Texas grand jury hears testimony in deadly Waco biker fight

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 10, 2015 6:16 PM

By Lisa Maria Garza

DALLAS (Reuters) - A Texas grand jury began reviewing evidence on Tuesday in the May shootout among rival bikers that left nine dead, led to mass arrests and spurred accusations among those taken into custody of authorities overstepping their bounds.

Nearly six months after the May 17 biker battle in Waco, no one among the 177 people arrested at the Twin Peaks Sports Bar and Grill on organized crime charges relating to capital murder has been indicted.

The grand jury proceedings were not open to the public. A judge has put in place a gag order, which has limited comment.

Under Texas law, attorneys for defendants not indicted after 180 days can request that initial charges be dismissed and bond restrictions removed. Suspects can still be formally charged later by a grand jury.

Lawyers for the bikers have been critical of the Waco Police Department and state authorities for the mass arrests, carbon-copy warrant affidavits and initial bond of $1 million each.

Some bikers have blamed police for escalating the violence. The nine killed all died from gunshot wounds, preliminary autopsies showed.

Waco authorities have been mostly silent on the accusations, citing the gag order, but have said there was probable cause for every arrest and that officers did not fire indiscriminately into the crowd.

Matthew Clendennen, 30, a member of the Scimitars Motorcycle Club, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Waco and McLennan County, with allegations that he was wrongfully jailed and his landscaping business has suffered since his arrest.

"I was nothing more than a witness that day,” Clendennen told a news conference in June after the lawsuit was filed.

"I heard gunshots and saw a verbal altercation but beyond that, I was just there."

Surveillance video inside Twin Peaks shows scores of people ducking for cover, with a few men brandishing handguns and firing shots.

Law enforcement officials have said officers fired a total of 12 rounds during the melee. It is still unknown whether any of those bullets struck any of the dead or wounded during the fight that took place on the restaurant's patio and spilled out into two parking lots.

Waco Police said nearly 500 weapons were found at the scene, including knives, brass knuckles, batons, tomahawks, chains with padlocks, stun guns, pepper spray and firearms.

(Editing by Jon Herskovitz and Grant McCool)