"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Texas: Capital murder charges expected in Waco biker shootout

Waco , Texas. Deadly biker gang violence at Twin Peaks restaurant
Waco , Texas. Deadly biker gang violence at Twin Peaks restaurant
The unprecedented, deadly biker gang violence on display Sunday at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas, has led to mass arrests, massive bail figures, the specter of numerous death penalty cases, the likely shuttering of a business, and an irate police force who said they did everything they could to stop it.

About 170 motorcycle gang members charged with engaging in organized crime are each being held on a $1 million bond in the wake of the shootout in Waco that left at least nine dead and 18 injured, and authorities say capital murder charges are expected. By early afternoon about 1/3 of the suspects had been booked into the McLennan County Jail, reports CBS affiliate KWTX in Waco.

While they haven't been filed yet, capital murder charges open the possibility that prosecutors will seek the death penalty for some of the suspects, in a state that puts far more inmates to death annually than all others.

McLennan County Justice of the Peace W.H. Peterson set the bond Monday for each suspect and described the amount as "appropriate" given the level of violence that occurred a day earlier at a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco.

Peterson also performed inquests on the nine dead bikers but declined to identify them pending notification of family. Peterson said all 9 were from Texas.

Waco Police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said while capital murder charges are likely, it's too early to determine how many motorcycle gang members will face the charge.

The head of the Texas Department of Public Safety says the violence that unfolded in Waco when rival motorcycle gangs opened fire on each other in a restaurant parking lot is unprecedented. The shootout erupted shortly after noon at a busy shopping center where members of at least 5 rival gangs had gathered for a meeting.

DPS Director Steve McCraw, a former FBI agent, said Monday that the shootout Sunday was the 1st time "we've seen this type of violence in broad daylight."

McCraw's agency sent Texas Rangers to process the crime scene and special agents who target motorcycle gangs.

He wouldn't reveal details about what prompted the melee. Waco police say a dispute that began in a Twin Peaks restaurant bathroom spilled into the parking lot.

Police and the operators of Twin Peaks - a national chain that features waitresses in revealing uniforms - 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.

As a result, the whole incident, involving an estimated 100 guns in total, "happened very fast," Swanton said.

"We were there within seconds, meaning within 35 to 40 seconds," Swanton said.

So far, officials have admitted that some of the bikers were shot by police, but have not said whether or not any of those killed died as a result of police gunfire.

The Twin Peaks restaurant in the Waco Market Place shopping center is coming under increasing fire from authorities over the shootout. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission suspended alcohol sales at Twin Peaks for 7 days because of the shooting.

State law allows the agency to suspend a business license to sell alcohol after a shooting, stabbing or murder on premises that's likely to result in subsequent leadership.

"Any wrongdoing uncovered during the investigation could result in further action against the restaurant, including monetary fines, further suspension, or cancellation of its TABC license to sell alcohol," the agency said in a press release Monday.

Additionally, the Twin Peaks corporate office Monday revoked the franchise of the restaurant, reports KWTX.

"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.

Swanton said law enforcement had repeatedly asked the restaurant owners to suspend the event that drew the bikers in the first place.

"If you have a police department asking for your assistance as a business, you ought to pay attention," Swanton said. "We asked for assistance to keep this from happening and we didn't get that."

Texas officials said they are constantly monitoring biker gangs and that motorcycle gang violence dates back to at least the 1970s.

Swanton said authorities had received threats against law enforcement "throughout the night" from biker groups and stood ready to confront any more violence resulting from Sunday's gunfire.

"We have a contingency plan to deal with those individuals if they try to cause trouble here," Swanton said at a news conference.

The interior of the restaurant was littered with bullet casings, knives, bodies and pools of blood, he said.

Authorities were processing the evidence at the scene, south of Dallas. About 150 to 200 bikers were inside during the shootout.

"I was amazed that we didn't have innocent civilians killed or injured," Swanton said.

Parts of downtown Waco were locked down, and officials stopped and questioned motorcycle riders. Agents from the FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were assisting local and state authorities.

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 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. State arrest warrants were issued for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, engaging in organized crime and other crimes, and 6 of the suspects were arrested.

In 2006, eight men were found dead inside vehicles on a farm in Canada, and authorities linked the Bandidos to the slayings.

The Bandidos conduct their activities as covertly as possible to avoid publicity, according to the DPS assessment. Members are not covert, however, about making their presence known by wearing their colors and insignia, and riding in large groups.

The Texas assessment does not mention the Cossacks.

There's at least 17 previously documented instance of violence between the 2 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 2 members of the Cossacks club.

Swanton said the local biker gangs have little regard for law enforcement, which is why they did not hesitate to start a shootout with uniformed officers in plain sight.

"They could care less whether we were here or not," Swanton said. "That's the violence we were dealing with."

Source: CBS news, May 19, 2015

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