Approximately 170 members of rival motorcycle gangs were charged with engaging in organized crime Monday, a day after nine people were killed and 18 others injured in a shootout at a Texas restaurant.
A Waco judge set bond at $1 million for many of the suspects. McLennan County Justice of the Peace W.H. Peterson defended the high amount, citing the violence that quickly unfolded in a shopping market 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 [$1 million] 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.
The crowd of suspects was so large that authorities opened a convention center to hold them all before they were arrested, police said. Authorities added that it was too early to determine if any of the bikers would face murder charges.
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.
The charges were filed on the same day a Dallas TV station reported that state officials had issued a bulletin warning local law enforcement agencies of increasing violence between two of the main motorcycle gangs involved in Sunday’s melee, the Cossacks and the Banditos. WFAA obtained the bulletin, dated May 1, and reported that it said the conflict could stem from Cossacks refusing to pay the Bandidos dues for operating in Texas and for wearing a Texas patch on their vests without the Bandidos’ approval.
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.
McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara, whose office is involved in the investigation, said the nine dead were members of the Bandidos and Cossacks. Howver, Waco Police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton has repeatedly declined to identify which gangs were involved in a fight that began with punches then grew to include chains, knives and then guns.
“I am not about to give [the gangs] the respect of mentioning their names,” Swanton said.
Many men detained in the hours after the shooting were seen wearing leather vests that read Bandidos or Cossacks.
More than 100 motorcycles remained in the parking lots around the restaurant Monday, along with an additional 50 to 75 vehicles that probably belong to gang members, Swanton said. Authorities were having them 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.
The Dallas Morning News reported Monday that Waco police updated their count of officers on the scene of Sunday’s violence when it broke out, saying that 18 SWAT members were on hand, along with four state agents. In the hours after the shooting, authorities had said that ten officers were on the scene.
Twin Peaks — a national chain that features waitresses in revealing uniforms — on Monday revoked the franchise rights to the restaurant, which opened in August.
Company spokesman Rick Van Warner said in a statement that the management team chose to ignore warnings and advice from the company, and did not establish the “high security standards” that the company requires.
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission on Monday issued a seven-day suspension of the restaurant’s liquor license, but owners had the option of reopening to serve meals.