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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

TEXAS - Waco Massacre 2015

Kit Maira

Waco Massacre 2015
By now the whole biker world is talking about the events surrounding the shooting incident that took place at a Texas Confederation of Clubs and Independents (TXCOC&I) meeting in Waco, Texas, on May 17th. The TXCOC&I is a political organization, which meets regularly to discuss pending legislation and safety issues affecting motorcyclists in the state.
         The Waco police, claiming reports of an impending melee between reportedly rival clubs expected to be present at the event, decided to assign at least 18 officers, including police snipers on the roofs of adjacent buildings in the area to prevent violence. Also present were four state troopers.
         What is known is on that day, despite the cops stated intention that they were there to prevent violence, nine individuals lost their lives, and 17 others were seriously wounded. Consequently, 177 people were arrested at the scene, charged with engaging in organized crime resulting in death. All of the suspects were originally assigned a staggering $1 million bail.
         As of this writing, 99 of the charged have managed to bond out and 78 remain in jail. It is not known how many of those released had their bail reduced. Of those arrested only 60 of the arrested appear to have criminal records of any kind, and of those most are for speeding and possession of marijuana. In an additional affront to justice, and the right to a speedy trial, a probable cause hearing will likely be delayed until August 6.
         The Waco Tribune Herald has quoted one of the judges who is responsible for setting the high bail, Justice of the Peace W.H. “Pete” Peterson, as saying, “I think it is important to send a message… (italics ours) We had nine people killed in our community. These people just came in, and most of them were from out of town. Very few of them were from in town.” Wow! The purpose of bail is to guarantee that the accused will show up in court, it is not supposed to punitive. Perhaps Pete can be excused for this gaff, as it was revealed that he in fact does not hold a law degree.
         There are many questions raised, and few answers weeks after the event. Waco Police Public Information Officer Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton has admitted that some of his officers were involved in the shooting, but it is not known is how many of the injured and killed were shot by the officers. What is known is that 14 officers have been put on administrative leave after the incident, a common practice when an officer discharges his weapon. 
         Police initially claimed that all of the arrested were members of two “criminal gangs,” the Bandidos and Cossacks, however it was soon discovered not to be true, many of the persons arrested were independent riders not affiliated with any club. The cops also initially said that they expected to recover 1,000 weapons, however, this was subsequently reduced to 318, 118 of which were firearms. It has not been reported how many of those firearms were legally carried, but under Texas law, holders of concealed carry permits would not be guilty of any offense for merely carrying their guns in the establishment.
         According to a report from the Associated Press, several witnesses, at least three of them veterans with weapons training, say that semi-automatic rifle gunfire dominated the May 17 shootout. There was only one semiautomatic rifle found at the scene, an AK-47, and it was locked in a trunk. But there were many police officers, including snipers on the rooftops that were carrying these weapons.
         Preliminary autopsies were performed on the nine killed within 24 hours, yet the Waco police have not released information on what calibers of weapons were used. Meanwhile Waco police sent the weapons seized to a ballistics lab in Washington, D.C., and say it could take months to get results.        
         There is also the question of the hundreds of motorcycles seized by the police, which will presumably be subject to asset forfeiture under Texas law.
         To this writer’s mind, the issue underlying the situation is one of the proportionality of the police response. Let us say that the first shots were, as the police claim, fired by bikers in the crowd. Witnesses say that they heard a couple of pistol shots, which was followed by a barrage of rifle fire. Did the police, as many witnesses attest, commence to open fire on the crowd?
         Finally, the second important point is something that this column has touched on repeatedly over the years, the continuing militarization of the police. Even the Obama administration is starting to recognize the threat that arming police with military grade weapons is beginning to pose to the citizenry. Recently the president ordered a review of the practice and is in the process of proposing legislation for changes to these policies.
         Easyriders will continue to monitor this situation and report on the facts as they are revealed. We will get to the bottom of this.
Waco Massacre—The Cover Up Continues
Dallas attorney Clint Broden, who has done most of the heavy lifting so far in the Waco shootout case, defending his client Matthew Clendennen, has asked for a subpoena for the video from the Twin Peaks restaurant. The lawyer for the franchise, Patrick Keating has indicated that he is willing to provide the video, however the City of Waco is now moving to quash the subpoena, claiming that the defendant is trying to circumvent discovery rules by requesting materials from a “non-party” to the investigation, stating, “release of the information would interfere with the investigation.”
         Broden counters that the video is evidence necessary to his client’s defense, proving that he did not participate in any violence. Further he states, “It is ironic that the City of Waco complains about Mr. Clendennen seeking discovery from a “third party,” yet it believes it is perfectly fine for a non-party to file a motion to quash a subpoena in this case.”
         The quash from the city states in part that the only evidence that the defendant is legally entitled to has to come from the state itself, ironically the very people who are trying to convict him.
         Broden told the District Court Judge Matt Johnson that it ‘boggles my mind’ that police and prosecutors can describe what is on the video but his client could not get a copy to help prepare his defense. On May 6, the judge finally relented, allowing the defense to view the video, but barred it from public release. The judge issued a sweeping gag order on Broden and his team, barring them from further discussion of the case with the media.
         Broden has subsequently challenged the gag order, arguing that since no one, including his client, has actually been indicted, the district court does not have jurisdiction and cannot issue such an order.
         Then we come to the question of the grand jury. The court may have violated state law by extending the old grand jury rather than seating a new one, as mandated under a newly passed state law enacted to insure a more mixed panel. The old system allowed appointed commissioners to choose jurors, a process informally known as “pick-a-pal.” Under the new state law jurors are to be randomly selected from a pool of voters. The old system has been criticized for the potential for jury tampering.
         Meanwhile, bail bondsmen and ankle monitoring companies are cleaning up. As of this writing, 171 of the 177 bikers arrested have managed to bail out of jail. Of that number three have managed to post the $1 million bonds, and the remaining have negotiated reduced bonds of $10,000-$300,000 and bailed out. Normally the bail amounts to 10 percent of the bond.
         Most of those who have been released have been ordered to wear ankle monitors supplied by Recovery Healthcare as a condition of their release. They must pay for the privilege, $100 for the installation, and $255 per month for monitoring.
         The financial hardship on the accused continues to mount as the cogs of injustice turn. Many have lost their jobs due to missing work. Add legal fees to the mix and imagine the horrible toll on their families. The police have also filed notices of intent to seize and forfeit for 17 motorcycles, eight pickup trucks and two SUVs, claiming that the vehicles are contraband used in the commission of a crime. KaChing!
         The Waco PD has released a statement that only three of the officers involved fired their weapons, for a total of 12 shots. This conflicts with witness statements that claim that two to three handgun shots were heard, followed by a barrage of suppressed semi auto rifle fire. The Waco SWAT Officers carried .223 caliber rifles deployed with sound suppressors. Police in Waco still have yet to state how many of the bikers killed and wounded were shot by police.
         Autopsy results from the deceased have still not been released, which should identify what types and calibers were involved. Weapons seized in addition to 151 firearms, which were likely legally-carried due to Texas’s liberal concealed carry laws, are said to include knives, brass knuckles, bats, a machete, tomahawks and a chain. Editor: Tomahawks, really?
Easyriders continues to monitor this situation.