WACO, Texas - On Monday (May 18) we reported on a shooting outside a family restaurant between rival biker gangs, which left nine people dead.
Texas police have confirmed that about 170 members of rival motorcycle gangs were charged with engaging in organised crime Monday (May 18).
The crowd of suspects was so large that authorities opened a convention centre to hold them all before they were arrested, police said.
RETALIATION FROM RIVALS GANGS
Sunday's (May 17) shootout 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.
McLennan County Justice of the Peace W.H. Peterson set bond at the equivalent R10-million for each suspect. He defended the high amount, citing the violence that quickly unfolded in a shopping market busy with a lunchtime crowd.
Peterson said: "We have nine people dead, because these people wanted to come down and what? Drink? Party? I thought it was appropriate."
Peterson also performed inquests on the nine dead bikers but declined to identify them pending notification of family. All nine were from Texas.
POLICE: 'WE FIRED ON ARMED BIKERS'
Police acknowledged firing on armed bikers, but it was unclear how many of the dead were shot by gang members and how many were shot by officers.
Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said the Waco Convention Center was used to hold the suspects temporarily as police rushed to secure many parts of the city amid reports of rival bikers going elsewhere to continue the fight. Those at the convention center were later taken to jail.
It is too early to determine how many motorcycle gang members will face murder charges, Swanton said.
Five gangs had gathered at the restaurant as part of a meeting to settle differences over turf and recruitment. Prior meetings had been held at the restaurant, and managers there had dismissed police concerns over the gatherings, he said.
GANGS MET TO FIGHT
Swanton said: "They were not here to drink and eat barbecue. They came here with violence in mind."
Twin Peaks — a national chain that features waitresses in revealing uniforms — on Monday (May 18) 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.
TWIN PEAKS AWARE OF MEETING
Police and the restaurant operators were aware of Sunday's meeting in advance, and 18 Waco officers in addition to state troopers were outside the restaurant when the fight began, Swanton said.
McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara, whose office is involved in the investigation, said the nine dead were members of the Bandidos and Cossacks gangs. However, 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.
Swanton said: "I am not about to give them the respect of mentioning their names."
Many men detained in the hours after the shooting were seen wearing leather vests that read Bandidos or Cossacks.
MORE THAN 100 BIKES WERE IN CAR PARK
More than 100 motorcycles were in the car park 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, 153km's 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.
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.
BANDIDOS AND COSSACKS HAD LONG-RUNNING TURF WAR
The Bandidos, formed in the 1960s, are involved in trafficking cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Texas assessment does not mention the Cossacks.
In a bulletin issued May 1, the Texas Joint Information Center run by the DPS warned of increasing violence between the Bandidos and Cossacks. Dallas TV station WFAA obtained the bulletin and reported that it said the conflict could stem from Cossacks refusing to pay dues to the Bandidos for operating in Texas and for wearing a Texas patch on their vests without the Bandidos' approval.
DPS spokesman Tom Vinger declined to comment on the authenticity of the bulletin, citing agency policy.