After a fight that broke out between rival biker gangs at a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas on May 17, Waco Police have yet to release information regarding the exact details that left nine dead, 18 injured, and over 170 arrested for “participating in organized crime.”
Yahoo News requested information on the shooting, as is allowed by the Texas Public Records Act, but noted that the documents it received “appear to be haphazardously redacted.”
The documents obtained by Yahoo News ommitted the names of arresting officers, while leaving the “identities, addresses and other contact information of suspects’ next of kin,” and they did not give any information regarding “where each victim was killed and by whom.”
Waco Police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said that the department suspected there would be issues at the Twin Peaks location prior to the shooting, and as a result they were prepared with officers on the scene.
While the details have not been released regarding how many of the nine deceased and 18 injured were wounded by the officers on the scene, Swanton claimed that “there were multiple people on the scene firing weapons at each other,” before the bikers began shooting at police, and the officers returned gunfire, “wounding and possibly killing several.”
After Yahoo News submitted its original request for information on May 19, the Waco city attorney’s office sent a letter to the Texas attorney general on Wednesday, requesting permission to “withhold the records from Yahoo News and other media outlets that have made similar requests.”
In the letter, assistant city attorney Judith Benton cited a “need to withhold the information pertaining to an open and pending case in order to deal with the detection, investigation, and/or prosecution of a crime is a compelling reason for nondisclosure.”
Although Waco did release 19 pages of documents to media outlets that requested information, Yahoo News noted that “other than a few dispatch call logs about the first shots fired, none of the pages pertain to the homicide reports” that had been requested.
In addition to refusing to release crucial information from the shooting, some of the details the Waco Police department has released, have contained major errors.
Following the incident, police claimed that as many as 1,000 weapons were recovered from the scene. However, they later admitted that 1,000 was an exaggerated estimate, and the actual number of weapons found was 318. Out of those weapons, only 118 handguns – the rest were knives, clubs, brass knuckles and chains with padlocks attached to them. Police also claimed that they found 1 Ak-47 accompanied by body armor in the parking lot.
Although Swanton claimed that the nine individuals killed were all part of criminal motorcycle gangs, the family of 65-year-old Jesus Delgado Rodriguez, one of the men killed, claimed that he was not involved in an outlaw motorcycle gang and did not lead a life of violence.
The Associated Press reported that not only did Rodriguez not have a criminal record in Texas, he was an active-duty Marine from 1969 to 1973, and he received several awards including a Purple Heart and a Navy commendation medal.
As previously reported, 170 individuals were arrested, charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, and held on $1 million bonds following the shooting. The AP noted that according to records kept by the Texas Department of Public Safety, four of the nine men killed and 117 of the 170 suspects have no previous criminal record in the state of Texas.
USA Today reported that one of the individuals arrested, Matthew Clendennen of Hewitt, Texas, has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the City of Waco, the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office, and the individual officers on the scene of the shooting.
Clendennen is a member of the Scimitars Motorcycle Club, and while he was present at the Twin Peaks restaurant on May 17, his lawsuit claims that he “did not encourage or solicit any criminal activity at Twin Peaks that day.”
While police have yet to release the video footage from the surveillance cameras at Twin Peaks, they did push the narrative that all of the of bikers present were engaging in the “brawl,” and fighting one another.
In contrast, when the New York Daily News obtained footage from the security cameras, it noted that “most of the leather-clad patrons ran away from the shooting or ducked under tables to dodge violence,” while some of the bikers “tried to direct other people to safety.”
The Associated Press also noted that while police claim the fighting started in the bathroom of the Twin Peaks, escalated into the bar area, and was then carried out in the parking lot, where the officers present became involved, representatives from the franchise told the AP that the “fighting began outside the restaurant, not inside as police have previously said.”