WACO –– The biker gang members who began beating, stabbing and shooting each other in a Texas Twin Peaks restaurant knew the police were outside; they just didn’t care, Waco police Sergeant W. Patrick Swanton said today.
By the time melee was over yesterday, at least nine people were dead, 18 were hospitalized and the arrest tally stood at a “flexible” 170, he said.
For two months, police concerned with the bikers’ presence at Twin Peaks, which hosted special events for its leather-clad clientele, had patrolled outside –– and not in plainclothes and unmarked cars either.
“We wanted our presence to be known,” Swanton told reporters. “They knew we were seconds away and going to respond. That mattered not to them.”
The United Clubs of Waco billed yesterday’s event as the Texas Region 1 Confederation Of Clubs And Independents Meeting. Before the restaurant and surrounding parking lots became a bloody battleground, the Waco Police Department had 18 officers on the scene, including an assistant chief and tactical officers, along with four officers with
the Texas Department of Public Safety, Swanton said.
An altercation in the bathroom seems to have sparked the violence. Shots were fired inside the eatery and a brawl spilled onto the patio area, before scores of men flooded the parking lot in broad daylight. Some bikers were beaten with brass knuckles, clubs and chains, while others were stabbed or shot, Swanton said.
When police responded –– within 30 to 45 seconds because of their proximity –– the bikers turned their weapons on law enforcement, he said.
“Our officers took fire and responded appropriately, returning fire,” the sergeant said.
As police rounded up suspects and paramedics tended to the injured, investigators found eight bodies –– three in the parking lot behind Twin Peaks, four near the front of the restaurant and one that had been dragged behind a nearby establishment, Swanton said. More than 100 weapons were confiscated as well, he said.
Another victim died at a hospital, where doctors treated patients for gunshots, stab wounds, blunt-force trauma or some combination of the three.
Swanton called it “the most violent and gruesome scene that I have dealt with” in three and a half decades of law enforcement.
The scores of suspects, who hail from five different biker gangs, remained locked up in the McLellan County Jail today facing charges of engaging in organized crime, Swanton said.
Prosecutors and investigators could level other charges –– and capital murder charges are expected to be among them, given the body count –– but the organized crime charge is “pretty serious”, he said.
“It doesn’t get much more significant than that,” he said.
Swanton would not release the names of the gangs involved. Photos from the scene showed bikers wearing the insignias of the Cossacks, Bandidos, Scimitars and Vaqueros, but it was not clear if the photographed gang members were involved in the fighting. Numerous media outlets, including the Waco Tribune-Herald and CNN affiliate KTXS, cited police sources who said the Bandidos and Cossacks were among those involved.
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As Swanton briefed reporters at the crime scene this afternoon, 24 hours after the brawl, he said tactical units remained on the scene to protect journalists and investigators. Police hoped to finish processing the scene by sundown, he said.
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission shut down the Twin Peaks location, known for “bike nights” and its risqué dress code for servers, for the next week. It wasn’t a punitive measure, Swanton said; rather, it was closed because there’s “enough of a reason to believe that more violence would occur there, had they been allowed to remain open for the next seven-day period”, he said.
Later this morning, the commission said it was suspending the restaurant’s liquor license for those seven days while its agents investigate what happened. The investigation could yield anything from a fine to the permanent revocation of Twin Peaks’ liquor licence, commission spokesman Chris Porter said.
There have been no previous complaints or actions taken against the eatery, he added.
Twin Peaks’ corporate management initially issued a statement offering condolences but later sided with police, who Swanton said had warned the restaurant’s managers of the potential for violence and sought their cooperation in staving it off, to no avail.