By Don Smith-kwtx
WACO, Texas (KWTX) Five years ago Sunday nine died and 18 were injured after a shootout erupted between rival motorcycle groups at Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco.
The shootout was the deadliest and most high-profile event in the Waco area since the Waco siege of the Branch Davidian compound in 1993.
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The bikers said the agenda at the regional meeting of the Texas Confederation of Clubs and Independents (COC&I), a statewide biker group coalition based in Tyler, involved political issues regarding the rights of motorcyclists.
But trouble was brewing between the Bandidos and the Cossacks.
Eighteen Waco police officers and four state troopers were there, monitoring the event from outside, when an altercation between two rivals led to a fight, then to open gunfire.
When the gunfire ended, nine bikers were dead, most of them killed by police, and 18 others were injured.
No law enforcement officers or civilians were injured as a result of the gunfire.
In the end the event led to a five-year-long prosecutorial fiasco that ultimately resulted in not a single conviction, in spite of the fact that 177 bikers were arrested at the scene and 15 others were later charged, as well.
The conflict began a little bit after noon, then Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said.
Initial reports would suggest the conflict began over a parking spot where “someone had their foot run over”, Swanton would say at the time, and the brawl escalated from there.
Then at precisely 12:24 p.m., gunfire erupted.
Lunchtime patrons crowded into Twin Peaks and other nearby restaurants began looking for cover, people were scurrying across parking lots, hiding behind cars, running as fast as they could from the gunfire.
Police later would say it was amazing, miraculous no one was hurt.
Police snipers armed with long weapons identified those bikers who were shooting and targeted them, which brought the gunfire to an abrupt end.
Then officers, assisted by dozens of others who’d responded when the gunfire call was broadcast, began rounding up people and holding them, each under arrest.
At the scene, after the smoke cleared, Daniel Raymond “Diesel” Boyett, 44, a Cossack, Wayne Lee “Sidetrack” Campbell, 43, a Cossack, Richard Matthew “Chain” Jordan, III, 31, a Cossack, Richard Vincent “Bear” Kirschner, Jr., 47, a Cossack, Jacob Lee Rhyne, 39, a Cossack, Jesus Delgado Rodriguez, 65, who was not affiliated with a group, Charles Wayne “Dog” Russell, 46, a Cossack, Manuel Issac Rodriguez, 40, a Bandido, and Matthew Mark Smith, 27, a Scimitar, lay dead.
According to his family, Jacob Lee Rhyne, a father of two from Ranger, had joined the Cossacks six months prior and didn’t own a gun.
Jesus Rodriguez’s son said the Vietnam War Marine Corps veteran and father of seven from New Braunfels, Texas was “in the wrong place at the wrong time” and didn’t carry weapons.
Rodriguez received a Navy Commendation Medal for his service in Vietnam, and a Purple Heart for wounds sustained during it.
Daniel Boyett, the only Waco resident to die, owned and ran a trucking company with his third wife.
Richard “Bear” Kirschner was the Sergeant at Arms for his chapter of the Cossacks, tasked with maintaining order during club activities and defending members from outside threats. He was married.
Wayne Campbell was a road captain for the Cossacks, responsible for organizing bike runs and ensuring the safety of those on them.
Matthew Smith was a Scimitar before joining the Cossacks, with whom the Scimitars are aligned.
Manuel Rodriguez was a married Bandido, nicknamed “Bandido Candyman”.
Soon busses were commandeered to transport those detained to the Waco Convention Center where police were beginning to figure out who needed to be charged and with what.
Enter then District Attorney Abel Reyna, who took charge of the scene, instructed that each of 177 people would be charged with engaging in organized criminal activity and he arranged for Justice of the Peace Pete Peterson to set a $1 million bond on each defendant.
Peterson, at the time, said it sent a strong message: “We had nine people killed in our community. These people just came in, and most of them were from out of town. Very few of them were from in town.”
That started a media storm that continued for months as those defendants began hiring lawyers who began filing motions for bond reductions and other legal documents that brought justice to a halt in the county while all those issues were resolved.
Finally, in November 2017, Christopher “Jake” Carrizal went to trial, the first of those arrested that day to do so, and just a few days later the judge in the case declared a mis-trial in the case after jurors said they were hopelessly deadlocked and could not render a verdict.
Jurors deliberated for 14 hours before returning their decision against Carrizal, who was then the president of the Bandidos’ Dallas chapter.
Barry Johnson replaced Reyna as DA in 2019 and immediately began looking into the Twin Peaks cases that remained, then as of April 2, 2019, all of the remaining criminal cases were dismissed.
But the issue in court is far from over because more than 130 federal civil rights lawsuits filed by arrested bikers are pending against the former DA, the former police chief, the City of Waco, McLennan County, and local and state officers involved in the mass arrest.
According to six witnesses interviewed by the Associated Press, three of whom were military veterans, “the shootout began with a small number of pistol shots, and was then dominated by semiautomatic weapons fire.”
Only one semiautomatic rifle was confiscated from a biker, which was in a locked car.
Police had semiautomatic weapons.
Two and a half weeks after the shootout, more than 140 of those arrested were still held, unable to post the $1 million bonds.
Law school professor and civil rights lawyer David Kairys characterized the attitude of police as “Let’s arrest them all and sort it out later.”
According to Kairys, such arrests may have a “chilling effect” on freedom of association and freedom of speech.
On Sept.14, 2016 three Waco police officers were cleared of wrongdoing in the shootout by a grand jury.
A McLennan county grand jury reviewed the cases and chose not to charge Waco officers Andy O’Neal, Michael Bucher and Heath Jackson.
The rivalry between the Bandidos and the Cossacks dates to the 1960s, when the clubs were established, and the two groups have had numerous run-ins in the past two years.
The Bandidos are the biggest motorcycle club in Texas, and their dominance allows them to enforce rules on other biker organizations.
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