9 dead, 18 injured in Waco biker gang shooting

About 170 members of rival motorcycle gangs were charged with engaging in organized crime Monday, a day after a shootout at a Texas restaurant that killed nine people and wounded 18.

The crowd of suspects was so large that authorities opened a convention center to hold them all before they were arrested, police said.

Sunday's melee at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco drew a broad police response that included placing officers atop buildings and highway overpasses to watch for other bikers rushing to the scene to retaliate.

Nine people died and 18 others were injured shortly after noon Sunday. Police said a fight broke out inside the Twin Peaks bathroom and quickly escalated to a bloody brawl with clubs, knives and firearms.

"I was amazed that we didn't have innocent civilians killed or injured," said Sgt. Patrick Swanton with the Waco Police Department.

McLennan County Justice of the Peace W.H. Peterson set bond at $1 million for each suspect. He defended the high amount, citing the violence that quickly unfolded in a shopping market that was busy with a lunchtime crowd.

"We have nine people dead, because these people wanted to come down and what? Drink? Party?" Peterson said. "I thought it was appropriate."

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.

It was not clear how many of the dead were shot by gang members and how many had been shot by police.

Swanton said the Waco Convention Center was used to hold the suspects temporarily as police rushed to secure many parts of the city amid reports of rival bikers going elsewhere to continue the fight. Those at the convention center were later taken to jail.

There were 18 police officers at the restaurant at the time. They were deployed just in case trouble broke out.

"Those officers along with Texas Department of Public Safety members quickly moved in, started taking fire from the biker gangs, returned some fire and were able to contain an extremely volatile situation in a small space in a very quick amount of time potentially saving many lives yesterday afternoon," Swanton said.

Waco police said it had contacted the restaurant, which is in a busy shopping center along Interstate 35. It urged the management to not allow Sunday's meeting because of information suggesting there would be violence.

Police said the restaurant did not cooperate and decided to let the gang members in anyway.

"Some of those weapons are as, I don't want to say prehistoric, but we're talking chains with padlocks on the end of them," said Swanton. "We know that one individual was assaulted with that as officers approached the scene."

The Waco location claims they never got any request from police to not allow the bikers into the restaurant.

"Based on the information to date, we also believe that the violence began outside in the area of the parking lot, and not inside our restaurant or on our patio, as has been widely reported," representatives for the Waco location said in a statement Monday evening.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission suspended the restaurant's liquor license for a week in hopes that it would close down because of safety concerns.

The Dallas-based corporate office for Twin Peaks also revoked the Waco location's franchise agreement. That means the restaurant can no longer operate with the name Twin Peaks.

"We are in the people business and the safety of the employees and guests in our restaurants is priority one. 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," Twin Peaks said in a statement released to the media.

"We will not tolerate the actions of this relatively new franchisee and are immediately revoking their franchise agreement. 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."

At least five known biker gangs were involved in the brawl, but Swanton refused to name them. He said his department didn't want to give them any publicity.

However, many men detained in the hours after the shooting were seen wearing leather vests that read Bandidos or Cossacks.

McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara, whose office is involved in the investigation, said the nine dead were members of those gangs.

More than 100 motorcycles were in the parking lots around the restaurant Monday, along with another 50 to 75 vehicles that probably belong to gang members, Swanton said.

All were scheduled to be towed from the scene, 95 miles south of Dallas.

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

Despite the dozens of agents and officers that swooped into the Texas central marketplace, there was no extra security at Waco schools or sporting events on Monday night.

Business leaders are disappointed that violence happened again in their city, but acknowledge it and want to move past it.

"We're not under lockdown," said Kris Collins with the Waco Chamber of Commerce. "The first responders and police are handling the incident and we are moving forward with business as usual."

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.

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 one previously 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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