TABC Agent in Gay Bar Raid: "I Was Not Rambo"

Fired agent denies excessive force in controversial Rainbow Lounge raid

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    The June raid of the Rainbow Lounge sparked protests and quickly erupted into a national controversy after patrons complained that police seemed hyped up and looked for a fight.

    A fired state agent involved in the controversial raid of a Fort Worth gay bar admits he made procedural mistakes but denies officers were overly aggressive or targeted the club because of its patrons' sexual orientation.

    "We went through looking for intoxicated people," said Chris Aller, a former agent with the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission. "That's what we were looking for."

    Fired TABC Agent Says Gay Bar Wasn't Targeted for Raid

    [DFW] Fired TABC Agent Says Gay Bar Wasn't Targeted for Raid
    A fired state agent involved in the controversial raid of a Fort Worth gay bar admits he made procedural mistakes but denies officers targeted the club because of its patrons' sexual orientation. (Published Wednesday, Oct 21, 2009)

    Aller, another TABC agent and seven Fort Worth police officers inspected two other bars the night of June 28 and decided to stop by the Rainbow Lounge because it was new and close, he said in an interview Tuesday.

    When asked directly if officers targeted the bar because it catered to gays, he said, "No, not even close."

    "Actually I have quite a few friends who are homosexual," he said. "I lived with a couple gay guys in college. They were roommates."

    The raid sparked protests and quickly erupted into a national controversy after patrons complained that police seemed hyped up and looked for a fight.

    "I was not Rambo. I like that quote," Aller said. "I was doing what I was trained to do."

    But he admitted the timing was unfortunate.

    It came on the 40th anniversary of a police raid of Stonewall Inn, a gay club in New York, that sparked the modern gay rights movement, but Aller said he and other officers had no idea about the significance of the date.

    One Rainbow customer, Chad Gibson, received a serious head injury and was hospitalized for a week.

    Gibson's friends accused officers of slamming him to the ground and hitting his head on the wall.

    Aller said Gibson groped him with the back of his hand while he was walking in a back hallway.

    "I mean not hard, but he hit me. I mean, my badge was right here, so it was obvious he knew who I was," he said, pointing to the front part of his belt.

    He said Gibson was extremely drunk and resisted arrest.

    "So we lowered him to the ground," he said.

    Aller denied Gibson received his head injury at that time.

    "It was a very controlled maneuver," he said.

    Aller said he left Gibson outside with other officers, and that's when he was injured.

    "He was standing and basically did a pirouette and fell… on his right side," he said. "And of course with his hands behind his back, he didn't have a way to stop himself so he struck his head."

    Gibson has admitted he was drunk that night, but in an interview the following month, he denied groping anyone.

    "It really makes me mad they would say that," Gibson said in July. "I know that's not me."

    Aller acknowledged he never notified his supervisor about the inspection in advance, but said he didn't think he needed to.

    He said he erred by never writing a report about what happened to Gibson. He said he thought Fort Worth officers would handle the paperwork.

    "I didn't file a use of force report," Aller said. "I should have done that. TABC policy says if you put hands on somebody, you do a use of force report. I should have done that."

    He said he expected to be suspended a week or two, but got fired instead.

    "What's sad is I actually felt like I made a difference," Aller said about the night of the raid. "I remember standing out with the sergeant afterwards saying, 'Man I feel good. I feel like we saved some lives tonight, kept (drunk) people off the road.'"

    Aller said he would like to continue working as a police officer but can't find a job because TABC has not completed its final report on whether excessive force was used.

    That report is set to be released by the end of the month, a TABC spokeswoman said.

    None of the Fort Worth officers has been disciplined. A report on the city's internal investigation is expected to be made public in early November.