Deadly Shootout Leaves 9 Dead, 18 Wounded, 192 Arrested
Police in Waco, Tex., announced today that they have arrested at least 192 people following a spasm of biker-gang violence that left nine people dead over the weekend.
The individuals arrested were all charged with engaging in organized criminal activity and taken to the McLennan County Jail, according to the Waco Herald-Tribune. The jail, located about 15 minutes away from the retail strip where the shootings occurred, was still working Monday morning to process all of the 165 people who had been arrested, an official said.
The arrests were announced the day after a sports bar packed with rival biker gangs — and police — erupted in violence, sending terrified patrons diving for cover in a busy Central Texas shopping center.
Police said in a statement Monday said the Twin Peaks restaurant and parking lot were “still a very active crime scene” — one that “is littered with bullets, blood and other evidence. Civilian as well as police units with bullet holes remain to be processed.” Parts of Central Texas Market Place, where the Twin Peaks sports bar is located, were expected to remained closed for the day, police said.
The confrontation began about noon Sunday in the Twin Peaks restroom and quickly escalated from hands and feet to knives and chains– and then to gunfire, as the violent melee spilled into the crowded parking lot, according to Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton, a police spokesman.
Several officers were involved in the shootout, police said. None were wounded, and it was unclear whether any of the nine bikers killed in the melee were shot by police.
Eighteen people were taken to hospitals with injuries that included stab and gunshot wounds, Swanton said. Some victims were being treated for both, he told reporters in Central Texas on Sunday.
“I was amazed that we didn’t have innocent civilians killed or injured,” Swanson said according to the Associated Press, which noted:
“Many streets were nearly deserted in Waco, apart from law enforcement officials keeping watch, as night fell following a shootout between rival motorcycle gangs at a restaurant that left nine bikers dead and raised the specter of further violence. Authorities increased security to quell other possible attempts at criminal activity and revenge in the Central Texas town following the melee Sunday.”
The violent confrontation involved at least 150 to 200 bikers and five rival biker gangs, police said. McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara said all nine who were killed were members of the Bandidos or Cossacks gangs, according to the AP, which added:
“In a 2014 gang threat assessment, the Texas Department of Public Safety classified the Bandidos as a “Tier 2 threat, the second highest. Other groups in that tier included the Bloods, Crips and Aryan Brotherhood of Texas.”
The Bandidos, formed in the 1960s, are involved in trafficking cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. El Paso authorities in 2012 said several Bandido members were involved in an assault and robbery at two bars, according to the assessment.
On Sunday, witnesses described a mass shootout that involved dozens of of guns being fired inside the restaurant and in the parking lot along Interstate 35, according to CBS affiliate KWTX. The station reported that panicked patrons and employees sought refuge from the mayhem in the restaurant freezer.
A witness who had just finished lunch at a nearby restaurant told KWTX that he and his family walked into the parking lot when they heard multiple gunshots and saw wounded people being removed from the scene.
“We crouched down in front of our pickup truck because that was the only cover we had,” said the man, who asked not to be identified.
Another witness, Michelle Logan, told the Tribune-Herald: “There were maybe 30 guns being fired in the parking lot, maybe 100 rounds. They just opened fire. … There’s a lot of people in the hospital, a lot of people shot.”
Vehicles parked near the restaurant were riddled with bullet holes, the newspaper noted.
Hours later, authorities from multiple law enforcement agencies — including local and state police, and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — were still trying to secure the area and survey the large crime scene, which was littered with more than 100 weapons.
Swanton called it “one of the worst gun fights we’ve ever had in the city limits. They started shooting at our officers.”
The officers returned fire, Swanton said, and some armed bikers were shot by police. Swanton defended the officers’ actions and said they prevented more deaths.
“Their action has saved lives in keeping this from spilling into a very busy Sunday morning,” he said, according to CNN. “Thank goodness the officers were here, and took the action that they needed to take to save numerous lives.”
Authorities said it was not immediately clear what triggered the violence, but the potential for conflict did not surprise the Twin Peaks staff or officers. McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna told the AP that tensions between the gangs had been building for months.
Police were bracing for violence: Swanton said many as 12 Waco police officers were at the sports bar when the fighting began and that they had secured the area because they “expected issues.” He said the restaurant’s management requested the officers in anticipation of trouble.
“We have been made aware in the last few months of rival biker gangs — rival criminal biker gangs — being here and causing issues,” Swanton said. “We have attempted to work with the local management of Twin Peaks to get that cut back, to no avail. They have not been of much assistance to us.”
Jay Patel, operating partner for the Twin Peaks franchise in Waco, said in a statement Sunday: “We are horrified by the criminal, violent acts that occurred outside of our Waco restaurant today. We share in the community’s trauma. Our priority is to provide a safe and enjoyable environment for our customers and employees, and we consider the police our partners in doing so.”
Patel added that “our management team has had ongoing and positive communications with the police and … we will continue to cooperate with the police as they investigate this terrible crime.”
“What happened … could have been avoided if we would have had management at a local establishment listen to their police department and assist us,” Swanton said. “They failed to do that, and this is the event that happened.”
Headquartered in Dallas, Twin Peaks is a casual dining chain with dozens of locations nationwide that employs a largely female staff scantily clad in plaid shirts and mini shorts.
“Twin Peaks Girls,” the company advertises, offer customers “signature ‘Girl Next Door’ charisma and playful personalities.”
“We’re all about the really super cold beer and really hot girls,” Meggie Miller, the chain’s marketing director, says in a promotional video. “Not only super hot girls naturally, but girls that are beautifully styled that carry themselves well” and “love to entertain a table.”
The Waco location opened in August and was touted by a company spokesman as offering 24 types of beer and 55 flatscreen TVs, as well as “Bike Night” on Thursdays. “Get revved up and ready to go at Twin Peaks bike night,” a calendar on the Twin Peaks Waco Web site advertised.
Randy DeWitt, chief executive of Twin Peaks, described the restaurant on the show as “a high-energy mountain-themed sports bar.”
“We have an expression at Twin Peaks,” he adds: “It’s a place where you can let your man out.”
Police said Monday that the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission “is implementing a Summary Suspension closing Twin Peaks for at least 7 days.