Documents: Police did little to stop Waco biker showdown
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Law enforcement officers prepared for war in Waco, Texas, on May 17, 2015.
In parking lots surrounding the Twin Peaks restaurant just off Interstate 35, 16 police officers, including a SWAT team of 11, were poised with assault rifles in five police cars and two unmarked SUVs. Seven state police, some undercover, were inside the restaurant or nearby.
Families were eating Sunday lunch apparently oblivious to the gathering storm, as dozens of armed bikers from the Cossacks poured onto the restaurant patio to confront the most powerful motorcycle gang in Texas, the Bandidos.
When the first Bandidos rolled in, “the Cossacks began coming off the patio. You could see the tension building up instantly,” Waco Police Detective Jeff Rogers said in an affidavit that is part of a trove of evidence provided to The Associated Press.
Then the shooting started. A SWAT officer said he saw a biker fire first. But evidence isn’t clear who started the deadliest biker shootout in U.S. history that left nine bikers dead and 20 wounded. Police bullets struck four bikers, killing at least two of them. Police arrested 177 bikers and state authorities indicted 154. Jury selection began this week in the first of those trials, against Bandidos Dallas chapter president Christopher “Jake” Carrizal for leading and engaging in organized criminal activity.
Evidence that prosecutors gave to lawyers who are representing the bikers shows local and state authorities had overwhelming intelligence that violence was likely and did little in advance to prevent the meeting. While the strong police presence was aimed at deterring violence, and bikers said they noticed police cars, the uniformed police were mostly on the restaurant perimeter.
The evidence also shows that the Texas Department of Public Safety, which was investigating biker gangs, met three times with Waco police in advance of the Twin Peaks meeting and had “contingency plans ,” although the document simply called on officers to follow department policy before firing.
Rogers said that he made several calls before the shooting to the restaurant manager that went unanswered. State police Special Agent Christopher Frost spoke to Twin Peaks owner Jay Patel three days before the showdown and asked if the bikers had booked the whole restaurant. Patel said they had reserved only the patio area. Frost warned of “rising tensions” between the groups. Patel said he was expecting about 400 bikers and had hired three security guards. Frost’s report of the conversation ended with him asking Patel to let him know if any threats were received, but made no mention of any request to Patel to cancel the booking.
One mystery of that day is exactly when federal authorities arrived on scene. The Drug Enforcement Administration had been investigating the Bandidos since January, 2013.