Waco Motorcycle Shooting Fallout

Questions remain after Waco motorcycle gang shoot-out

Waco Motorcycle Shooting Fallout
Illustration by Jason Stout

After gunfire erupted during a motorcycle gathering at a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco on Sunday, killing nine and injuring another 18, some 170 people were arrested, but only seven were detained outside the crime scene.

Unlike the other 163, who were arrested for engaging in organized criminal activity and slapped with a $1 million bond, the seven arrested "outside the perimeter," Waco PD spokesperson Sgt. Patrick Swanton clarified, were held for other charges ("for coming to the scene with weapons"), with bond set at between $20,000 and $50,000. Three of the seven were able to post bonds by Monday, before McLennan County Judge Ralph Strother recalibrated their charges (and reset their appropriate bonds) to match those of the 163 other arrestees. The three who posted smaller bonds on Mon­day – Drew King, 31, James Harris, 27, and Juan Garcia, 45 – all happened to hail from Austin.

Strother issued warrants for the three's arrest on Tuesday morning; each had turned himself in to local authorities by that afternoon. By Wednesday, as the Chronicle goes to press, the three were Downtown at the Travis County Jail, where they're being held on two out-of-county felonies (one, presumably, for engaging in organized criminal activity; Swanton did not respond to requests for clarification on the charges) on $2 million bonds. The States­man reported on Tuesday that acquaintances of Garcia were told he was arrested for the chain strapped to his wallet. (Swanton did not respond to requests for confirmation.) Garcia, an engineer with the city of Austin Public Works Department since 2009, is on paid administrative leave until investigations conclude.

Waco police said on Tuesday that it may take weeks to run forensics on every piece of evidence left at Sunday's scene and arrive at an official assessment of what exactly went down, but local bikers and those with solid knowledge of outlaw motorcycle club culture have been adamant in their claims that the bulk of those being held at the McLennan County Jail are guilty of nothing more than being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Tensions between two crews – the Bandidos, unquestionably the largest and most assertive group in Texas, and the Cossacks – had been bubbling up throughout the spring, as documents distributed around public safety organizations throughout Texas detail, but as one Austin rider noted, these types of gatherings happen all the time. They're a way for riders to congregate, "look at girls in bikinis, and do drugs together," he said. He has a group of friends among the 170 arrested; they were riding back from Oklahoma, knew about the gathering, and decided to stop in.

Indeed, confirmation of the "weapons" Garcia and the other six were initially arrested for possessing could prove instrumental to one's understanding of Twin Peaks' clientele on Sunday, and go a ways in helping readjust certain conclusions regarding the incident. Biker crews are sometimes massive, and include individuals from all walks of life. Though the Bandidos dominate Texas, APD acknowledges other crews in Austin. Speaking Monday with reporters, a detective with APD's Organized Crime Division said the department recognizes roughly 50 local bikers as gang members. "Some of them hold legitimate jobs like each of us do. Some are involved in criminal activity," he said, fielding questions both about APD's advanced awareness of tensions in Waco and concerns some may have about June's Republic of Texas Biker Rally bringing 200,000 motorcyclists into the city.

"We're continuing to monitor the situation," he said. "We've been in contact with our information sources, as we've always been. We've done a fairly good job over the last ten years of making sure that this type of thing doesn't happen in Austin – using our human sources, FBI, and the [Austin Regional Intelli­gence Center]."

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Judge Ralph Strother, Drew King, James Harris, Juan Garcia, Twin Peaks, Waco, Sgt. Patrick Swanton, Bandidos, Cossacks

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