By Dan Frosch And Nathan Koppel
Six weeks after a gunfight among motorcycle gangs and police left nine dead in Waco, Texas, more than 170 people still face serious charges even though just a handful remain jailed, reflecting what some defense lawyers say is an overzealous approach by authorities.
Lawyers for some of those arrested in the May 17 shooting say their clients—including military veterans, municipal employees and a man who says he doesn’t even own a motorcycle—were bystanders who played no role in the violence at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, but were nonetheless forced to spend weeks behind bars. As of June 30, all but six of the 177 arrested in the shooting have been released.
Law enforcement authorities say the breadth of their investigation arose from necessity after hundreds of motorcycle enthusiasts from numerous biker groups gathered there for a widely announced conclave. Authorities said two rival groups, the Cossacks and the Bandidos, began a fight that quickly escalated into general mayhem and gunfire.
“This was a remarkable situation where [Waco authorities] were faced with open gang warfare that broke out at a public restaurant,” said Rob Kepple, the executive director of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association. “We need to give law enforcement a little leeway to cast a wide net and sort this out properly.”
Following the deadly shootout, which also left 18 people wounded, police said they confiscated 475 weapons, including 151 guns along with tomahawks, brass knuckles and a machete.