WACO, Texas - No one will be convicted or otherwise held accountable for the 2015 shootout between rival biker gangs in Waco restaurant parking lot that left nine people dead and at least 20 injured, prosecutors in Central Texas said Tuesday.
In a statement announcing all charges will be dropped in the deadliest biker shooting in U.S. history, McLennan County District Attorney Barry Johnson said any further effort to prosecute the case would be a "waste of time, effort and resources."
"In my opinion, had this action been taken in a timely manner, it would have, and should have, resulted in numerous convictions and prison sentences against many of those who participated in the Twin Peaks brawl," Johnson said. "Over the next three years, the prior district attorney failed to take that action, for reasons that I do not know to this day."
The shooting outside a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco on May 17, 2015, involved rival biker gangs, the Bandidos and Cossacks, and occurred as bikers from various groups were gathering to talk over matters of concern. Fights and gunfire broke out. Waco police officers monitoring the gathering also fired on the bikers, killing at least two.
Surveillance footage showed many bikers running from the scene and ducking for cover after gunshots rang out. A smaller number could be seen pointing and firing weapons, slinging a chain or participating in fistfights. Law enforcement officers recovered dozens of firearms, knives and other weapons from the restaurant and adjacent parking lot, many of which officers organized indiscriminately into piles on the pavement and in the back of a police vehicle, dash-cam video showed.
Law enforcement officials took the extraordinary step of arresting 177 bikers after the shooting, then charged 155 of them with engaging in organized criminal activity. Many were held on a $1 million bond.
Former District Attorney Abel Reyna ultimately dropped charges against all but 24 and re-indicted them on riot charges. Those were the cases that came to an end Tuesday.
Only one case was prosecuted in court and that ended in a mistrial.
Attorney Toby Shook represented two of the last 24 bikers who were both Bandidos. He says he isn't surprised by the dismissal.
“The facts were very unique to this case, and most of the people that could be proven on videotape doing the killing were killed themselves by law enforcement,” Shook said. “So you really only had a bunch of people left who were fighting.”
It's a sentiment echoed by Dallas-based attorney Clint Broden. He represented 3 of the final 24 bikers.
“All of the people were charged who shouldn’t have been charged, and I believe the results would have been a lot of acquittals across the board,” the attorney said.
Broden represented Richard Luther, a Cossack biker gang member.
“I was right below the outside porch when the gunfire started. I curled up into a fetal position on the ground against the patio deck,” Luther recalled. “That’s something that is never going to go away. It lives in my mind.”
Luther, who says he spent nearly $40,000 defending himself, is glad it's finally over.
“Just ecstatic. My wife was crying,” he said. “I just felt like the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders. I’ve been carrying around this burden for 4 years.”
Luther said he had to sell his motorcycle in order to pay for his defense. He's eager to ride again.
Many of the former defendants, including Luther, have civil litigation pending against the city of Waco.
More than 100 bikers have filed civil rights lawsuits alleging McLennan County, the city and others violated the plaintiffs' civil rights by arresting them without probable cause after the shooting,
"It's a travesty that so many people were rounded up and then investigated, instead of vice versa," Mark Snodgrass, president of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, said Tuesday. "A lot of these people's lives were put on hold for four years."
In a statement, Reyna said he disagrees "with the overall result as well as several statements and accusations within Mr. Johnson's press release; however, it is solely his decision on how to proceed with any case in the District Attorney's Office."