Tom for bridging the gap and strengthening our enduring commitment to work together for fairness and equality,” Halstead said in the statement.

A candlelight vigil honoring Anable will be held at the Rainbow Lounge at 7 p.m. Wednesday. A memorial service will then follow at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Celebration Community Church in Fort Worth.

Read the full statements below.

—  Dallasvoice

Memorial services, candlelight vigil set for Fairness Fort Worth’s Tom Anable

Memorial services for Fairness Fort Worth President Thomas Anable, who was found dead Saturday morning in Benbrook, are set for 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 25, at Celebration Community Church, according to Anable’s longtime friend Paul Valdez.

The Rainbow Lounge, the bar where Anable’s activism began when it was raided by police in June 2009, will host a candlelight vigil in his honor at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 22.

Valdez said he planned to release a statement from Anable’s family on his death sometime Monday. Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead, who’s worked closely with Anable over the last three years, also reportedly planned to release a statement today.

Anable, president of Fort Worth’s LGBT advocacy group since June 2010, is believed to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 58.

Read our previous story here.

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Fairness Fort Worth President Thomas Anable has died

Anable.Tom

Thomas Anable, the president of Fairness Fort Worth who became an LGBT activist after witnessing the Rainbow Lounge raid, died unexpectedly late Friday or early Saturday. He was 58.

According to a press release from the Benbrook Police Department, officers discovered Anable’s body after responding to a call in the 400 block of Lakeview Drive in Benbrook at 8:26 a.m. Saturday. Anable’s body was found in Dutch Branch Park on Benbrook Lake, and he appeared to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the press release states.

The Rev. Carol West, pastor of Celebration Community Church and vice president of Fairness Fort Worth, called Anable’s death “a horrible tragedy.”

“Thomas did so much for this community, and he leaves a wonderful legacy,” West said. “Thomas was Fairness Fort Worth, and he did so much, and he’s going to be horribly missed.”

Anable was the accountant for the Rainbow Lounge and was in the bar checking receipts in the early morning hours of June 28, 2009, when the establishment was raided by police.

In the wake of the raid, Anable helped form Fairness Fort Worth, the city’s LGBT advocacy group. He became president of Fairness Fort Worth in June 2010. Later that year Anable decided to sell his accounting practice so he could devote himself to activism full time.

“He lived it, he drank it, he slept it,” West said. “It was everything to him. Advocacy was what he breathed. He was a big believer in making a difference.”

Jon Nelson, another founding member of Fairness Fort Worth, said he’s amazed by what Anable accomplished in just a few years.

“Once he started to take action, and once he saw that what he was doing was actually making a difference, I think he was just totally energized,” Nelson said. “I’ve never seen anybody work as hard, as effectively, in such short periods of time as he did.”

Nelson said Fairness Fort Worth has a decision to make about whether to continue Anable’s legacy.

“We will move forward,” Nelson said, “and I think that one of the reasons we’ll do it is out of a sense that that’s what Tom would want. It’s very sobering, and I think that out of a respect and admiration for him, and an acknowledgment of how much he cared, I think this will further solidify our desire to continue what he started.”

Stay tuned to Instant Tea for more on Anable’s death.

—  John Wright

PHOTO: Vandals spray-paint anti-gay epithets on lesbian couple’s SUV in Arlington

Vandals spray-painted anti-gay epithets on a lesbian couple’s vehicle and on other vehicles in the same block in Arlington on Saturday in an apparent hate crime, according to David Mack Henderson of Fairness Fort Worth:

Many of you may have seen the enclosed photo circulating online today. Fairness Fort Worth would like to update our community on what actually occurred and also what steps have been taken since. Yesterday, a lesbian couple in Arlington, TX, discovered their car had been vandalized with large spray-painted anti-gay epithets. Sadly, they weren’t alone. Other cars of non-LGBT residents on the same block were also vandalized with sexually derogatory language.

The same-sex couple is grateful for community support and wants you to know that the Arlington Police Department responded in a timely and professional manner. Further, Acting Police Chief Will Johnson has indicated he is willing to engage in dialogue with FFW to assure continued cooperation. The APD also has at its disposal other law enforcement resources that may prove helpful regarding this particular crime.

If there is a silver lining for the same-sex couple – it’s that they are very encouraged by the support of their neighbors on the block who abhor what all of the victims are going through as much as the LGBT Community does. FFW will update you further as circumstances warrant.

Fairness Fort Worth President Thomas Anable added this in an email:

FFW is in contact with Arlington police and victims through local representatives. The victims were contacted by Arlington police at the initiation of the police department and were not the only victims on the street who received sexually oriented vandalism. The other victims were not members of the LGBT community.  The LGBT victims are currently satisfied with the timely and professional response of the police. The neighborhood has been extremely supportive of the victims.  FFW will reach out to Arlington police and put them in touch with the DOJ to assist in reviewing their hate crimes policies and procedures, but all is progressing in a very acceptable manner.

A spokeswoman for Arlington police couldn’t immediately be reached Monday morning. Stay tuned to Instant Tea for more.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Fairness Fort Worth’s submission to the White House Pride Month Video Challenge

Thomas Anable, president of Fairness Fort Worth, reports that the below video focusing on the city’s response to the Rainbow Lounge raid has been submitted to the White House Pride Month Champions of Change Video Challenge.

The video, which features narration by Councilman Joel Burns and clips from the recently released film Raid of the Rainbow Lounge, was put together by Fairness Fort Worth in conjunction with the city and the Police Department, Anable said.

The deadline for submissions to the White House contest is today, and a panel will now select semi-finalists before the public helps select finalists in June to attend a Champions of Change event at the White House.

Watch the video below.

—  John Wright

FW assault now classified as hate crime

AFTERMATH | Jason Sanches, who suffered facial injuries in a May 24 attack, says the Fort Worth officer who initially responded to the attack did not treat the incident seriously.

Fairness Fort Worth criticizes FWPD’s initial handling of attack; asks for FBI to investigate as well. FWPD denies charges of delay in reclassifying attack

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — Fort Worth police officials this week confirmed that a May 24 attack on two gay men is being investigated as a possible hate crime, but denied charges that classification of the attack as a hate crime was improperly delayed.

The LGBT advocacy group Fairness Fort Worth this week released a statement on Wednesday, June 7, saying that the attack should have been classified as a hate crime in the initial report by responding officers and calling for “additional training of officers about hate crimes.”

In addition, Fairness Fort Worth President Thomas Anable said that on Monday, June 6, he contacted the local office of the FBI to request an investigation of the incident under the federal hate crimes law. Anable said that within hours, the agency had assigned an agent who had contacted him and the Fort Worth PD.

“The FBI will conduct a separate investigation of the incident and is willing to assist the Fort Worth Police Department in its investigation,” according to the Fairness Fort Worth statement.

FBI Special Agent Mark White, media spokesman for the agency’s Dallas office, said Thursday, June 9, he could neither confirm nor deny that the FBI is conducting an investigation, as per office policy.

According to police reports, Jason Sanches, his partner Ray Easley and his sister Joni Mariscal were attacked by a group of six men and one woman outside a convenience store on South Hulen, just south of I-20, in the early morning hours of May 24. The trio had walked over from their nearby apartment, and left the store after buying a pack of gum.

Sanches said that the suspects accused them of “talking shit to my girl” inside the store, and attacked him with a stun gun before shoving and punching him until he fell to the ground.

Easley was also attacked with the stun gun three or four times.

Sanches, who refused ambulance service and later drove himself to the hospital, was hit in the face and had several teeth knocked out. He said Thursday that he is recovering, but still has pain around his eye socket, which was fractured in the attack.

Sanches said he believes that the “girl” to whom the attackers referred was a young Asian woman who is a member of the family that owns the store. He said he did not see the woman in the store before the attack, but that when Easley drove back to the store later to look for the suspects, the woman pulled a gun on him and told him to leave.

Sanches also told Dallas Voice shortly after the attack that he was upset at the way officers and paramedics with MedStar ambulance company that responded to the initial call treated him and his partner and sister. He said the officers and the paramedics did not seem to take the attack seriously and that the officers ignored his statements that the attack was a hate crime.

Sanches said he did tell responding officers that the attackers used anti-gay language, but the initial report, supplied by Fort Worth PD,
includes no mention of the slurs being used.

Sanches said Thursday he has not filed a complaint against the officers, but is considering doing so. He also said he has spoken with a detective to whom the case was assigned, but had not heard anything from officials “since last Wednesday.”

When Sanches first contacted Dallas Voice, Voice staffers suggested he contact Fort Worth police’s LGBT Liaison Officer Sara Straten. According to a spokesman in the department’s media relations office, Straten then filed a supplemental report that included information on the anti-gay language used by the suspects and indicating the attack could be a hate crime.

According to the Fairness Fort Worth statement, Police Chief Jeff Halstead contacted a FFW representative on Monday to notify them the case had been assigned to the major case unit and would be investigated as a hate crime. The statement also said Halstead had “expressed disappointment in the department’s initial steps which failed to properly investigate the incidence as a hate crime.”

But in a statement released late Wednesday, Lt. Paul Henderson, Halstead’s chief of staff, defended the way the department had handled the case.

Henderson’s statement noted that initial reports did not include reference to the anti-gay language suspects used in the attack. But, he added, patrol officers are trained to respond to emergency situations and calls for service, and their “primary mission is to respond and conduct a basic investigation” and file an initial report.

While some patrol officers do conduct “in-depth investigations,” Henderson said, most are “not necessarily trained investigators” and they are not trained to investigate hate crimes.

Henderson said those initial reports are then funneled to detectives in the proper divisions who conduct thorough investigations. Evidence from those investigations is then used to “make determinations if a crime actually occurred, what charge would be filed and whether there are any special circumstances that need to be considered for the district attorney’s office,” he said.

In terms of the Sanches case, Henderson said, “we respectfully disagree that there was a delay in making a determination that this was a potential hate crime. Those types of determinations are made by assigned detectives who are trained investigators.”

Henderson said that based on the initial report by the responding officer, the attack was not considered a potential hate crime and was assigned to a detective in the division where the attack occurred.

However, after Sanches provided a written statement, on May 28, regarding the anti-gay slurs used during the assault, the case was sent to the Major Case Section for further review, and then assigned to a Major Case detective for investigation as a possible hate crime.

“It is important to note that had the responding officer listed the specific details in the original summary narrative regarding anti-gay slurs, the same process of investigation would have taken place, leading us to the same conclusion that this is a potentially hate-motivated crime,” Henderson said.

He also pointed out that “hate crimes are presented as such during the trial for the underlying offense, in this case, aggravated assault. Once a crime is determined to be potentially motivated by hate, it is the responsibility of the prosecuting attorney to determine beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intentionally selected the victim or victims based on bias or prejudice.”

LGBT advocates have often criticized the way Texas’ hate crimes law is implemented by prosecutors.

The law allows for enhanced penalties in convictions where crimes were motivated by bias, but prosecutors often choose not to ask for a hate crime conviction and penalty enhancement because of the increased burden of proving such bias existed.

—  John Wright