A bar in Plano, Texas, is being sued for its alleged role in a mass shooting that claimed the lives of 8 people on September 10, 2017.
On that day, 32-year-old Spencer Hight walked into his estranged wife’s home and opened fire with an AR-15 rifle. 7 of his wife’s friends, who had gathered for a Dallas Cowboys watching party, died instantly. Two others were severely wounded; one of them died later at the hospital. And Hight was shot to death by a police officer shortly after completing his massacre.
Investigators believe that Hight’s rampage was triggered by his divorce proceedings. Meredith Hight, 27 years old at the time of her murder, had filed for divorce after six years of marriage. But Spencer Hight was also an alcoholic who had begun to display increasingly erratic behavior in the months leading up to the shooting.
He had also been violent in the past; Meredith’s parents told CBS News that their daughter had confided in them about Spencer’s brushes with aggression. On one night, he slammed her face into the wall.
In a new lawsuit, the families of three of Hight’s victims say he was also drunk when he stepped into the Plano home with his rifle, a handgun, and a knife. Hight visited the Local Public House twice on September 10, 2017. He visited the bar at 2:57 p.m., drinking two gin and tonics, then returned around 5:30 to drink two beers and a shot of vodka, the Star-Telegram reports.
These details come from a report drafted by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and released on June 7, 2018, the same day the lawsuit against the Local Public House was filed.
The alcohol control board’s report is damning; its findings form the basis of the newly-filed lawsuit against the Local Public House. In their complaint, the families say Hight was illegally served alcohol during his two visits that day to the Local Public House, a bar in Plano.
At the time of the shooting, Hight’s blood alcohol concentration was at least 0.33%, more than 4 times the legal limit of 0.08%. The grieving families accuse Local Public House, along with bartender Lindsey Glass, of knowingly serving high alcohol despite his obvious intoxication and erratic behavior.
Again, picking up on the report’s findings, the families’ lawsuit accuses Glass and her employer of ignoring the fact that Hight openly displayed his knife and gun at the bar. It’s against the law in Texas to have a knife or gun at a bar.
There is little doubt that Lindsey Glass picked up on Hight’s disturbing behavior. Text messages from Glass’ phone to another bartender, Timothy Brandt Banks, show that Hight told her he had some “dirty work” to do that night.
In fact, reports suggest that when Banks called their boss, Jerry Owen, for guidance on handling Hight’s behavior, the employer instructed the two bartenders not to call the police. Hight left the bar and continued on to his estranged wife’s home, where he murdered eight people. Glass and Banks followed shortly after in their car, calling 911 when they saw Hight at Meredith’s home.
If the lawsuit’s allegations are true, serving Hight despite visible intoxication would constitute a violation of Texas’ dram shop law, which prohibits bars, restaurants, and other licensed establishments from serving patrons who are visibly intoxicated.
The law also creates a legal cause of action, allowing victims and their loved ones to file suit when a dram shop violation leads to harm. The four families seek $1 million in damages, which they say would go to cover funeral expenses and other losses.
Barroom surveillance tapes show Hight in a highly intoxicated state; “Hight was unsteady on his feet and staggered around the bar, running into tables and walking sideways,” the Texas Liquor Control Board’s report says. And, in text messages, Glass described Hight as “drunk” just five minutes after she served him a Miller Lite and a shot of lemon vodka.
Even so, during an interview with Texas liquor board investigator Richard Legg, Lindsey Glass said she at no point believed that Hight was intoxicated during the shooter’s time at the bar. Glass “refused” to review the bar surveillance video with investigator Legg.
Timothy Brandt Banks, on the other hand, says Hight appeared drunk. In a subsequent interview with police, the second bartender said that Hight was highly intoxicated at the bar.
Hight and Banks conversed for 20 minutes outside on the establishment’s patio. At one point, Banks says, Hight told him that he wouldn’t be able to do the things he wanted to that night without being intoxicated.
Banks found out almost immediately that, by not calling the police, he had made a terrible mistake. The bartender followed Spencer Hight to Meredith Hight’s home, flagging down a responding police officer outside. The officer, Detective Scott Epperson, said that Hight had murdered at least eight people, maybe more.
During the police interview, Banks admitted his momentous error, saying, “So I, by not making that call early enough, by not intervening, by not doing what everything in my heart told me to do, I let the worst murder in the case of Plano ever happened.”
Banks’ statement changed, though, when he was interviewed by Richard Legg, the official from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. In this second interview, Banks contradicted his previous admissions on several counts. Asked whether or not he thought Hight was intoxicated at the bar, Banks said no.
He also denied having any knowledge that Hight was armed at the time, even though, during his first interview, Banks said he had seen Hight’s knife and an ammunition clip. He also told Legg that he couldn’t remember asking his employer, Jerry Owen, about calling the police.
And, when Legg asked him whether or not he should have called the police after seeing Hight’s weapons, Banks said no. In his interview with police, Banks had told detectives that “everything in his heart” had told him to call the authorities to stop Hight from doing something terrible.