Questions continue as bikers call for action, release of those jailed (TX)

The national media has moved on from the deadly May 17 brawl at Waco’s Twin Peaks that left nine dead, 18 wounded and more than 170 individuals jailed on $1 million bond. Local interest, however, remains and as the “bikers being bad” narrative originally put forth continues wearing increasingly thin and the biker community along with others share concerns over questionable legal maneuverings, potential civil liberty and property rights violations as well as government overreach.

The Waco Police Department initially controlled the message.

“What I want you all to understand: This is not a bunch of doctors and dentists and lawyers riding Harleys,” Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said shortly after the shooting. “These are criminals on Harley-Davidsons that are members of a criminal biker gang, and we know who they are. We know which clubs that they’re with.”

“I can tell you that yesterday’s events started as bad guys on bad guys,” he offered the following day. “When our officers got there and intervened in the active-shooter situation, those bad guys turned their hostility on our officers, which included Waco and DPS.”

The 175 arrested face first-degree felony charges for allegedly engaging in organized criminal activity. An arrest warrant characterized as fill-in-the-blank states that each of the individuals arrested “were either wearing gang-affiliated clothing; were members of groups that had an ‘identifiable leadership’ and regularly committed crimes; or both.”

Upon setting the $1 million bond, McLennan County Justice of the Peace W.H. “Pete” Peterson said, “I think it is important to send a message.”

Four days after the incident, District Attorney Abel Reyna defended the $1 million bond and bikers’ arrests. He told KXXV-TV in Waco “the ones claiming to be victims need to start acting like victims and cooperating with police investigators.”

“I’ve heard enough about my person was a victim and most of the people were victims,” he said. “Well, guess what? If they’re victims they shouldn’t have any problem coming to law enforcement and cooperating to be sure justice is done and the individuals solely responsible are brought to justice – and through the first round of interviews we aren’t getting that.”

The Associated Press has subsequently reported how 117 of those arrested had no convictions listed under their names and birthdates in a database maintained by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Four of those killed were also found to have no convictions.

After first announcing recovery of 1,000 weapons, that number was scaled back to 320. While police at least indirectly attributed the carnage to the bikers, others question that assertion.

Brenham residents William English, 33, and Morgan English, 30, are the first bikers to speak publically upon being released from jail. On Tuesday, the couple described being at the wrong place at the wrong time as violence broke out at the Texas Confederation of Clubs and Independents (CoCI) monthly meeting scheduled to discuss new state legislation and Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.

“We didn’t even get to where we could see around the corner of the building when firing started,” English, a former Marine, said. “We heard 2-3 distinct small arm fires, and we took off around to the back side of the building and after that I started hearing rapid succession of assault rifle fire.”

Citing a law enforcement source, CNN has reported that police shot four of the dead bikers. Per preliminary autopsy reports, the nine men killed died from gunshot wounds.

As details continue to emerge, the biker community is now putting out its own message.

Steve “Dozer” Cochran, a state co- director of the U.S. Defenders Legislative Strike Force, a biker advocacy group, told the Waco Tribune-Herald that CoCI has issued a call to action “to those who feel injustice has occurred after the deadly shooting May 17 at Twin Peaks resulted in 175 behind bars, nine dead and 18 injured.”

Per Cochran:

The organization is asking people to call, email or fax a letter to the White House, Gov. Greg Abbott, the Supreme Court, Waco Mayor Malcolm Duncan Jr., senators, city officials, the sheriff’s department, judges, and others, demanding the immediate release of bikers they say are being held unlawfully.

Cochran said local authorities have overreached and delivered a false narrative to the community of what happened in the deadly shooting. Local authorities have mischaracterized bikers, destroying lives and livelihoods, and created devastation and irreparable damage in the way they’ve handled the investigation, he said.

“It may not be a crime, but it damn sure ain’t right,” he said, referring to police action since the shooting.

A Free The Waco Bikers! petition has 7,000+ signatures with a goal of 10,000. It describes who was at the restaurant on May 17 and why.

The petition addresses key developments and concerns and asks “what happened to the Constitutional guarantee that individuals are presumed innocent until proven guilty?”

Information is offered about some of those currently jailed and the questionable conditions under which they have been held.

While a few bond reduction hearings are scheduled June 5 and June 12, the bulk of the hearings reportedly won’t take place until July – 60 days after the shootout occurred.

Video footage from Twin Peaks’ security cameras offers insight as to what happened. Though the video hasn’t been made public, Waco police reportedly allowed a review by the Associated Press. Per the petition, “According to the AP, only one of the dozens of bikers present was recorded firing a gun from the patio of the restaurant.”

Regarding weapons confiscated at the scene – “pocketknives, larger military-style knives, brass knuckles, clubs, chains with padlocks on them and, of course, 118 handguns, and an AK-47 assault rifle in a vehicle in the parking lot” – the petition asks “how many of the handguns were confiscated from holders of Texas concealed handgun licenses?” It further contends that perhaps many of the chains with padlocks were not weapons, but were used for securing motorcycles from theft.

The petition concludes with requests for action by the U.S. Attorney General, the governor of Texas and mayor of Waco.

A Waco Freedom Ride will start 8 a.m. Sunday at the Sam’s Club, 2301 E. Waco Dr. Per available event information, riders on this “peaceful, silent“ protest will stop at every stop sign and red light. They will obey speed limits and abide by all traffic laws. Organizers are encouraging American flags while discouraging all weapons.

An All for 1 Rally and Protest event is also scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the McLennan County Courthouse.

Event information reminds, “Any time bikers are denied their rights, the loss of the rest is just around the corner.” That would seem to be on the mind of many watching this situation.

Lou Ann Anderson is an information activist. As a contributor at Watchdog Wire Arena, Raging Elephants Radio and Examiner Austin, she writes and speaks on a variety of public policy topics. Lou Ann is the creator and online producer at Estate of Denial®, a website that addresses probate abuse via wills, trusts, guardianships and powers of attorney as well as other taxpayer advocacy issues.

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