Texas biker gangs shooting: Waco Police Department receives death threats after intervening in deadly battle

Nine bikers dead as dust settles after Texas bar brawl featuring notorious gang the Bandidos

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The Independent US

When the maelstrom of bullets, knife blades and knuckle-duster punches had finally quieted at the Twin Peaks bar in Waco, Texas, the injured were segregated and taken to separate hospitals, “for their own safety”, officials said, lest the violence were to re-erupt on the wards.

How it began isn’t quite clear. But when you have as many as five different biker gangs converging at one time at one place – a place with beer – trouble is only one insult away.

The first fists flew in the men’s toilets, the police said after the mass brawl on Sunday, before spilling into the restaurant and then two parking areas. It may have been over a parking space. Or it could have had to with one gang trying to poach members from another.

In any event, the shootout in Waco escalated at spectacular speed and dissolved into spectacular carnage. Nine men died, all members of the gangs, which included the Bandidos, known as arch rivals of the Hells Angels, with chapters in 13 different countries, and the Cossacks, another biker gang that mostly goes about its business in Texas. Eighteen people  were wounded. For Waco, the only consolation from the mess was that no non-gang bystanders had been hurt in the mayhem. The restaurant, known for its raunchy atmosphere with waitresses dressed in scanty plaid shirts and very short shorts, is in the middle of a retail area that gets crowded at a Sunday lunchtime.

“Yesterday’s events was bad guys on bad guys,” Waco Police Sergeant Patrick Swanton said at a news conference yesterday, announcing that no fewer than 192 people had been taken into custody and all were being charged with involvement with organised crime.

The calm a day later was a nervous one. Police officers who had been assigned to watch over the restaurant on Sunday had been obliged to open fire themselves. Overnight the department had received numerous death threats, Sgt Swanton reported. Security guards remained posted to those men still being treated in hospitals. Meanwhile, a warning was issued against anyone planning to bring their bikes to Waco in hopes of avenging their fallen.

“I would encourage them not to. We have plenty of room in our jail,” Sgt Swanton said. On Saturday night, he had underscored how furious the violence inside the restaurant had been. “In 34 years of law enforcement, this is the most violent crime scene I have ever been involved in,” he said. “There is blood everywhere. We will probably approach the number of 100 weapons.”

 

That the conflagration had involved members of the Bandidos surprised no one familiar with them. They are formally listed as a dangerous outlaw group by the US Department of Justice which alleges that members are directly involved in “transporting and distributing cocaine and marijuana and are involved in the production, transportation and distribution of methamphetamine”. Their rivalry with the Hells Angels helped fuel the 1994-2002 biker war in Quebec, Canada, that had cost as many as 150 lives before it was all over.

“The Bandidos see the Hells Angels as too nice,” Julian Sher, a Canadian investigative journalist and author of two books about biker gangs, said on NBC News. “They relish their brutal pedigree. Among the bad guys, they are the baddest of the bad.”

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Not able entirely to agree is Edward Winterhalder, a former Bandido himself who wrote the book, Out in Bad Standings: Inside the Bandidos Motorcycle Club. “You get a few guys whacked out on meth and everyone wants to help their brothers out and that’s how fights start,” he said. “Most of the guys, around 60 or 70 per cent, are just regular guys. They all have jobs, they have families and they don’t get involved in crime... They all have visual means of support.”

There were recriminations that the eatery had welcomed the warring gangs to its bar even after being warned against doing so by the police “We have been made aware in the last few months of rival biker gangs – rival criminal biker gangs – being here and causing issues,” Sgt Swanton said. “We have attempted to work with the local management of Twin Peaks to get that cut back, to no avail. They have not been of much assistance.”

The local authorities said that had temporarily suspended the licence of Twin Peaks, which is part of a franchise chain across Texas and in other states with a headquarters in Dallas. The seven-day suspension was not meant as a punishment to the company but to protect against any other violence breaking out.

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