Police helicopters hovered over the Waco, Texas, sports bar and above a scattering of knives, guns, and dead bodies in the parking lot. Surrounding streets were closed off as authorities prepared for more outlaws to converge on the city.
In the aftermath of Sunday’s biker gang shootout, state and federal investigators were still making arrests and combing the bloody crime scene well into the night.
Earlier that day, about 200 bikers from at least five motorcycle gangs gathered at Twin Peaks, a restaurant known for its bikini-topped waitresses and, apparently, for its crew of motorcycle-riding regulars.
But the scene turned into a gruesome turf war around 12:15 p.m., after a brawl inside the restroom spilled out into the bar and ended in the parking lot. On Monday morning, Waco police said 170 people were arrested and will face charges related to organized crime.
Cops were already monitoring Twin Peaks, which was reportedly hosting a biker recruiting event, and they came prepared. The gang members in leather vests moved into the parking lot and shot and stabbed at each other. Then they fired on police and SWAT team members.
“What happened today could have been avoided if... a local establishment [listened] to their police department,” Waco Police Department Sergeant W. Patrick Swanton said in the shooting’s aftermath. “This is one of the worst gunfights we’ve ever had in the city limits.”
The violent melee had restaurant patrons in and around Twin Peaks running for cover—including some who hid in freezers—as bullets riddled cars and smashed windows outside.
“We crouched down in front of our pickup truck because that was the only cover we had,” said one witness, who had just had lunch with his family at Don Carlos Mexican Restaurant, about 25 feet from the bar, and was headed to his car.
After the firestorm subsided, scores of bikers—reportedly members of the the Bandidos and Cossacks gangs—continued to hang around the area, and still more arrived with weapons in tow, police said. Photos also showed bikers wearing leather vests from the Scimitars gang.
One woman, who was close to one of the victims, wailed to a KCEN-TV cameraman that Bandido members wouldn’t “leave people alone.”
“They do whatever they want to people,” she said, visibly shaken. “They pulled guns and wanted to shoot people.”
Michelle Logan, 37, told the Waco Tribune-Herald she was at Twin Peaks during the chaos and didn’t believe it was a random incident.
“There were maybe 30 guns being fired in the parking lot, maybe 100 rounds,” Logan said. “They just opened fire.”
“It was a setup,” she added.
The nine dead and 18 injured were all reported biker gang members, authorities said. Amazingly, no police or bystanders enjoying Sunday lunch were harmed.
The clash was reportedly sparked over a parking spot, and in the ensuing fracas bikers whipped out chains, knives, bats, clubs, and firearms, according to local reports.
Eight people died at the scene, while another died at the hospital. Two of the 18 injured with gunshots and stab wounds were transported to other hospitals because of the severity of their injuries.
Three people were arrested after the shooting, KCEN TV reported.
“This is not a bunch of doctors and dentists and lawyers riding Harleys,” Swanton said. “These are criminals on Harley-Davidsons that are members of a criminal biker gang, and we know who they are. We know which clubs they belong to.”
“If they tried to tell you that they’re just a friendly group of motorcycle enthusiasts, that’s a lie,” he added.
Swanton was speaking Sunday from a 6 p.m. press conference at the scene. Behind him, local and state police joined agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
Meanwhile law enforcement was busy detaining and questioning about 100 people at the Waco Convention Center, the Waco Tribune-Herald reported.
Swanton said law enforcement recovered 100 weapons, including brass knuckles, chains, and knives.
He declined to name the motorcycle gangs involved but said they are with “state and national organizations.”
“Obviously we don’t want to give them name recognition because we could care less, other than to say if we catch them in criminal activity, we’re going to put them in jail as quickly as we can,” Swanton said.
He did call out Twin Peaks, part of a Dallas-based chain, for not cooperating with police, who had been scoping out the restaurant “in full force” for months.
The police department asked Twin Peaks managers for help with the large biker crowds and to refuse service to the rowdy groups. The restaurant declined, Swanton said.
“This is a known place for biker activity, and I can’t stress that strongly enough,” Swanton fumed. “This establishment knew that and they were allowing it to continue against our advice.”
Twin Peaks headquarters revoked the license of the Waco franchise on Monday morning.
"The management team of the franchised restaurant in Waco chose to ignore the warnings and advice from...the police," it said in a statement. "We will not tolerate the actions of this relatively new franchisee and... [are] revoking their franchise agreement."
“This is probably one of the most gruesome crime scenes I’ve ever seen in my 34 years of law enforcement,” Swanton said. He added later: “I was amazed that we didn’t have innocent civilians killed or injured.”