Nine people have died and at least 18 others were injured during a gun battle involving rival biker gangs - the Bandidos and the Cossacks - and numerous police officers.
The shootings took place on Sunday (May 17) in the parking lot of the Twin Peaks bar and grill in Waco, Texas. More violence, involving knives and chains, occurred inside the bar. Due to the massive number of arrests being made, booking was held at a nearby convention center.
Authorities believe the incident was part of some kind of "turf war," and that the violence ignited after one biker ran over the foot of a rival gang member. At least 190 gang members were arrested and 170 of them are now facing criminal charges related to organized crime. Three of those arrested were mistakenly released on lowered bonds, but have since made arrangements to turn themselves in after warrants were issued for their arrest.
Four of the fatalities may have been caused by police gunfire, and police are now being warned about possible retaliation and threats issued by the gang members. Leaders of one of the gangs involved, the Bandidos, insist that no threats have been issued, but law enforcement insists that these are credible threats.
In spite of these threats, no curfew has been implemented in the city of Waco, nor has the presence of the National Guard been requested. In a stark contrast to police actions in cities like Baltimore, MD and Ferguson, MO, police have been seen being cordial towards the members of these biker gangs who, oddly enough, have not been labeled thugs by the media.
Prior to the eruption of violence, members of several police departments and SWAT teams were already on the scene, expecting some sort of violence based on information gathered from ongoing investigations and inside intelligence. Gang members were aware of the presence of law enforcement and were obviously not deterred.
Waco Police Department spokesperson Patrick Swanton stated that management at this Twin Peaks location knew that their restaurant was being used as a hangout for biker gangs.
"They knew this was occurring and they allowed it to happen," Swanton said. On Monday (May 18), Twin Peaks corporate headquarters revoked the Waco location's franchise agreement and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission suspended the restaurant's alcohol license for a week.
Twin Peaks posted the following statement on their Facebook page:
"We were shocked by the shootings that took place in the parking lot of our franchised restaurant in Waco and are still in the process of reviewing all the circumstances surrounding it. We are thankful no employees, guests or police were injured in this senseless violence outside the restaurant, and our sympathies are with the families of those killed."
According to Julian Sher, an author who has written several books about biker gangs, the Bandidos have chapters in as many as 14 countries, comparing their membership numbers to those of the notorious Hell's Angels gang. Sher stated in an interview with MSNBC's Jose Diaz-Balart that "these guys make Al-Qaeda and ISIS look unsophisticated."
Kurt Sutter, creator of the Sons of Anarchy television show, commented on the issue earlier today by posting the photo below on several of his social media accounts with the caption "I am not an outlaw biker. I just wrote one on TV."