WACO, Texas (AP) — One of nine bikers killed at a shootout outside a Texas restaurant was a Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient whose family members dispute police claims he was in a criminal group.
An Associated Press review of Texas court records and a database maintained by the state Department of Public Safety turned up no criminal history in Texas for Jesus Delgado Rodriguez, 65, of New Braunfels. And his son Vincent Ramirez told the San Antonio Express-News that he was not violent.
Rodriguez was one of nine bikers killed Sunday when gunfire erupted at Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, where motorcyclists had gathered for a meeting. Authorities have said the shooting began during an apparent confrontation between two rival motorcycle gangs — the Bandidos and the Cossacks.
Waco police spokesman Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton told the AP on Wednesday that all those killed were part of those two gangs. He was less specific on Thursday, saying all those killed or injured were part of five criminal motorcycle gangs.
Military records show Rodriguez was a Marine on active duty from 1969 and 1973, and received the Purple Heart, given to those wounded or killed in action. He also received a Navy commendation medal and other awards.
Family members said Rodriguez was a biker and had belonged to two now-defunct motorcycle clubs, one of which allowed couples. But he was not part of any club when he was killed at Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, they said, though he had friends who were Bandidos.
"If he thought there was going to be violence he wouldn't have gone," Rodriguez's son-in-law Amado Garces told the Express-News.
Video footage reviewed by AP shows that when gunfire erupted in the parking lot of the restaurant, most of the leather-clad motorcycle riders watching the confrontation from the patio or inside immediately ran away from the shooting. A few tried to direct people to safety, crawling on all fours heading for cover.
One biker ran away with blood on his face, hands and torso. A woman could be heard screaming, "Oh my God!" Others yelled, "Get down!"
Restaurant security video reviewed exclusively by the AP on Wednesday showed only one of the dozens of bikers recorded firing a gun from the patio of the restaurant. None of the nine video angles shows the parking lot.
Many of the bikers on tape are likely to have been arrested by Waco police, who rounded up about 170 people, charged them with felony engaging in organized criminal activity and set their bonds at $1 million.
Although dozens of those arrested do have criminal records, 117 did not have any convictions listed under their names and birthdates in a database maintained by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Some bikers have complained that police acted too hastily in making arrests and scooped up riders who had nothing to do with the violence.
Swanton has said the people arrested were members of biker gangs with criminal elements that have been monitored by local authorities for months.
"They were not here to drink and eat barbecue," Swanton said earlier this week. "They came here with violence in mind."
On Thursday, Swanton downplayed the significance of the video. "Selective video does not show what occurred," he said.
The AP was shown the video by representatives of the Twin Peaks franchise, who have said the fighting began outside the restaurant, not inside as police have said. The franchise has not released the video publicly, citing the ongoing investigation.
Video footage shows police with assault rifles entering the door about two minutes after the shooting begins. As two officers enter, bikers can be seen lying on the floor with their hands spread.
Merchant reported from Dallas. Robbins reported from San Antonio. Associated Press writers Allen G. Breed in Raleigh, N.C., and David Warren in Dallas.