A Longview man and two Waco area men, who were charged with murder in the shooting death of a motorcyclist in May, have now been indicted on charges of engaging in organized crime.
Brandon Edwards, 33, of Ben Wheeler, was found shot to death in the 16400 block of Farm-to-Market Road 850 in Chapel Hill on May 2 after multiple shots were fired at his motorcycle while he was chased by a truck, according to police documents.
Jeffery Ryan Griffin, 30, of Hewitt, Joshua Ray Tibbits, 29, of Waco, and Jose Antonio Valenzuela, 31, of Longview, are no longer charged with murder, but were indicted on organized crime charges June 9 in connection with Edwards’ death, according to judicial records.
All three remain in Smith County Jail on $2.5 million bonds each, according to jail records.
A person charged with organized crime charge could face punishment of life in prison or a term between 25 to 99 years, while a murder charge could carry a sentence between five to 99 years in prison.
According to the Texas Penal Code, a person can be arrested for an organized crime offense if they commit or conspire to commit one or more crimes, such as murder, capital murder, arson, aggravated robbery, robbery, burglary, theft, aggravated kidnapping, kidnapping, aggravated assault and other offenses, with the intent to collaborate with three or more people in criminal activities or as a member of a criminal street gang.
A criminal street gang is defined in the penal code as three or more people with a common identifying sign or symbol or an identifiable leadership who continuously or regularly associate in criminal acts.
An arrest affidavit shows Edwards, Valenzuela, Griffin and Tibbits were all a part of a motorcycle club.
At the beginning of the investigation, the East Texas Anti-Gang Center was notified because Edwards had on a jacket worn by members of 1%er Cossacks Motorcycle Club Rose City Chapter. The affidavit referred to the organization as Cossacks Motorcycle Gang.
Security footage shows a truck following Edwards’ motorcycle just before he was shot. Witnesses heard gunshots, the affidavit states.
Working with information from an interview, detectives located a Facebook page connected to Valenzuela that showed a similar vehicle to the truck from which Edwards was shot.
After going to Valenzuela’s residence in Longview on May 4, detectives observed what looked like the truck traveling west on Interstate 20. Patrol deputies stopped the truck. The driver, Valenzuela, and passengers were taken to the Smith County Sheriff’s Office for questioning.
In an interview with detectives, Valenzuela said he was a Cossack club member for seven years throughout East Texas and is now the Regional Sergeant at Arms. He said he keeps all of his chapters in check and makes sure they’re abiding by the “Original Cossack way,” according to the document.
Detectives told Valenzuela about the security footage of the suspected vehicle driving behind Edwards’ motorcycle. He immediately said, “that’s not my truck, it just looks like my truck.” He canceled the interview and requested an attorney, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit says several members of the Original Cossacks Motorcycle Club — including Tibbits and Griffin — had been at Valenzuela’s home before the shooting.
Griffin and Tibbits were both arrested in Waco on May 5. Valenzuela was arrested May 6 on Interstate 20 in Cisco, and he was suspected of fleeing from law enforcement with his family due to the known arrests of Griffin and Tibbits, according to the sheriff’s office.
Detectives drove to Waco on May 5 to locate Griffin and Tibbits who were believed to be with Valenzuela.
The driver of a vehicle at Tibbits’ residence said Tibbits is a Regional Sergeant at Arms of the region and Griffin is a Sergeant at Arms for the Limestone County Cossack chapter. Tibbits said he and Griffin had to go to Longview to handle internal club business, the affidavit read.
Griffin later told detectives that he and Tibbits partied May 2 at Valenzuela’s house. When officers mentioned Edwards being chased and shot, Griffin asked to have an attorney present, the affidavit stated.
Security footage shows one of the men in the truck that approached Edwards on his motorcycle had on a Cossack Motorcycle Club T-shirt, according to the affidavit.