Bowie knives and brass knuckles. Clubs and chains. An AK-47 and body armor. Plus a whole lot of handguns, many of them hidden in whatever nook or cranny desperate bikers could find before the police arrived.
“We found weapons hidden under bags of flour, in bags of chips,” said Waco Police Sgt. Patrick Swanton. “We found a handgun stuffed inside the toilet.”
Days after a bloody biker melee in Waco, Tex., the chaotic crime scene is still coughing up clues about what really happened on Sunday. Authorities say they have found “318 [weapons] and counting” scattered in and around the Twin Peaks restaurant where the shootout took place.
The arsenal offers a glimpse of the gory violence that washed over Waco on Sunday, killing nine bikers and leaving another 18 injured. Police, who were outside the restaurant when the shootout began and may have shot some of those killed or injured, eventually arrested 177 motorcycle gang members, most of them belonging to rival biker gangs the Bandidos and the Cossacks.
On Wednesday, other new evidence emerged that is also helping to fill in some of the details of the shootout: dramatic surveillance footage.
Video captured by Twin Peaks cameras shows some — but not all — of the shootout, according to the Associated Press, whose reporters viewed the footage. Police have acknowledged they also are in possession of the surveillance video but have not made the footage public.
The video reportedly shows the restaurant as mostly empty before the shooting starts. At least 20 members of the Cossacks biker gang are visible hanging out on the Twin Peaks patio, along with members of other gangs. Although the AP reported that no Bandidos are immediately identifiable on the tape, members of Texas’s most powerful gang were at the event and were involved in the shooting, police say.
“Bikers and patrons can be seen walking to the windows facing the parking lot, where most of the shooting happened, when the confrontation was apparently underway,” the AP reported. That detail appears to bolster the belief that the incident began in the parking lot, perhaps when one biker ran over another’s foot.
When the gunshots begin, bikers on Twin Peaks’ patio duck under tables for cover. Others pour into the restaurant, taking refuge in the bathroom and kitchen, according to the AP. At one point, a biker can be seen running, his face, hands and torso covered in blood. A woman can be heard screaming, “Oh my god.” Others yell, “Get down!”
At least three people are seen holding handguns in the video, although only one person is caught on camera pulling the trigger, according to the AP. Witnesses initially reported seeing as many as 30 gunmen fire up to 100 rounds, but police have not confirmed those accounts.
Two minutes after the shootout begins, video footage described by the AP shows police entering the restaurant with assault rifles at the ready. Bikers lie on the floor with their hands spread, according to the AP.
But as some bikers were cooperating with officers, it seems others were busy stashing their weapons. Swanton said his officers found guns, knives, clubs and chains with locks on them — for added impact — stuffed into seat cushions, stashed inside stoves and wedged between bags of flour inside Twin Peaks. In the parking lot, police discovered an AK-47 assault rifle inside of a car and military-grade body armor. So far, officers have seized at least 118 handguns and 157 knives connected to the confrontation.
Police are busy processing these weapons for fingerprints in an attempt to figure out who, exactly, shot whom, Swanton told the Houston Chronicle. It’s still unclear how the shootout began. Police have said the violence began inside and moved outside to the parking lot. Citing their surveillance video, however, representatives of Twin Peaks told the AP that the fight began outside.
It’s also still something of a mystery why a gathering of biker gangs burst into bloodshed in the first place. Law enforcement, organized crime experts and some bikers admit that tensions were running high between the Bandidos, Cossacks and several other smaller gangs. In March, a group of Bandidos attacked a Cossack in rural North Texas over his leather vest, which sported a Texas rocker, or patch, asserting his gang’s control over the state. The Bandidos beat their rival with a hammer and made off with his vest.
In December, three Bandidos allegedly killed a member of another gang at a Fort Worth motorcycle bar. According to some bikers and gang experts, the Cossacks crashed Sunday’s motorcycle club meeting at Twin Peaks, essentially picking a fight. “We know an additional biker gang that was not invited to this meeting showed up,” Swanton said. “Hence what we were calling somewhat of a turf war.”
But officers have also said the shootout could have been triggered by something as small as one biker running over another’s foot or a squabble over a parking spot.
In the days since the shootout, a more nuanced picture has also emerged of those involved. The 177 people arrested have all been charged with engaging in organized criminal activity but vary widely in age, race and criminal record. They range from a 270-pound man with a mohawk and the word “Chaos” tattooed on his neck to a 62-year-old retired San Antonio police detective, the New York Times reported.
Similarly, four of the nine killed had no criminal record, according to the AP. One apparently unwitting victim was Jesus D. Rodriguez, a 65-year-old former Marine whose family says he was a bike lover but not a gang member. “He pretty much was an independent biker,” his son, Vincent Ramirez told the Times. “He just loved riding with anybody. He didn’t want to be classified in one group.”
But Swanton said the weapons seized show the bikers knew the gathering was going to be violent.
“This isn’t your church-going crowd that came out to have dinner with the family,” he told the Chronicle. “This is a gang-oriented criminal element that was in our city to conduct criminal activity.”
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