8 Years Ago Today: Shootout at Waco Twin Peaks left 9 bikers dead, 20 wounded

FILE - In this May 17, 2015 file photo, authorities investigate a shooting in the parking lot...
FILE - In this May 17, 2015 file photo, authorities investigate a shooting in the parking lot of the Twin Peaks restaurant, in Waco, Texas. Six witnesses say they heard a few pistol shots before automatic fire took over during a shootout last month at a Waco Twin Peaks restaurant. Police have acknowledged firing on armed bikers, but say they cannot address how many of the nine dead and 18 wounded were shot by bikers and how many were shot by officers. (AP Photo/Jerry Larson, File)(Jerry Larson | AP)
Published: May. 17, 2023 at 6:20 AM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Eight years ago today, the Sunday afternoon calm surrounding the Central Texas Marketplace was shattered by the rumblings of hundreds of motorcycles converging on the former Twin Peaks restaurant, followed by the harrowing sounds of a battle zone as rival biker clubs squared off in Waco.

The melee, caught on cameras set up before the event by Waco law enforcement agencies, left nine bikers dead, 20 injured and busloads arrested on identical engaging in organized criminal activity charges. Waco police snipers killed four of the bikers as they fought with rivals during the brief encounter.

Of the 192 arrested, 155 were indicted. Those cases, which swamped the court dockets of the county’s two felony courts, resulted in only one biker going to trial, Dallas Bandido chapter president Jake Carrizal. The trial, which focused more on the state trying to portray the Bandidos as a criminal street gang than on Carrizal’s involvement in the biker brawl, ended in a mistrial after the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict.

The remaining cases eventually were dismissed by former McLennan County district attorneys Abel Reyna and Barry Johnson, leaving no one held accountable for the multiple deaths and injuries.

Eight years later, the former Twin Peaks building remains shuddered after two other restaurants failed in their efforts to make the location work.

And eight years later, about 90 bikers who filed civil rights lawsuits are still waiting to see if their false arrest claims can move forward in court. At least four of the bikers have died while their cases have been pending.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in April 2022 reinstated the lawsuits – at least temporarily – of about 90 bikers arrested in the shootout after their cases were dismissed in 2021 by U.S. District Judge Alan Albright.

The three-judge panel reversed Albright’s previous ruling that a grand jury’s indictment of the 90 bikers “served to break the chain of causation” for their false arrest claims and sent the cases back to Albright for further consideration.

The 5th Circuit panel’s opinion put the civil lawsuits of about 90 bikers back in play and instructed Albright to determine if each defendant has alleged adequate claims that they were falsely arrested after the shootout.

While parties in the lawsuit took the deposition of McLennan County Assistant District Attorney Mark Parker last week and have deposed three bikers whose suits are pending, they await Albright’s response to the 5th Circuit’s orders.

Parker, who helped draft an early version of the arrest warrant affidavits, declined comment Tuesday on his deposition.

Attorneys for the bikers challenged the validity of the arrest warrant affidavits, claiming the bikers arrested were charged in identical, “cookie-cutter” documents with engaging in organized criminal activity that did not take each biker’s actions or individual culpabilities into account. The bikers all were jailed under $1 million bonds, including some bikers who were just getting off their bikes when the brawl started and some who hadn’t even pulled into the parking lot.

The bikers who were not indicted but were arrested after Twin Peaks - Bradley Terwiliger, Ben Matcek and Jimmy Dan Smith – have been deposed in the lawsuit. The three are members of an independent club called the Line Riders. Matcek was arrested despite his claims that he arrived in Waco after the shootout. He has said he eventually was allowed on the property to assist a wounded biker, who eventually was taken to the hospital.

The bikers’ lawsuits claim they were falsely arrested without probable cause and that the grand jury could not have reviewed a thorough presentation of the facts of the shootout because they allege it took an average of mere minutes to approve an indictment in each of the 155 cases. They also allege the grand jury was not shown video footage of the clash between the Bandidos and the Cossacks and their support groups that could have cleared many of wrongdoing.

Dallas attorney Don Tittle, who represents the majority of bikers, declined comment Tuesday on the anniversary while the issues before Albright remain pending.

Reyna, the former district attorney who orchestrated the mass arrests of the bikers, remains a defendant in the lawsuits and also declined comment.

The initial lawsuits named the city of Waco; McLennan County; former Waco Police Chief Brent Stroman, Assistant Police Chief Robert Lanning, Waco police officers Manuel Chavez, Jeff Rogers and Patrick Swanton; former DA Reyna; and Department of Public Safety agents Steven Schwartz and Christopher Frost as defendants.

Previous pretrial rulings have dismissed all defendants except the city of Waco, Chavez, Rogers, Frost, Schwartz and Reyna.