Source USA TODAY
The first trial stemming from a bloody biker gunfight at a Waco restaurant that left nine people dead and 20 wounded has done little to determine the fate of more than 150 people indicted in the complex and controversial Texas case.
A judge on Friday declared a mistrial in the case of Jake Carrizal, president of the Dallas Bandidos motorcycle club, who could face life in prison if he ultimately is convicted on three counts stemming from the melee on May 17, 2015.
The jury deliberated for 14 hours before telling Judge Matt Johnson it was hopelessly deadlocked. McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna declined to comment after Johnson declared a mistrial, so it was not clear if Carrizal will be tried again. All the defendants were charged with engaging in a criminal activity leading to the deaths.
The shootout took place at the local Twin Peaks restaurant, where scores of members of the Cossacks motorcycle club had already gathered when the Bandidos arrived. The two clubs have long been at odds for reasons as seemingly insignificant — to outsiders — as the use of a similar image on their identifying patches.
Details on how the fight began differ, but the altercation quickly intensified. Video from the restaurant shows bikers shooting, running and ducking for cover as waitresses scramble for the exits.
Prosecutor Michael Jarrett, in his closing argument last week, said the Bandidos “controlled the state of Texas in the biker world.” He said robbery, drug dealing and violent crime were standard procedure among the group’s members.
“This was destined to happen, there was going to be a war,” Jarrett said. “The Bandidos are in fact a criminal street gang.”
Carrizal testified that the Cossacks were lying in wait, that they “swarmed” him before he even dismounted from his Harley. His father was among the injured, and Carrizal admitted fighting and firing two shots from a small derringer he drew in the fracas.
Defense lawyers fumed, claiming that Reyna was charging their clients without any evidence other than their attendance.
Seven of the nine people who died were members of the Cossacks, authorities say. Carrizal’s father was among the 20 people wounded. More than 300 weapons were recovered from the scene, including guns, brass knuckles, knives and clubs.
Carrizal was the test case. A conviction would have put the other defendants on notice that prison was a real possibility. Acquittal would have put pressure on Reyna to start dropping charges. Now, even if Reyna decides to retry Carrizal, other cases likely will come to trial first.
His lawyer, Casie Gotro, in her closing argument, claimed the bikers were victims of profiling. Gotro dismissed the prosecutorial position that all the Bandidos were “criminals or cowards.”
“You are going to carve out room for something in the middle,” she told the jury.
But in the end, the jury couldn’t decide. The next move is up to Reyna. Now 2½ years after the chaos and violence in Waco, the bad blood between the clubs clearly remains.
“I know you are blaming us for this event, but I don’t blame us,” Carrizal testified. “I don’t blame the cops for it. (I blame) the club that surrounded us that day, that had no business being there.”
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