WACO, Texas (KXAN) — At least 165 people have been arrested and charged with engaging in organized crime in connection to the deadly shooting that broke out between five biker gangs at a Twin Peaks in Waco. That number is down from the initial 192 reported early Monday morning. Waco Police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton now believes that number to be between 165 and 175 people arrested.
“That’s a pretty severe charge — engaging in organized crime in reference to nine individuals killed. It doesn’t get much more significant than that,” Swanton told 8News sister station KXAN. “There may be warrants on individuals that may be attached to that as well, but that’s a pretty serious charge.”
Under a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission mandate, the restaurant is shut down for the next seven days as the investigation continues early Monday morning into the shooting that left nine people dead and at least 18 people injured — an investigation that has included biker gang death threats made against uniformed officers.
“Threats have been made to kill our uniformed officers,” said Swanton early Monday morning, who added that the people arrested could be looking at capital murder charges.
Swanton said local, state and federal officers are prepared if the biker gangs decide to act on those threats. He also added that if you could name a local agency in the area, they were there helping them Sunday afternoon following the shootout.
Meanwhile, authorities continue to comb through evidence that spans a Central Texas shopping center, much of which is closed Monday morning due to the amount of evidence they have to go through. Some 50 weapons — including knives, brass knuckles, chains and clubs — have been recovered from the scene so far.
“These were bad-guy weapons. They ranged from brass knucks to knives to chains to clubs and to firearms,” said Swanton. “This was a true gang fight.”
It started with a fist fight in the bathroom of the restaurant near the intersection of Interstate 35 and State Highway 6 Sunday afternoon in Waco. It spilled into the bar, where it quickly escalated into knife fight — and then out into the parking lot where a gun battle raged between five different biker gangs and heavily armed police.
Eight people died at the scene, and another person died at the hospital. Most of the injured either had stab wounds or gunshot wounds — or both. Two people had to be take out of the Waco area because of the severity of the injuries, and most of the others injured were taken to Scott & White Baylor Hillcrest.
“They had a little bit of an issue there as well, with individuals showing up, being threatening to staff, demanding answers and had some problems there,” said Swanton of the hospital situation.
Waco police are questioning hundreds of people.
“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.”
The altercation between biker gangs began just as churchgoers arrived at the Central Texas Marketplace for Sunday Lunch.
In anticipation of any problems, Waco police were already on scene when the violence broke out. Officers say bikers were attacking one another with chains, knives, bats, clubs and firearms.
“These are officers that ran into gunfire to protect our citizens, and they — without a doubt — did a hell of a job doing that yesterday, and we’re very proud of them. And again, we think that saved numerous lives,” said Swanton. “We were quickly able to gain control because of the number of officers we had here on scene. And we began calling for additional resources due to the large number of people that were there and the threat to not only our officers, but the citizens as well.”
It is still unclear if those killed and injured were hit by police gunfire or gunfire from the bikers involved.
“What I want you all to understand: This is not a bunch of doctors and dentists and lawyers riding Harleys,” said Swanton on Sunday afternoon. “These are criminals on Harley-Davidsons that are members of a criminal biker gang, and we know who they are. We know which clubs that they’re with.”
Meanwhile, the shopping center is shut down from Cabela’s to Best Buy. The shopping center is open for business starting from Kohl’s.
Could it have been prevented?
“What happened here today could have been avoided,” Swanton told the media during a news conference. He went on to say that police alerted the restaurant to the threat of violence and that the manager was asked to discontinue ‘bike night.’”
Swanton says police presence has been at that Twin Peaks for about two months now, adding that this incident wasn’t the first Sunday that they’d been out there.
“They were aware that there were issues here. We have been working with management here — to no avail. And I have to say: That was local management here,” said Swanton. “We told them of the issues. We tried to get assistance from them in dealing with this crowd, but they would not cooperate … There was a statement that local management put out last night that was absolute fabrication. It was a lie.”
Jay Patel, operating partner of the Twin Peaks Waco franchise, offered up a statement on Facebook.
“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.”
Swanton doesn’t agree.
“We feel like they could’ve done more. We feel like that they did not take our advice and try to keep the bike groups from being here,” said Swanton on Sunday after the shooting. “They absolutely have a right to refuse service to people that may be a harm to their patrons and employees. They didn’t do that, and today is the ultimate aftermath of what their decision was.”
No bystanders were hurt, despite another packed restaurant just 25 feet from the gun battle.
As bikers from across the state began to pour into town Sunday afternoon, Waco police decided to close the mall where the restaurant is located.
While five different gangs are believed to be involved in the fight, officers on scene said it appeared some of the gangs appeared to be in alliance with one another.
Waco’s proximity to Austin and Dallas, by way of Interstate 35 and less-traveled highways, has made it a popular destination for bikers since the 1970s. The city has several biker bars on the outskirts bearing signs barring gang members from wearing “colors” inside.
Investigators in Waco say the gangs involved in Sunday’s violence were apparently in town in effort to recruit new members.
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo stance
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo is jumping into the conversation. He posted the following on Twitter Sunday night:
“Waco today was textbook example of societal problem and illustrates need to give law enforcement tools to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.”