WACO, Texas (AP) — A local judge has been removed from overseeing the first trial stemming from the deadly shootout between bikers and police in Waco, Texas, that resulted in more than 150 arrests.
Texas District Judge Ralph Strother was recused Monday, marking the fourth case he's been removed from related to the 2015 shootings that killed nine people and wounded 20 others outside a Twin Peaks restaurant.
Investigators said motorcycle clubs were meeting at the restaurant when a fight broke out between the Cossacks and the Bandidos, which the Texas Department of Public Safety categorizes as an outlaw motorcycle gang. The fight spilled into the parking lot as three police SWAT officers responded with rifle fire.
The suspects' attorneys argued Strother was biased, with three noting that the judge required bikers to appear in court so prosecutors could serve them with DNA warrants. The attorneys said the move showed Strother coordinated with prosecutors on matters that required neutrality.
The only other state judge in Waco, District Judge Matt Johnson, was named to replace Strother on Tuesday. But his appointment was also challenged.
McLennan County's district attorney said the latest ruling wouldn't affect the cases.
The first biker scheduled to go on trial is 35-year-old Christopher "Jake" Carrizal, a train conductor and member of the Bandidos motorcycle club's Dallas chapter. Johnson was set to oversee jury selection on Tuesday, but Carrizal's attorney filed a motion during the judge's opening remarks to have the judge removed. After a lengthy hearing Tuesday, a visiting judge declined to remove Johnson.
Ballistics reports seen by The Associated Press show that four of the people killed were struck by bullets from Waco police rifles, and that two of them were struck only by bullets fired from police weapons.
A grand jury last September declined to recommend charges for the officers after they were cleared by an internal investigation.