(Reuters) - Nine people were killed and 18 were injured on Sunday when a simmering feud among rival biker gangs boiled over at a sports bar in Waco, Texas, leading to a gun battle in the parking lot, police said.
The clash took place outside the Twin Peaks Sports Bar and Grill at a shopping mall in the central Texas city, police said. Eighteen people were taken to area hospitals with injuries that included gunshots and stab wounds, said Waco Police Sgt. Patrick Swanton.
The fight, which involved members of at least three gangs, erupted shortly after noon and quickly escalated into a brawl involving clubs, knives and chains, Swanton said. The fight may have been tied to a dispute over a parking spot, Swanton said.
When the bikers began shooting, officers moved in, some of them also firing their weapons. When the shooting ended, bodies were scattered across two parking lots.
“These are very dangerous, hostile biker gangs,” Swanton told reporters. “A lot of innocent people could have been injured today.”
There would likely have been more casualties, Swanton said, but police were on the scene when the fight erupted, anticipating “issues” with what he called “criminal” gangs.
Eight people were killed at the scene and one died at an area hospital, Swanton said. All of the fatalities were bikers, and no officers were hurt.
The spokesman could not say if any of the casualties were the result of police gunfire.
It was unclear if any of the injured were non-gang members.
Swanton said police were frustrated with the management of Twin Peaks, a chain restaurant that bills itself as the “ultimate sports lodge” and features scantily clad female servers. He said police had warned the bar that there might be trouble.
Jay Patel, Twin Peaks franchise operating partner, posted a statement on Facebook saying the company shared in the “community’s trauma” and was cooperating with police.
“We are horrified by the criminal, violent acts that occurred outside of our Waco restaurant today,” Patel said on Facebook.
Some area businesses closed early Sunday after police warned people to stay away from the area. Swanton said police had received intelligence that other gang members might be coming to the area for “payback.”
Three gang members were arrested trying to enter the crime scene, Swanton said. It is not clear if more arrests will be made, he said.
Police from multiple jurisdictions were helping with security and the investigation, Swanton said.
Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Frank McGurty; Editing by Toni Reinhold, Andrew Hay and Chris Reese