About 170 Arrested In Waco Biker Gang Shootout; Twin Peaks Revokes Franchise | KERA News

About 170 Arrested In Waco Biker Gang Shootout; Twin Peaks Revokes Franchise

May 18, 2015

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 deadly Waco shootout.

Authorities say capital murder charges are expected.

The shootout at the Twin Peaks restaurant between rival motorcycle gangs left nine bikers dead. 

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 Sunday.

The deadly gunfire broke out Sunday following a dispute in a bathroom at Twin Peaks. The fight moved into the parking lot. Police say 18 bikers were wounded.

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

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

Also Monday, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission announced it isn't allowing Twin Peaks to sell alcohol for a week amid safety concerns. 

Twin Peaks revokes franchise agreement

The North Texas-based Twin Peaks has revoked its franchise agreement with the Waco location. Twin Peaks posted the following statement on its Facebook page:

“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 statement says. “We cannot tolerate the actions of this relatively new franchisee and have revoked their franchise agreement immediately. Our sympathies continue to be with the families of those who died and are very thankful no employees, guests, police officers or bystanders were hurt or injured."

Five gangs involved, authorities say

The violence erupted as members of at least five rival gangs gathered for a meeting. McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara says the nine dead were members of the Bandidos or Cossacks gangs.

Police say a dispute broke out, escalated to include knives and firearms and eventually spilled into the restaurant parking lot.

Parts of downtown were on lockdown Sunday night, and officials could be seen stopping and questioning motorcycle riders. Swanton said Monday that law enforcement overnight received threats from various biker groups.

Violence is unprecedented, state official says

The head of the Texas Department of Public Safety says the violence is unprecedented. DPS Director Steve McCraw, a former FBI agent, said Monday that the shootout was the first 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.

McCraw says DPS is constantly monitoring biker gangs and that motorcycle gang violence dates back to at least the 1970s.

NPR's John Burnett filed this report:

Earlier story from Sunday night: Authorities say the nine people killed in a shootout at a Waco restaurant were all members of rival biker gangs that had gathered for a meeting.

Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton says 18 other gang members were taken to hospitals Sunday for injuries suffered in the violence at a Twin Peaks restaurant along Interstate 35 shortly after noon.

Swanton says the gangs had arranged to meet to discuss differences when a fistfight began and quickly escalated to include knives and firearms. He says there were "hundreds" of gang members and a small number of other patrons in the restaurant.

Swanton says as many as five rival gangs attended the gathering. He says past tensions among the groups have focused on turf and recruitment efforts.

Authorities were investigating the scene and questioning witnesses Sunday evening.

Police say eight people died at the scene of the shooting and another person died at a hospital.

The severity of injuries to others was not immediately known.

Swanton says police were aware that gang members were gathering at the restaurant and officers were present when shots began.

Some of the officers fired on bikers as the shooting spilled from the restaurant into a busy parking lot. Patrons and bystanders dove for cover.

Swanton said earlier Sunday afternoon that authorities were concerned that gang members are moving to other parts of the city to continue the confrontation elsewhere.

Waco Police reported on its Facebook page: "Again!!! Please avoid the Central Texas Market Place as the area is NOT safe. Officers are continuing to arrest individuals coming to the scene with weapons.

This is not the time to sight see as we are dealing with very dangerous individuals."

McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna told KWTX-TV earlier this month that law enforcement was aware of simmering conflicts between gangs that gathered at the restaurant.

Jay Patel, operating partner with the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, issued this statement on the restaurant's Facebook page: "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. Our management team has had ongoing and positive communications with the police and we will continue to work with them as we all want to keep violent crime out of our businesses and community. We will continue to cooperate with the police as they investigate this terrible crime."

On Twitter, Twin Peaks, based in Addison in North Texas, said its "thoughts and prayers are with the families and victims" of the shooting. 

On Facebook, Twin Peaks wrote: "We were shocked by the shootings that took place in the parking lot of our franchised restaurant in Waco and are still in the process of reviewing all the circumstances surrounding it. We are thankful no employees, guests or police were injured in this senseless violence outside the restaurant, and our sympathies are with the families of those killed."

Swanton told reporters that Sunday's shooting was the most violent crime scene he's seen in 34 years, the Waco Tribune-Herald reports. Here's more from the Tribune-Herald:

Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said part of the altercation that preceded Sunday’s biker gang shooting at Twin Peaks started in a restroom, spilled into bar, then into the parking lot.

At least two of the gangs were trying to do some recruiting in the area Sunday, and Twin Peaks was a known place for that kind of activity, Swanton said. Multiple law enforcement sources confirmed that the Bandidos and Cossacks biker gangs were at the center of the incident.

“In 34 years of law enforcement, this is the most violent crime scene I have ever been involved in,” Swanton said.

“There is blood everywhere. We will probably approach the number of 100 weapons.”

“What happened here today could have been avoided ... They failed and this is what happened,” referring to the Twin Peaks local management.

“Next door were families dining in Don Carlos,” he added. “Twenty-five feet away there were families.”

Swanton continued, “This is one of the worst gun fights we’ve ever had in the city limits. They started shooting at our officers.”