WACO, Texas — Law enforcement remained on alert in Waco, Texas, early Monday after a deadly shootout between rival biker gangs shook up the community, and attempts at intimidation ensured officers will stay on the streets, police said.
Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said 192 people have been arrested on charges of engaging in organized crime following the Sunday afternoon brawl at a Twin Peaks restaurant that left nine bikers dead and at least 18 more wounded.
“Our citizens are safe. I will tell you that we have had threats against law enforcement officers throughout the night from various biker groups. We are very aware that some of them have come into our city and we have a contingency plan to deal with those individuals if they try to cause trouble here,” Swanton said at a news conference early Monday.
The violence erupted shortly after noon in the restaurant at a busy shopping center along Interstate 35 where members of at least five rival gangs had gathered for a meeting, Swanton said late Sunday. Preliminary findings indicate a dispute broke out in a bathroom, escalated to include knives and firearms, and eventually spilled into the restaurant parking lot.
A McLennan County deputy stands guard near a group of bikers in the parking lot of a Twin Peaks restaurant Sunday, May 17, 2015, in Waco, Texas. | Rod Aydelotte / Waco Tribune-Herald via AP
“I was amazed that we didn’t have innocent civilians killed or injured,” Swanton said.
The interior of the restaurant was littered with bullet casings, knives, a club, bodies and pools of blood, he said. Authorities were processing the evidence at the scene, 95 miles south of Dallas. About 150-200 bikers were inside during the shootout.
Parts of downtown Waco were locked down, and officials stopped and questioned motorcycle riders. FBI and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents were assisting local and state authorities in the investigation.
Police and the operators of Twin Peaks — a national chain that features scantily clad waitresses — were aware of the meeting in advance and at least 12 Waco officers in addition to state troopers were outside the restaurant when the fight began, Swanton said.
He said officers shot armed bikers and that the actions of law enforcement prevented further deaths. It wasn’t immediately clear whether any of the nine dead were killed by police officers. The identities of the dead have yet to be made public.
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has closed down the Twin Peaks location for a week due to concerns there could be more violence at the site, Swanton said.
“Because of the significant threat to our general public, TABC is able to do a suspension of business for Twin Peaks,” he said.
“That’s a good thing for law enforcement here. That is one issue that we don’t have to worry about people coming in and creating another incident after the tragic incident we had last night,” Swanton said.
A statement sent Sunday night on behalf of Jay Patel, operating partner for the Waco franchise, said his management team has had “ongoing and positive communications with the police.” Swanton said the management has not cooperated with authorities in addressing concerns about the gangs and called Patel’s statement a “fabrication.”
Rick Van Warner, a spokesman for the Dallas-based corporate franchisor, said the company is “seriously considering revoking” the Waco location’s franchise agreement.
McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara, whose office is involved in the investigation, said all nine who were killed were members of the Bandidos or Cossacks gangs.
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 methamphetamines, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Texas assessment doesn’t mention the Cossacks.
There’s at least one documented instance of violence between the two groups. In November 2013, a 46-year-old from Abilene who police say was the leader of a West Texas Bandidos chapter was charged in the stabbings of two members of the Cossacks club.
NOMAAN MERCHANT, Associated Press