“Psychoooooooo”: Texas Bartender Arrested For Serving Murderer Before Killing Spree

I teach “dram shop” cases in my torts class — cases where bars and bartenders are sued for “over serving” customers who later cause injuries to third parties. This week there is Texas case that involves a criminal charge against a bartender, Lindsey Glass, 27, who was arrested after allegedly violating the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code. The man that she allegedly over-served was Spencer Hight, who killed eight people after leaving the Local Public House in Plano. The bar has also been sued by the families of the victims.

What is fascinating is that the fact show that Hight was clearly thinking of his murderous spree before his time at the Local Public House. The question is how to separate the influence of the alcohol from such a homicidal inclination. As a general rule, the common law was hostile to the claim of a right of action against a seller of alcoholic beverages for injuries caused by an intoxicated person. The independent decision of the person to drink to excess was viewed as cutting off proximate causation. Here Hight was not just inclined to drink but kill.

Under Texas law, it is a crime “if the person with criminal negligence sells an alcoholic beverage to an habitual drunkard or an intoxicated or insane person.”

Glass was working at the Local Public House on the night of Sept. 10, 2017 when Hight came in. Glass proceeded to create a record of texts where she noted, against interest, that Hight had clearly been drinking before his arrival.

She told fellow bartender Timothy Brandt Banks that Hight was “drunk and being weird.” She knew Hight and said that he “had 2 gins and he only had 2 beers and a shot when he came back [sic] I think he was at another bar while he was gone.” She served him and later sent a text that said “Spencer has a big knife on the bar and is spinning it and just asked for his tab and said I have to go do some dirty work … Psychoooooooo.”

Hight then allegedly displayed a gun and Banks escorted him out of the bar to his car. Banks said that he asked him to leave his weapons before coming back into the bar. According to the civil complaint:

“During this time, Banks suggested that due to Hight’s extreme intoxication, he should let Banks drive him home or call an Uber. Hight told Banks he was having problems with his estranged wife and had something to do ‘tonight.’ Banks told Hight he should do them when he is sober to which Hight responded that he ‘couldn’t do the things he needs to do tonight without being this intoxicated.'”

One of the most damaging allegations is that Banks asked the owner of the bar, Jerry Owen, to ask whether he should call the police because he was concerned “something bad was going to happen.” Owen allegedly told the bartender not to call authorities.

What is interesting is that Banks and Glass allegedly took it upon themselves to follow Hight and Glass was the one who called 911 but it was too late.

Hight went from the bar and barged into the home of his ex-wife, Meredith Hight, and killed 8 people before he was shot and killed by police. His autopsy found that Hight had a blood alcohol level of 0.33 which is four times the state’s legal limit for driving.

Police say that Glass actually followed Hight to the home and called 911. However, the killings had occurred.

While the bar insists that it is innocent, it agreed to give up its alcohol license.

The civil lawsuit alleges that Hight was stumbling drunk when he entered the bar. That would seem a strong case under the Texas dram shop. However, there is the question of the premeditation or inclination of the Hight regardless of the alcohol.

In this case, Banks sought permission to call the police and Glass did call the police. Yet, she is the one charged. It is hard not to conclude that the over-serving charge was a substitute for punishing her for not calling the police earlier.

What do you think?

35 thoughts on ““Psychoooooooo”: Texas Bartender Arrested For Serving Murderer Before Killing Spree”

  1. “… or insane person.”

    Does bar tending come with a requirement of a doctorate of psychology? Or, by what metric does an untrained lay person determine whether is another is insane and potential liabilities of making such declaration?

  2. i have to agree with Princess Trohar:

    “This thing has too many moving parts to decipher in one reading (for me anyway)”It may have too many moving parts for a single jury to decipher.

    That includes the question of what liability the bar’s owner incurred for those deaths under the Texas “dram ship” clause or under strict civil liability. Doesn’t his instruction to workers at his bar not to call the police make him a fautor of the crime?

    This tragedy ought to give the Texas attorney general and legislature pause to ponder how effective a law making it a crime for holders of licenses to sell alcohol for consumption on the premises “if the person with criminal negligence sells an alcoholic beverage to an habitual drunkard or an intoxicated or insane person” can be in this real world we inhabit.

    Habitual drunkards often drink in bars and other licensed premises. People, under the strict definition of the term, are often “intoxicated” after their first drink, and few bar patrons limit their consumption to a single alcoholic beverage. Unless they brew their own beer or distill their own liquor, habitual drunkards and intoxicated persons always buy those things from others.

    Thanks, Prof. Turley, for bringing up a case which coujld be the fulcrum on which the balance of individual responsibility (the drinker’s) against society’s responsibility (stricter laws dictating how sellers of alcohol ought to act when a reasonable fear exists that one of their customers is about do grievous harm to self or others). I would say in this case, the main problem is that the wrong person stands accused of that crime, and the defendant in this case came closest to complying with the law.

  3. I will bet that for every disturbing barroom incident that has a deadly outcome, there are a hundred that do not and are forgotten about. Bartenders do not like the idea of calling the police on their customers, and it is easy to understand Ms. Glass’s reluctance to do so. If we cannot assign all of the blame to the murderer, then perhaps we need a law installing a breathalyzer in every bar, which customers must blow into before they are served each drink. If they fail the breathalyzer test, they do not get the drink.

    1. Texas has a real chance to have the most progressive (in the original, laudatory sense of the word) laws on how drunk patrons of bars, licensed restaurants and liquor stores may get – by writing your modest proposal into law.

      I’d add a requirement that all those breathalyzers used in bars, restauraunts, liquor stores and supermarkets licensed to sell alcohol be networked into a common, state-wide database. The idea, of course, is to make pub-crawling and other stupid alcohol-driven sports as close to impossible as we can.

      I can hear the cries of “statist!” now, but the fact is that alcohol drives a lot of self-harm and severe injury to others. I have no moral stance on sitting at home and getting pie-eyed as long as the guns are locked up and no children are present. But the pretense that bars with parking lots are anything but catapults from which drunk drivers to launch their cars into traffic ought to be decisively punctured.

      1. Authenticated using Amazon’s Rekognition or an iPhone’s thumbprint courtesy of the DHS.

    2. Or bartenders be required to conduct impairment tests before serving each drink (I’m sure that will go over well) and, while we’re at it, lets also look for other intoxicants and impairments such as THC or Motrin.

      RCW 46.61.502
      Driving under the influence
      (1) A person is guilty of driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or any drug if the person drives a vehicle within this state:

      I’ve always assumed “any” meant any and “intoxicating” somewhat objective.

      1. The whole business of trying to prevent harm, instead of just limit it, got us into Prohibition of alcohol and created a lucrative market for criminals, just as The War on Drugs® does for organized crime and professional statism does now. We’re about to complicate the lives of cancer and other legitimate severe pain sufferers nationwide when William Bennett made the valid point that heroin and fentanyls brought in from over the border and from China are the real killer opiates, not prescription drugs.

        But we have these laws aimed at “doing something” which can either be enforced or not. If you enforce them at all, best you either have laws with leeway for individual judgment (which Ms Glass and Mr Banks tried to exercise) or buckle down and subject everyone, without exception, to very strict laws which verifiably prevent drinking by those who’ve hit the point of impairment.

        Honestly, the real criticism of “dram shop” laws is that they kick in too late. By the time intoxicated persons ask for another drink, they’re too drunk to send back out on the road, aren’t they? (most places in Texas don’t have mass transit, so you drive out to the bar and you drive back home – or to another bar you think will sell you another drink, after you suck on a few breath mints).

        Defining “habitual drunkard” is even more fun. Betting odds are that some of the legislators who voted for that law would meet any useful definition of “habitual drunkard”. So… who’s going to co-sponsor a “habitual drunkard database” law? The ACLU and liquor lobby will join hands to shoot THAT one down, if it ever made it out of subcommittee.

        1. Jean L.
          The “logic” of the regulators seems to be that if physcians are looking over their shoulders and gun-shy about prescriping pain medication, it will somehow stop the importation and use of fentanyl, heroin, etc.
          Opiod prescriptions are actually down c.15% over the last decade. If media-driven “policy” and groupthink continue apace, maybe they can get doctors to stop prescribing pain medication all together.
          It looks like the beaurocrats and politicians driving this so-called “war on opiods” want to appear to be “doing someething”.
          Whether what they’re doing makes any sense, or whether their action are effective, is beside the point.

  4. The person who sold the killer a gun should be sued and perhaps prosecuted. Same with the person who sold him ammunition. His 8th grade teacher should be included in the civil suit for not straightening him oiut. His son should be sued for not controlling him. His preacher should be sued for not doing his job. Blame everyone else who came in contact with him in the past year.

  5. Hypothetical: Man in the bar says “That bitch is going to kill me if I come home drunk.” The bartender serves the man until he gets drunk. He goes home and is killed by his wife.
    Is the bartender liable?

    1. ghsteele……he could be, if he knew my wife and should have recognized it was not hyperbole.😉

  6. This thing has too many moving parts to decipher in one reading (for me anyway). Horrible crime though, something with which we can all agree.

  7. Oh, just another case of “I don’t want to be involved.” Someone had an obligation to notify LE that a credible threat to harm someone was made by someone with the means, ability and apparent intention to carry it out. Had they called the cops, there would have been no consequences to the bar.

    1. Charles S.A.,
      It’s not clear from the column if this guy was a “regular” or unknown to them.
      Also, was the scene of the murders a 2 minute drive from the bar or a 20 minute drive.
      As Process T. wrote, there are a lot of moving parts.
      It sounds like she called police as the crime was occuring or shortly thereafter.
      I agree that it could have been and should have been handled better, but I don’t think she should have been charged criminally.
      Maybe the bar/ owner is in a weaker position as the defendant in a civil suit. But did he know this guy to mouth off and make empty threats? Or was it he a “first-time” customer?
      IMO, the civil suit might have at least some merit. It seems like they went way overboard in criminally charging the barmaid.
      About 15 years ago, I stopped at a gas station/ convenience store to pick to gas up and buy a few things.
      An obviously impaired guy about 60 years old staggered out of his pickup and went into the store.
      I was curious and concerned about what he’d buy and if he’d try to drive away. Sure enough, he comes out with a quart bottle of beer and gets back into his truck.
      There was a security guard right behind the convenience store check a mall. No cell phone back then or pay phone handy that I could see.
      I told him it’d probably be a good idea to have the cops check this guy out before he took off.
      He went to a nearby phone booth and called the police with the details.
      We waited there for about 15-20 minutes and nobody showed up. This was in a relatively quiet part of the city early on a Sunday evening, when it was not likely that the department was swamped with higher- priority calls.
      Additionally, I had heard that the police in that city ( I had not lived there for long) were not exactly “pro-active”.
      About 5 minutes later the guy drives away; I think the security guard relayed the license number I gave him, but now this guy’s back on the road.
      I’ve live in enough places and witnessed enough things to know that there can be a great deal of difference in the quality of one jurisdiction’s LEOs and another’s.
      Frankly, spectrum runs from first-hand rate to piss-poor. I thought about that other variable due to what I saw that night ( and subsequently) with that city’s department.
      I would be extremely reluctant to get involved as a witness or have anything to do with that particular department . I don’t know the specifics in this (JT column) case, but it could be an additional factor in how the bar owner and employees reacted.

  8. These are bartenders, not cops or psychologists. They cannot be responsible for determining if someone is criminally insane. There must be many people who sit at bars griping.

    She may be liable for serving someone she believed was intoxicated. Without a breathalyzer or field sobriety test, all a bartender has to go on was demeanor. It is possible she may be on the hook for over-serving.

    In cases like these, people tend to discuss strange behavior amongst themselves. They don’t want to be paranoid and call the cops on a customer if it’s not warranted. So they talked about it, decided something seemed really off, and then followed him and called the police. People tend to doubt their instincts and don’t want to make an embarrassing fuss if they’re wrong. If someone didn’t make an obvious threat, people second guess themselves. We see in the news how many times employees get fired for calling the police on someone who is a minority, for example. It makes people hesitate even more to follow their instincts.

    I don’t think it’s right to blame anyone in that bar for Hight’s heinous crimes. That’s on him. He didn’t say he was going to kill anyone. I didn’t see in the post what his actual comments were besides he had a dirty job to do. Showing someone a knife isn’t even that unusual. My barn knife is unusual for a female to carry and people tend to notice it.

    My heart goes out to the victims’ family and friends. This was a terrible crime. The alcohol didn’t cause Hight to kill anyone. His decisions did. I really wish they had called the police sooner. However, if they had, then if the gun and knife were legal, and he hadn’t threatened anyone, I don’t know what they could have done.

    It’s a very sad situation.

  9. there are cases from taverns related to premises liability and violence against customers, which refer to belligerent talk by other customers as creating an enhanced duty to other business invitees. So the old general rule that intentional acts are not foreseeable was overcome by specifics which made it pretty obviously foreseeable on the facts. Multiple jurisdictions.

  10. Granted I will give you that it would have been appropriate for them to have called the police, but required or responsible for not doing so? Not buying it. Didn’t they remove him from the bar? He pulled the trigger, no one else.

  11. Louisiana has the better approach:

    “The legislature finds and declares that the consumption of intoxicating beverages, rather than the sale or serving or furnishing of such beverages, is the proximate cause of any injury, including death and property damage, inflicted by an intoxicated person upon himself or upon another person…

    Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, no person holding a [liquor license], nor any agent, servant, or employee of such a person, who sells or serves intoxicating beverages of either high or low alcoholic content to a person over the age for the lawful purchase thereof, shall be liable to such person or to any other person or to the estate, successors, or survivors of either for any injury suffered off the premises, including wrongful death and property damage, because of the intoxication of the person to whom the intoxicating beverages were sold or served.”

    1. Seems to make sense to me. I’ve also never understood underage drinking laws. If I own a bar and you show me an I.D. that is fake, you are should be the one considered to be commuting the crime. If I let you in without showing I.D., then I’m at fault.

    2. As a native Louisianian, I say “yes and no”.

      Libertarian principles lay the onus of any crime or accident committed while drunk or impaired squarely on the person drunk or crazy on drugs for acts committed while in that state. Forensic psychologist Barbara Kirwin remarked in her book The Mad, The Bad and the Innocent that people who commit murders on (say) PCP/”angel dust” have been found criminally liable for their acts in New York, because they freely choose to take illegal drugs that predispose them to violence.

      The Louisiana law was clearly written with the “guidance” of alcohol industry lobbyists. You can’t avoid moral responsibility for selling a drunk still another drink, then sending him home, car keys in pocket. The Texas legislature recognized the fact in their “dram shop” law. Hopefully, Ms Glass’s jury will take into account her attempts to limit damage arising from her bar’s sale of liquor to an intoxicated person. But she presumably knew the law against selling alcohol to someone in that condition, and did it anyway.

  12. I have no problem with civil liability under dram shop acts, not that I’m necessarily convinced it should be imposed here. But the criminal charges seem out of place. Especially with respect to the young lady, who appears to have been alerting older and more responsible supervisors. If anyone should be charged I should think it would be them.

  13. I think Hight should should be responsible for the people HE killed. End of story. Or…
    – How did he get the gun?
    – Who sold him bullets?
    – What car manufacturer did he use to get there?
    – What shoes did he wear?
    – What about his school teachers? Why are they off the hook?
    – Did somebody feed him that day or day before?
    – Who built those dam roads getting him to the house?
    Obviously all these enabled him to kill, why only the bartender?

    1. Jim22:

      You missed a few facts as you listed off the folks with obviously no connection to the events of the night in question. He voiced his intentions with a hunting knife in hand, displayed signs of obvious intoxication, said he needed more liquor to do the job right, mentioned his estranged wife by name and engendered such concern that he was followed from the bar by the purveyor of the liquor to the crime scene whereupon he kicked in the door. That’s putting the deadly weapon in the hand of the killer and providing the liquid courage to do the deed. Conviction seems a foregone conclusion for this barmaid.

      1. Granted I will give you that it would have been appropriate for them to have called the police, but required or responsible for not doing so? Not buying it. Didn’t they remove him from the bar? He pulled the trigger, no one else.

        1. Karen S:

          “mess – I missed that. Did he make threats to kill his wife when he was at the bar?”

          ***********************

          From the article: “She told fellow bartender Timothy Brandt Banks that Hight was “drunk and being weird.” She knew Hight and said that he “had 2 gins and he only had 2 beers and a shot when he came back [sic] I think he was at another bar while he was gone.” She served him and later sent a text that said “Spencer has a big knife on the bar and is spinning it and just asked for his tab and said I have to go do some dirty work … Psychoooooooo.”

          (…)

          From the Complaint: ““During this time, Banks suggested that due to Hight’s extreme intoxication, he should let Banks drive him home or call an Uber. Hight told Banks he was having problems with his estranged wife and had something to do ‘tonight.’ Banks told Hight he should do them when he is sober to which Hight responded that he ‘couldn’t do the things he needs to do tonight without being this intoxicated.’”

          That’s conveying the essential information per “Judge” Mark.

    2. [Under Texas law, if it a crime “if the person with criminal negligence sells an alcoholic beverage to an habitual drunkard or an intoxicated or insane person.”]
      It’s rare that I read a Jonathan Turley blog posting that does not have at least one typo, a misspelled word, or grammar error.
      Res ipsa loquitur in verbis et factis quidem!

        1. Darren,
          It will indeed recover. In the meantime, I suspect that Putin and others are laughing their asses off watching us chase our own tail for years.

    3. Because the bartenders were aware that the customer was not just intoxicated, but in a violent mood and handling a deadly weapon in while talking in a way whcih would have made a “reasonable man” think he’d use the weapon on someone. Calling their boss didn’t absolve them from the moral duty to stop selling alcohol to the man and call the police as soon as they became aware he was likely to be violent.

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