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.
The biker gangs haven’t been publicly identified, but photos and video from the scene show the bikers “flying their colors.” Three gangs have been observed there, the Cossacks Motorcycle Club, the Scimitars Motorcycle Club and the Bandidos Motorcycle Club.
There were several other motorcycle clubs at the restaurant for the Texas Region 1 Confederation of Clubs and Independents meeting, according to the United Clubs of Waco website.
Photos also show members of the Leathernecks, Veterans, Kottonmouths and Los Pirados, though it wasn’t immediately clear if they were involved in the fighting.
Law enforcement sources told the Waco Tribune that the Cossacks and the Bandidos were at the center of the incident.
The Scimitars could be seen among the Cossacks during the aftermath of the shooting.
The rivalry between the Cossacks and the Bandidos in Texas goes back to at least 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.
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.
The Waco 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.”
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.
The restaurant, Twin Peaks, had been known as a hot spot for bikers, and police had asked for help in controlling the issue, but said the restaurant’s local management was cooperative.