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No Justice Dept. investigation of Fort Worth bar raid
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No Justice Dept. investigation of Fort Worth bar raid

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

In spite of a Fort Worth City Council resolution asking him to investigate the controversial June 28 police raid on a Fort Worth Gay bar, US Attorney James Jacks said he would not get involved in the case.

In an e-mail sent to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram newspaper, Jacks said that he is not authorized to "review the investigations of other law enforcement agencies for the purpose of issuing some type of grade or report on the quality or results of that investigation."

Jacks went on to say that it is the role of the FBI, and not of his office, to investigate civil rights violations.

"At the conclusion of the local investigation, the FBI will, if appropriate, review the available evidence to see if there is predication to initiate a federal investigation for violations of federal criminal laws," he wrote.

The Fort Worth City Council and Mayor Mike Moncrief had sought to involve the Justice Department to reassure the public that accusations against state and local police were being fairly dealt with. Many Rainbow Lounge patrons complained of being roughed up during the raid, and one was hospitalized with serious brain injuries sustained while in state custody.

The FBI also declined to get involved in the case, at least at this stage. FBI spokesperson Mark White said that as of August 13 the agency had received no complaints of any violations of federal law, including civil rights violations.

"There hasn't been any specific allegation that has been brought to our attention that warrants us stepping in and conducting an investigation outside what is occurring at this point," White said.

"That doesn't mean there aren't internal policy issues," he continued. "That doesn't mean there might not be violations of state law. But it has to meet federal statutes. Right now, we don't have that. Maybe this will prompt someone to step forward. We haven't had that."

Openly Gay Fort Worth City Council member Joel Burns, who had previously called for an independent investigation, said Thursday night that he was "disappointed."

"We as a city made evident our desire to have an investigation done that both honors our citizens and the police that are involved - an investigation that yields irrefutable results about what happened that night," Burns said.

Fairness Fort Worth, an LGBT organization founded in the wake of the raid, continues to insist on an independent investigation.

"If the U.S. attorney's office has decided not to do it, then the question is, given the city's unanimous desire for an independent investigation, what steps are they going to take to see that comes to fruition?" Fairness Fort Worth spokesperson Jon Nelson said August 7. "I don't have the ability or the desire to dictate who does an independent investigation. We just want and need one."

The Texas Alcoholic Beverages Commission (TABC) admitted last week that its agents had committed several violations of policy during and after the raid on the Rainbow Lounge. A separate TABC "use of force" inquiry is ongoing.

Two separate Fort Worth Police Department investigations are also in progress.

In an ironic twist, the TABC announced that it would now distribute daily e-mails to its supervisors listing important historical dates, including the date of the Stonewall Rebellion. TABC's raid on the Rainbow Lounge took place exactly 40 years - almost to the minute - after the NYPD's raid on the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village.

"It's embarrassing to say, but we had no clue, and I truly believe Fort Worth had no clue," TABC Administrator Alan Steen told the Dallas Voice newspaper. "We do have a mechanism in place now to have a clue."

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