HORROR GANG SHOOTING: Nine riders were killed and several injured during a deadly shooting at a restaurant (pictured here) in Waco, Texas. Police reports 150 to 200 biker gang members were at scene. Image: AFP / Jerry Larson
WACO, Texas - A shootout among rival motorcycle gangs at a popular Texas restaurant left nine dead and 18 injured, a police spokesman said Sunday (May 17).
The violence erupted at a busy shopping center about 90 minutes south of Dallas that draws a large lunchtime crowd.
Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said eight people died at the scene of the shooting at Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco and another person died while in hospital.
NINE KILLED, 18 INJURED
The nine riders killed were all members of biker gangs as were the 18 people who were taken to hospitals with injuries that ranging from stab and gunshot wounds. Some victims are being treated for both, he said.
Swanton said: "This is probably one of the most gruesome crime scenes I've ever seen in my 34 years of law enforcement. "I was amazed that we didn't have innocent civilians killed or injured."
Dozens of motorcycles were parked in a nearby lot Sunday. Bodies were found in the parking lot of Twin Peaks and in another adjacent lot for a family restaurant.
"Dozens" of suspected gang members have been detained, Swanton said.
Twitter user '@ImTheQ' tweeted this in reaction to the news:
Swanton said at least five rival gangs gathered at Twin Peaks for a meeting that he said focused on turf and recruitment. Preliminary findings indicate a dispute broke out in a bathroom, escalated to include knives and firearms and eventually spilled into the restaurant parking lot, he said.
BODIES STREWN ACROSS RESTAURANT FLOOR
There were 150 to 200 gang members inside the restaurant at the time. Shots were fired inside and outside the restaurant, he said.
Swanton described the interior of the restaurant after a Sunday night walk-through, saying it was littered with bullet casings, knives, a club, bodies and pools of blood.
Men in motorcycle jackets could be seen being taken away in police vehicles. Others sat on the ground waiting to speak with police.
Police were aware of the meeting in advance, Swanton said, and at least 12 Waco officers in addition to state troopers were outside the restaurant, part of a national chain that features scantily clad waitresses, when the fight began.
Swanton said: "We've been made aware in the past few months of rival biker gangs ... being here and causing issues."
RESTAURANT WAS AWARE OF THE MEETING
Officers shot armed bikers, Swanton said, adding that the actions of law enforcement prevented further deaths. It was not known if any of the nine dead were killed by police officers.
Swanton said that the restaurant's operators also were aware of the meeting in advance, and he described the management as uncooperative with authorities in addressing concerns.
He said: "Apparently the management (of Twin Peaks) wanted them here and so we didn't have any say-so on whether they could be here or not."
A statement sent Sunday night on behalf of Jay Patel, operating partner for the Waco franchise, said, "Our management team has had ongoing and positive communications with the police," and added that the restaurant was cooperating with the investigation.
'BANDIDOS' AND 'COSSACKS' SEEN IN THE AREA
Rick Van Warner, a spokesman for the Dallas-based corporate franchisor, said the company is reviewing the circumstances surrounding the shooting and is "seriously considering revoking" the Waco location's franchise agreement.
Three armed gang members were arrested later on Sunday when they attempted to enter the shooting scene to retaliate against rival members, Swanton said. Swanton said authorities are increasing security in the area to prevent further violence among the gangs.
Swanton declined to identify the gangs, but many men wearing vests inscribed with the words "Bandidos" or "Cossacks" were seen in the area.
Watch: 9 bikers dead in shootout