WACO, Texas (Reuters) - Police warned of revenge attacks from motorcycle gangs after 170 people were charged on Monday in connection with the shootout among rival bikers on Sunday that left nine dead and 18 wounded and turned a Texas restaurant into a blood-soaked crime scene.
Bikers from five rival gangs attacked each other with guns, knives, brass knuckles, clubs and motorcycle chains at a Twin Peaks Sports Bar and Grill in the central Texas city of Waco. No bystanders or police were injured, police said.
When the bikers began shooting, nearly two dozen officers stationed outside moved in, some of them firing their weapons. When the shooting ended, bodies were scattered in the restaurant and across two parking lots.
About 100 weapons were recovered from the crime scene, which was strewn with shell casings, police said.
“Yesterday’s events was bad guys on bad guys. When our officers arrived, those bad guys turned their guns on our officers,” Waco Police Sergeant Patrick Swanton told a news briefing.
Bikers were reported to be traveling to the city following the shooting and police have been threatened, he said.
“There was a green light put out on law enforcement, is our understanding from last night. We are aware of that threat,” Swanton said.
“This is obviously a very large investigation involving numerous agencies and organizations, and we are going to get it right,” he said.
The arrested group was first taken to a convention center and then moved to a county jail. Police took positions on overpasses and building tops to provide security.
“We have layers of protection,” Swanton said.
Those taken into custody were charged with engaging in organized crime for capital murder and likely will face other charges related to the bloodshed after an investigation of the sprawling crime scene. Bail was set at $1 million, according to county officials.
Among the gangs involved in the shooting were the Bandidos, which the U.S. Justice Department says has between 2,000 to 2,500 members in the United States and 13 other countries. It is the one of the biggest motorcycle gangs and a rival to the better-known Hells Angels.
“The Bandidos are involved in transporting and distributing cocaine and marijuana and are involved in the production, transportation and distribution of methamphetamine,” according to a Justice Department fact sheet.
Tension between the Bandidos and their rivals, the Cossacks, came to a head at the meeting in Waco, where about 200 people were present.
The two have been battling for control in the state, which has been seen as Bandidos territory. One issue that increased animosity was local Cossacks placing a patch that said “Texas” on their vests, TV broadcaster WFAA cited a state law enforcement bulletin as saying.
“Violence between members of the Bandidos OMG (Outlaw Motorcycle Gang) and the Cossacks MC (Motorcycle Club) has increased in Texas with no indication of diminishing,” according to the bulletin.
The Texas Department of Public Safety does not typically comment on bulletins related to law enforcement.
The dispute appeared to be over territory and membership, Waco Police said, adding there was no indication it was caused by a battle over drug trafficking.
The fight likely started with a shove in a restroom that moved into the restaurant and then spilled out into parking lots, where police had positioned themselves in anticipation of trouble. A few of the injured staggered out of the restaurant and died on the parking lot.
“(It) quickly escalated into a fist fight, which turned into a knife fight, which immediately turned into a gun fight,” Swanton said.
Waco Police had 18 officers in position outside the restaurant, along with four Texas Department of Public Safety officers.
Twin Peaks is a chain restaurant known for scantily clad waitresses serving bar food and mugs of beer. The Waco store held a weekly “Bikers Night” and was warned by police that tensions could ignite at the meeting on Sunday.
Police had asked the restaurant’s managers to stop the meetings but said they did not heed the requests.
Twin Peaks on Monday revoked the franchise rights from the Dallas-based company that ran the Waco restaurant for not doing enough to ensure security.
Additional reporting Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago and Jim Forsyth in San Antonio; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Susan Heavey, W Simon and Dan Grebler