Waco police charge 170 after biker gang shootout
Officers in Texas warn of retaliation attacks after restaurant assault that left nine dead
Police in Waco, Texas are worried about retaliation attacks after 170 people were charged in connection with Sunday’s shootout between motorcycle gangs that left nine dead and 18 wounded at a restaurant in the city.
Bikers from at least five rival gangs attacked each other with guns, knives, brass knuckles, clubs and motorcycle chains at a Twin Peaks Sports Bar and Grill in the central Texas city.
No bystanders or police were injured, police said.
When the bikers began shooting, officers moved in, some of them also firing their weapons.
When the shooting ended, bodies were scattered in the restaurant and across two parking lots.
Eight people were killed at the scene and one died at an area hospital. All of the fatalities were bikers.
The police spokesman could not say if any of the casualties were the result of police gunfire.
Eighteen people had been taken to area hospitals with injuries that included gunshots and stab wounds.
It was unclear if any of the injured were not affiliated with the biker gangs.
“I will tell you that we have had threats against law enforcement officers throughout the night,“ Waco police sergeant Patrick Swanton told a news briefing.
Mr Swanton said that hospital staff have also been threatened and that bikers were reported to be travelling to the city following the shooting.
“Yesterday’s events was bad guys on bad guys. When our officers arrived, those bad guys turned their guns on our officers.”
About 100 weapons were recovered from the crime scene, which was strewn with shell casings, police said.
Police had originally said 192 people had been arrested following the incident.
They would not immediately release information about how they were holding the group of 170, out of security concerns.
Those taken into custody were charged with engaging in organised crime for capital murder and likely will face charges related to the incident after what is expected to be a lengthy investigation of the crime scene.
“Some of those may have been witnesses, many of those are going to be individuals involved in the shooting, and criminal charges may be applicable for that,” Mr Swanton said.
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission closed Twin Peaks, located at a shopping mall by a busy highway, for at least seven days, “due to the ongoing danger it presents to our community”, police said.
Twin Peaks is a chain restaurant known for scantily clad waitresses serving bar food and beer.
The Waco restaurant had been used as a meeting place for motorcycle gangs for the past few months, police said.
They had asked the restaurant’s managers to put a halt to the meetings but said they did not heed the requests.
Twin Peaks on Monday revoked the franchise rights to the Dallas-based company that ran the Waco restaurant for not doing enough to ensure security.
“Unfortunately, the management team of the franchised restaurant in Waco chose to ignore the warnings and advice from both the police and our company, and did not uphold the high security standards we have in place to ensure everyone is safe at our restaurants,” the company said in a statement.
Bandidos Motorcycle Club
Among the gangs involved in the shooting were the Bandidos Motorcycle Club, which the US justice department says has 2,000 to 2,500 members between the US and 13 other countries. It is one of the biggest motorcycle gangs and a rival to the high-profile Hells Angels.
“The Bandidos are involved in transporting and distributing cocaine and marijuana and are involved in the production, transportation and distribution of methamphetamine,” according to a justice department fact sheet.
The gangs try to keep under the radar as much as possible to avoid attention for their criminal activities, law enforcement officials said.
But the tension between the Bandidos and at least four rival groups in Texas, including the Cossacks, came to a head at the gang meeting in Waco, where about 200 people were present.
The fight appeared to have started with a shove in a restroom that moved into the restaurant and then spilled out into the parking lot, where police had positioned themselves in anticipation of trouble.
“ [It] quickly escalated into a fist fight, which turned into a knife fight, which immediately turned into a gun fight,” Mr Swanton said.
“These are very dangerous, hostile biker gangs,” Mr Swanton had told reporters. “A lot of innocent people could have been injured today.”
Some area businesses closed early Sunday after police warned people to stay away from the area. Mr Swanton said police had received intelligence that other gang members might be coming to the area for “payback”.
Three “biker gang members” were arrested trying to enter the crime scene, Mr Swanton said.
Police from multiple jurisdictions were helping with security and the investigation.