Motorcycle gang shootout started with parking dispute

2015-05-20 06:18
A McLennan County deputy stands guard near a group of bikers in the parking lot of a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas. (Rod Aydelotte, AP)

A McLennan County deputy stands guard near a group of bikers in the parking lot of a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas. (Rod Aydelotte, AP)

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Waco - A deadly weekend shootout involving rival motorcycle gangs apparently began with a parking dispute and someone running over a gang member's foot, police said on Tuesday.

Waco police Sergeant W Patrick Swanton said an uninvited group appeared for Sunday's meeting of a loose confederation of biker gangs at a restaurant.

One man was injured when a vehicle rolled over his foot. That caused a dispute that continued inside the restaurant, where fighting and then shooting began, before the melee spilled back outside, Swanton said.

Authorities offered few details. It was not clear which gang was responsible for running over the biker's foot or which gang the aggrieved biker belonged to.

When the shootout was over, nine people were dead and 18 wounded.

Police have said five biker gangs from across Texas had gathered in part to settle differences over turf.

Jimmy Graves, who described himself as an ambassador for the gang known as the Bandidos, disputed that claim, saying the groups had planned to discuss laws protecting motorcycle riders and other topics such as trademarks for club logos.

But he acknowledged that differences with other groups, such as the Cossacks, have been "simmering and brewing".

Another biker named Johnny Snyder said he was at the restaurant for a quarterly meeting to talk about legislative issues.

Snyder, a long-haul trucker, declined to describe what he saw inside the restaurant, saying he was only concerned with "not getting shot."

He is vice president of the Boozefighters Motorcycle Club in Waco, a group that Snyder says does charity events and family gatherings and is not a criminal gang.

About 50 weapons were confiscated, mostly knives and firearms, and Swanton said more than 100 weapons may be found once authorities are done analyzing the crime scene at the Twin Peaks restaurant, which is part of a national chain that features waitresses in revealing uniforms.

Preliminary autopsy results showed all nine of the dead were killed by gunshots. Many were hit in the head, neck, chest or torso. Most of the men were in their 40s, but they ranged in age from 27 to 65, according to reports released by a McLennan County justice of the peace.

Police have acknowledged firing on armed bikers, but it was unclear how many of the dead were shot by gang members and how many were shot by officers.

Of the injured, seven remain hospitalised. Swanton, who has been virtually the sole source of law enforcement information on the fight, described their conditions as stable.

He said the investigation is being hampered by witnesses who "are not being honest with us".

Police are concerned that the brawl will invite retaliation and more violence, Swanton said.

Associated Press writers David Warren in Dallas and Don Babwin in Chicago contributed to this report.

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