San Francisco indie-rock duo Two Gallants returned home Saturday after garnering worldwide attention following their tasering, arrest, and arraignment by Houston police on Friday, October 13.
News of the incident, enhanced by eyewitness accounts and YouTube video clips, raced across the Internet within days. The previously low-profile band was featured in national media amid an internal affairs investigation launched by the Houston Police Department as well as a Houston City Council resolution to investigate the incident.
Officer Gabriel Rodriguez, responding alone to a noise complaint at Walter's on Washington, nearly incited a riot among the club's 150 patrons by violently tackling lead singer Adam Stephens and drummer Tyson Vogel. The band was halfway through its fourth song when Rodriguez entered the club, proceeded directly to the stage, and demanded that Stephens stop playing. When Stephens did not immediately comply and Vogel stepped in to mediate, the officer tackled them both.
The crowd rushed the stage and in the ensuing chaos police officers Tasered at least six people, including Stephens and a fourteen-year-old boy. Stephens escaped through the club's front door, but Vogel and two members of San Francisco band Trainwreck Riders, Andrew Kerwin and Sean Kohler, were arrested outside the club shortly thereafter. All three spent the night in jail and were charged with misdemeanor obstruction of justice.
Houston Police Captain Dwayne Ready says Stephens initiated the conflict. "The guitar player jabbed the officer with his guitar," he said. "The officer then decided to make an arrest for assault." Ready believes the incident's widely circulated video footage shows Rodriguez acting appropriately: "You never see an officer out of control. What you see is an officer being interfered with while trying to make an arrest."
Stephens insists he didn't make the first move. "I didn't touch him at all," he said. "He grabbed the back of my head and threw me down to the ground. From what I've heard of the police report, pretty much all of it is made up. He was being ridiculously aggressive toward us."
Vogel is also critical of Rodriguez' initial behavior. "He created a very stressful situation," he said. "I take responsibility for somewhat reacting, but we were no physical threat. After he threw us down, everyone in the crowd was freaking out, which in turn caused him to stress out and feel he was being threatened."
A MySpace page named HPD_Has_Problems was immediately created to share video, pictures, and witness accounts. By Monday, October 16, the site had logged more than 1,000 friends and 22,000 hits, at which point MySpace deleted it without explanation. By then the story had already migrated to countless other blogs, bulletin boards, and MySpace pages.
Concertgoer Reggie O'Farrell became one of the first to organize a response in Houston, calling for supporters of the bands to attend a Houston City Council meeting on Tuesday, October 17. Of the fifteen people who came, five delivered official complaints.
The council's response was positive. "They said they're very seriously looking into what happened," O'Farrell said. The police department dispatched two internal affairs officers to the meeting to collect statements. Vogel, Kerwin, and Kohler must return to Houston for preliminary hearings on Wednesday, October 25.
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