Houston’s 2009 GLBT Pride celebration was marred when two parade spectators were injured—one, seriously—by members of the Houston Police Department’s mounted patrol unit.
The units had been employed to maintain crowd control without incident in past years, but in the June 27 parade spectator and Montrose resident Kirste Reimers, 50, was injured by Kato, a 1,200-pound gelding ridden by HPD Officer P. Hernandez. Reimers sustained injuries to her chin, face, mouth, jaw,
Lt. Randall Wallace, head of HPD’s mounted unit, who was riding with Officer Hernandez at the parade, told the Chronicle that Reimers did not heed officers’ arm gestures and verbal commands to step back onto the sidewalk.
According to a statement released by Pete T. Patterson, Reimers’ counsel, “literally dozens of witnesses, as well as numerous photographs and video” refute HPD’s version of what transpired.
“Mrs. Reimers and her husband . . . were innocently watching the parade from Stanford Street,” Patterson said in the statement. “Mrs. Reimers did not approach or in any way impede the parade route or the officers on horseback. Instead, ‘Kato’ and Officer Hernandez swerved into the crowd without forewarning, knocked Mrs. Reimers to the pavement, and Kato kicked, stomped, and trampled Mrs. Reimers. Several bystanders helped Mrs. Reimers to flee the uncontrolled horse and called for help. HPD’s suggestion that Mrs. Reimers was not ‘kicked, stepped on, or trampled’ is fantasy.”
On June 29, Pride Houston responded to the incident with the following statement:
“Pride Houston takes public safety at all events very seriously. In addition to the use of standard public safety measures and patrols, Pride Houston this year funded the supply of additional public safety measures for the official parade route. Further, Pride Houston employed extended EMS services with mobile units to expedite response to incidents. Pride team members remain concerned with and will continue to monitor the recovery of the individuals impacted by the horse-related incident.”
Lt. Wallace told the Chronicle that security for the parade, which drew an estimated 80,000 people, would have been easier if onlookers had been kept behind barricades. Only 60 percent of the route was barricaded, he said, with none at the intersection of Stanford and Westheimer, where Reimers was injured.
According to Pride Houston president Brad Odom, safety fencing intended to keep spectators off Westheimer extended along the entire official parade route which, according to PrideHouston.org, “is located in the Montrose neighborhood running along Westheimer Road between Dunlavy and Crocker.”
Odom said he saw no instances of spectators along the designated parade route coming in to the street to obtain beads and trinkets from parade floats and entries.
Odom said approximately 250 volunteers were on hand to help with the Pride parade and festival, in addition to support from HPD.
“We always hope that everybody has a good time and a safe time at the parade,” Odom concluded. “We’re always concerned when anything happens like this. We’ll try to understand what we could have done different, and try to make next year just as safe as possible.” –