A chaotic shootout Sunday between rival biker gangs that also involved Waco police left nine dead and a city on alert for further violence.
The shooting erupted at the Twin Peaks restaurant just after 12:15 p.m. Sunday during a “Bike Night” event police had sought to shut down. Waco police said they had feared the large gathering of up to 200 bikers from at least five different motorcycle gangs would turn violent after tensions had risen in the past month.
Those fears proved to be valid in a fight police said involved hundreds of gunshots as well as various other weapons, including knives, chains and clubs. In addition to those who died, 18 people suffered shooting or stabbing wounds. Police said all of the injured and dead were affiliated with biker gangs.
“We knew there was going to be trouble at this biker event,” Waco police spokesman Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said.
Police have been monitoring biker activities at Twin Peaks for about two months and in recent weeks received intelligence that Sunday’s gathering would end violently, he said. They reached out to the restaurant’s management and requested that the event be shut down, but the restaurant refused, Swanton said.
“They have continued to allow these bikers to gather here, and this is the culmination,” Swanton said Sunday. “What happened here today could’ve been avoided if we’d had management in a local establishment listen to their police department and assist us. They failed to do that.”
Over the past two months, Waco police had arrested several bikers at the restaurant in connection with fights, weapons charges and warrants. Knowing the potential for violence, about a dozen Waco police and SWAT officers were already near the scene Sunday. When they became aware of a fight, they responded in seconds, Swanton said.
“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,” Waco Twin Peaks operating partner Jay Patel said a statement on the restaurant’s Facebook page Sunday evening. “We will continue to cooperate with the police as they investigate this terrible crime.”
Swanton said it appeared that a parking dispute lit the powder keg there.
A fight began in a bathroom at Twin Peaks and then moved into a crowded bar area, he said. When it spilled out into the parking lot, fistfights turned into armed encounters with bikers eventually firing more than 100 shots, Swanton said. As police neared, bikers turned their sights on officers, and exchanged fire with them.
No police were hurt, and it was unclear who killed whom, police said. Police have not released the identities of any victims or suspects. Swanton did not name any of the gangs involved, saying he did not want to give them any publicity, but the Waco Tribune-Herald said multiple law enforcement sources said the Bandidos and Cossacks biker gangs were at the center of the incident.
Waco resident Bethany Blattman arrived just minutes after the shooting occurred and saw a frenzied scene of officers running around with guns drawn and several police cruisers driving up.
Blattman and her mother were headed to the neighboring restaurant Don Carlos. When they got out of their car, an officer armed with an assault rifle told them they should leave the area.
“He said, ‘There’s a shooting going on and if you don’t want to be in the middle of it you should get somewhere else,’ ” she said.
Police took dozens into custody and arrested more as bikers attempted to infiltrate the crime scene probably to begin fighting again, Swanton said. Officers arrested at least three bikers after the shooting ended on charges of engaging in organized criminal activity after police found weapons on them, Swanton said.
Somewhere between 25 and 70 bikers have been detained for questioning, Swanton said. Several are members of local chapters of national gangs, he said.
Police closed the entire shopping complex where Twin Peaks is located out of fear that violence would erupt there later Sunday if it was allowed to stay open.
Waco police remained on alert as they received reports that bikers from across the state were headed to Waco in light of the shooting, police said. Law enforcement from federal, state and local agencies flooded the area to assist, Swanton said.