Police said Monday morning that 170 people were arrested in connection with the shooting and will all face engaging in organized crime charges. The investigation is continuing.
Here’s what you need to know about the Cossacks:
1. The Cossacks Were Founded in Texas in 1969
The Cossacks were founded in Texas in 1969, according to the book The One Percenter Encyclopedia: The World of Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs.
The club’s colors are gold and black and its patch features a cossack, which is a nomadic horseman and warrior.
Its motto is, “We take care of our own.”
The Cossacks say they traded the horses rode by the warriors of 400 years ago for motorcycles, though they doubt any of their members descended from actual Russian cossacks.
The club started on Carlyle Street in Tyler, Texas. Its first president was Earl Swift.
The Cossacks are a Harley-Davidson-only club.
2. The Rivalry With the Bandidos Led to a Stabbing in 2013
According to the BigCountryHomePage.com, the president of the Abilene, Texas chapter of the Bandidos, Curtis Jack Lewis, was arrested in November 2013 on charges that he stabbed two members of the Cossacks during a fight outside a restaurant.
3. The Cossacks Have Been ‘Flirting’ With the Hell’s Angels, the Bandidos’ Main Rivals
A gang expert told the Washington Post that the gang shootout parallels previous fights between the Bandidos and the Hells Angels, the main rival of the Bandidos and one of the world’s largest biker gangs.
The expert, Kansas City-area police officer Steve Cook, said the feud started because the Cossacks, backed by the Angels, challenged the Bandidos for control of Texas. Other gangs joined the battle with the Cossacks because they were angry over recent killings by the Bandidos.
“My perception is that the Cossacks have been flirting, if you will, with Hell’s Angels,” Cook told the Post. “If I’m a Bandido, my immediate reaction is: ‘These guys are going to try to make a move and bring an international gang into our state, which is going to cause a war.'”
Cook also told the Post:
The Bandidos already knew that the Cossacks weren’t going to play ball, and when push came to shove and these guys weren’t cooperating, all hell broke loose. You can tell by the number of weapons involved that these guys came looking for a fight. They were prepared.
4. The Waco Shootout Was Called ‘One of the Worst Gun Fights’ in the City’s History
One officer called the shootout between the rival gangs “one of the worst gun fights that we’ve had in the city limits of Waco.”
Police told KXXV-TV that all of the victims were gang members who had gathered at the Twin Peaks restaurant. At least 18 others were, also all bikers, were injured. The extent of those injuries wasn’t immediately released.
Sgt. Patrick Swanton said innocent bystanders and officers somehow managed to escape injury, including a restaurant full of families just feet away from the one where the shooting started.
“Let’s just say it’s Sunday and someone was looking out for us,” Swanton said. “There were so many rounds fired from bad guy weapons here.”
Police said there were at least 100 bikers at the scene and at least five gangs involved. Swanton said the argument started over a parking issue.
More than 100 weapons were recovered at the scene.
“We were in marked cars. They knew we were here, they knew that we’ve been here at their past events. And it mattered not to them,” Swanton said at a news conference, which was posted online by KXXV. “That tells you the kind of level of people we’re dealing with.”
Police said the Twin Peaks restaurant could have done more to prevent the violence.
Waco Police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton told the Waco Tribune, “Management knew that there were issues, and we were here, but they continued to let those groups of people into their business.”
“Apparently the management wanted them here, so we didn’t have any say so on whether they could be here or not,” Swanton said.
“A lot of innocent people could have been injured today,” Swanton said. “These are very dangerous, hostile criminal biker gangs.”
Local District Attorney Abel Reyna told KWTX about two weeks ago that trouble between rival bikers had been brewing at Twin Peaks for some time. He said police were on heightened alert because of incidents during Biker Night on Thursdays.
He said two local motorcycle gangs were feuding and it spilled over as others from the Dallas-Fort Worth area came to Waco to support the local gangs.
The operating partner for the restaurant, Jay Patel, posted a statement on Facebook:
We are horrified by the criminal, violent acts that occurred outside of our Waco restaurant today. We share in the community’s trauma. Our priority is to provide a safe and enjoyable environment for our customers and employees, and we consider the police our partners in doing so. Our management team has had ongoing and positive communications with the police and we will continue to work with them as we all want to keep violent crime out of our businesses and community. We will continue to cooperate with the police as they investigate this terrible crime.
The restaurant’s corporate Twitter account posted after the shooting:
5. Police Said the Gangs Wanted to ‘Instill Violence Into Our Community’
The police department’s spokesman, Sgt. Patrick Swanton, was clear about who the bikers are after a reporter said one of the bikers claimed that they are clubs, not gangs.
“They are a biker gang. We know exactly who they are,” Swanton said at a televised news conference. “A bunch of criminal element biker members that came to Waco and tried to instill violence into our community and unfortunately did just that.”
“This is not a bunch of doctors and dentists and lawyers riding Harleys,” he said. “These are criminals on Harley-Davidsons.”